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Successful Aging: Friends for 65 years, these women came together to reconnect

This February, I met once again with two college friends to spend a few days together in Scottsdale, AZ. We have known each other for 65 years since we were freshmen in college. (You can do the math.) The three of us started out as young single women. As widows, we once again are three single women, just a bit older.

Our friendship has lasted over time even though we live in different parts of the country and each pursued different career paths and activities in this life stage.

So, what do three long-time girlfriends talk about with days of unstructured time?

Fitness: This was a big one. Each of us compared notes on what we are doing to be as fit as possible, hoping to increase our chances for optimum functioning, both physically and mentally. We all walk almost daily; other outlets include a fitness coach, Pilates and physical therapy. There were some good reports with some high fives. For example, one friend was deadlifting 80 pounds, another was walking four miles each morning and another who was dealing with some balance issues was walking two miles a day plus daily visits to the gym. We expressed gratitude that we could do – what we were doing.

Family: This is about updates on children and grandchildren. One son is starting a new job, a daughter was adjusting to a new home and a son who is a child psychiatrist had expressed the enormous demands for mental health care with inadequate resources. Throw in some golf, lacrosse and volleyball for grandchildren as all are thriving with some occasional bumps here and there.

Movies and books: One evening we tried to find a streaming movie that at least two of us had not seen. We decided on the Academy Award nominee for the best picture “Everything Everywhere all at Once.” Our viewing lasted 40 minutes with two out of three vetoing it. We unanimously decided to see the film “The Darkest Hour,” a film about Winston Churchill in the earliest days of WWII.

Then there was the discussion of the new film “Eighty for Brady” starring Rita Moreno, Sally Field, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin – stars with a cumulative age of over 330 years. Based on the trailers, the question was, “were older women portrayed in a positive or negative way? The jury was out except for one friend who thought that the film trailers committed “elder petting – meaning patting an older person on the head and observing how cute they are.” There was no consensus on this observation although two out of three of us are eager to see the film and marvel at the actresses’ performances in the trailers.

Recommended books included “Clementine, The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill” by Sonia Purnell, any book by author Elizabeth Strout and the recent book by columnist Steve Lopez, “Independence Day: What I Learned About Retirement from Some Who’ve Done it and Some Who Never Will.”

The important stuff: Makeup, sunscreen, lotions and potions were important to discuss. Then there was the quick online order for trousers that would replace the ones moths had eaten. As far as the schedule, there was none. Not hungry for dinner because of a late lunch? Scrambled eggs were perfect.

State of the nation and world: This was difficult to ignore. We discussed President Biden’s State of the Union message, the surveillance balloon from China and compared our political perspectives, sharing our concerns and hopes for the future.

After sitting around in our pajamas and trying to solve problems of the world, we returned to the subject of how older women are perceived by the entertainment industry as well as society. This poem was written by one friend that reflected her (and our) thoughts:

Roses are red, violets are blue

Please show some respect, I’m past 82.

You can give me a hand; you can give me a seat.

You can take me to lunch as long as you treat.

But don’t for a moment try patronizing me.

And don’t say I’m amazing for being almost 83.

Say that I’m sharp, say that I’m bright.

And think of me as you turn out the light.

Keep your red roses, your violets of blue.

I may be getting older but I AM NOT THROUGH!

Here’s the takeaway: Relationships are important, particularly in later life. We know social isolation is a health risk, equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. So let’s renew those relationships from the past and forge new ones from the present. Best friends do count in later life; they are a lifeline to our health, well-being and joy. And we don’t need many.

Stay well everyone and be kind to yourself, to your friends and others.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Visit Helen at and follow her on


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