Did you know that yesterday was National Friendship Day? I know what you may be thinking: “There’s too many silly holidays out there… National Donut Day, National Coloring Book Day… come on, man!” Nothing against donuts or coloring books, but National Friendship Day really is in a league of its own.
You see, there’s plenty of emotional, mental, and social benefits that come from nurturing a supportive circle of friends in our golden years. Off the southern coast of Japan, the island of Okinawa is known for seniors living together in vibrant social communities as the they age. Not surprising, this region also happens to be a Blue Zone—an area of the world with a high concentration of people living to the ripe age of 100 or older. Below are some of the lesser-known benefits of our friendships.
Friendship by the Numbers*
2 – the average number of best friends an adult has.
2X – the likelihood of women with breast cancer dying if they don’t have a network of friends.
7X – the likelihood of a person being more productive at work if their close friend works there too.
22% – the percentage of people who live longer if they have a close friendship network.
All the stats above are great, but they can be easy to forget. When life happens, I’ve noticed in my own life how my focus on “Hustle” can have a negative impact on my friendships. It’s easy to lose touch. Between workdays, commuting time, weekly errands, and continuing education, my friends can sometimes fall to the bottom of the to-do list.
Moving forward, I try to remember this: if the loneliness of spending my golden years alone isn’t bad enough, the cost of being alone makes it even worse.
Long-Term Care by the Numbers*
$4,300/month – the average cost of assisted living care
$7,700/month – the average cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home
$8,800/month – the average cost of a private room in a nursing home
For those of us lucky enough to have a nest egg saved up in retirement, I hate the idea of spending that entire thing on long-term care. To make matters worse, retirement homes are notoriously understaffed and undertrained. So, after spending all that money, we may not be getting much value for all those hard-earned dollars spent on care in our later years.
Senior Cohousing: Good for Our Health and Our Wallets
In addition to all the health reasons to plan for a retirement commune of your closest friends, there’s a financial benefit, too. Budgeting time for your friendships today may be the best investment you can make for your later years. And that’s even better than the options they have back at Saint Olaf!
In addition to the health benefits of having our friends closeby as we grow older, there’s another benefit it provides. Costa Rica, another Blue Zone, credits their longevity to having a sense of purpose (or “plan de vida”) as their key to aging gracefully. This healthy lifestyle choice of making purpose a priority was backed up by an extensive study in 2014.
I’ve heard it said that the responsibility of caring for a pet keeps us younger, so why not add our closest friends to that responsibility list as well? Instead of outsourcing the bulk of my long-term care to an expensive third party, I plan to make my friends my focus. That way, we can all be each other’s caretakers.
Luckily, in the gay community, we usually move to big cities away from where we grew up. So, out of necessity, our closest friends often become our chosen family. And here’s how I envision my own golden years with a cohousing commune:
Buy a plot of land with friends.
Each friend in the commune buys or builds their own tiny (or semi-tiny) house. Each house will fit their lifestyle, be easy to clean, and be easy for them to get around in.
Near the center of the commune will be a community lounge, big enough to host larger meals and events for everyone at once.
If there’s a certain TV show, movie, or activity I enjoy doing every week, I know I have a friend just a short walk away to enjoy it with.
Hey girl, come over! There’s a new RuPaul’s Drag Race episode ready to stream!
I’d love to hear from you! Does the idea of a retirement commune of your closest friends appeal to you? If so, who would you invite into your commune and in what part of the world would you choose to have it? Tell me in the comments, and let’s share some best practices with one another to put even more energy behind this elevated form of retirement living!