Old Guys Need Friends, Too

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One men's group is trying to address an oft-ignored problem: lacking the close friendships many women have, old dudes often get lonely.


Paula Span of the Times's New Old Age blog profiles the Riverdale Senior Services center's men's group, started in response to concerns that older men lack social outlets. Explains one member,

The average woman has about six friends. The average man has one, a wife or girlfriend, and if he loses her, he's up a creek.

The Riverdale Senior Services group aims to combat that problem, with weekly meetings in which men talk about everything from 9/11 to masturbation. Writes Span,

Not only do the men value their meetings (as in Vegas, what's said in men's group stays in men's group), but they've developed relationships outside it. They've had dinner in one another's homes; provided airport rides; checked in on those who were ailing. At the center, they're more likely to sit and talk together, or join a bridge game. They're - this sounds almost feminine - friends.

That last line is a pretty perfect articulation of the problem. The kind of emotional sharing that can keep people happy and even healthy — especially after a traumatic event like the loss of a spouse — is often figured as feminine. And men who are senior citizens today may have grown up with a strong-and-silent paradigm that discourages actually talking to other dudes. As one Times commenter points out, this paradigm may be changing — among other things, the rising age of first marriage may force guys to form other close relationships. But for those who came of age in a different time, the old talking-is-for-girls mentality may be detrimental to friendship. The Riverdale men's group sounds like a great antidote to this — as well as a reminder that breaking down stupid gender stereotypes is good for men as well as women.

Men's Group Gets Men Talking [NYT New Old Age Blog]

Image via NYT.



Erin Gloria Ryan

I used to work at a nursing home, and I noticed this. However, the issue at that particular facility wasn't so much that the men were afraid of acting girly, it's that there were only like five dudes in the whole nursing home and of those five, only two of them had their wits about them.

The best way to combat the problem of lonely old men who long for homosocial interaction is

1- Other old men should stop dying.


2- Younger men who are not dead should actually visit with elderly men in nursing homes. Visit them to watch a game with them or read them their mail or write letters or help them organize their things or just let them talk. It would mean the world to them and the nursing staff is already usually overworked and doesn't have time to do this.