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4 Important Life Lessons I Learned from Older Friends

By Marcia Smalley September 26, 2021 Mindset

Like other women my age, I’ve skimmed the surface of a lot of relationships. I’ve spent hours in small talk and nodded politely during countless introductions to people I’ve long since forgotten.

It took me most of my 67 years to realize that I don’t like this kind of interaction. Oh, it has its place. But time now feels too precious to spend it in meaningless interactions.

Gratefully, there are other options. None is more enriching than the time we spend with our oldest friends.

My six oldest friends range in age from 67 to 82, and all of them are older than I am (albeit one by only 6 months). Our history dates back over 40 years, even 50 years for some of us.

We’ve gone through just about every life change and challenge in the book, and we’ve done it together even when the miles have separated us.

We reunite almost every year. In our recent reunion, the power of our circle struck me anew. Just when I thought I’d learned everything these women could teach me, I came away with four new lessons.

This Life Stage Requires a Support Squad

We’ve needed support during all our life stages. Getting through college, raising children, navigating our careers… every crossroads was made easier with the help of others.

Our current life stage is no exception. And there’s something about knowing that you have more time behind you then ahead of you that changes the stakes.

Losing a spouse, renegotiating a relationship, changing health. These junctures are game changers that are hard to cope with alone. Knowing that other women empathize or have been where you are is a comfort.

Women need other women. And hearing others’ stories and experiences instills a bit of courage.

We Long to Be Seen and Heard

When we’re young adolescents, we sometimes think we’re the “only one,” that no one knows what we’re going though. It’s an isolating, even shameful, feeling.

Our later years can feel that way, too. It’s easy to believe that everyone else is reveling in the golden years without a care in the world. So, we stay silent about our fears and misgivings, feeling again like we’re the “only one.”

But inside we long to let these worries out; sort them out. We want to shine a light on even the slightest shadows in our life. And our oldest friends teach us what it means to have a safe harbor where we can be validated as we tell it like it is.

We Appreciate the Chance to Bear Witness

As much as we like to speak up, we know the role of the listener is equally valuable.

My circle of friends consciously tries to have one conversation at a time. We recognize the importance of holding sacred space for each other. We resist the temptation to dole out unsolicited advice.

Allowing a friend to give voice to her thoughts and feelings is a profound gift, and we’re grateful to be able to give it.

Nothing Compares to Having Some Perspective

If there’s one thing this stage of life has taught my friends and me, it’s we’re survivors.

This year we realized we’re truly thriving as we toasted again and again to being together and to the countless giggles we continue to share despite all that life throws our way.

As our conversations wound down, I know I wasn’t alone with this familiar lesson: things could be worse.

And when that happens, as we know it will, we’ll rally the Squad one more time to embrace the next lessons we have to learn. And to teach each other.

What lessons have old friends and older women taught you? What lessons would you like to share with the younger generations? Let’s have a conversation!

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The Author

Marcia Smalley is a certified retirement coach and life coach, a writer and a teacher. She delights in helping mid-life women step confidently into their next act and design a joyous, expanded life. Marcia provides coaching support to women who are navigating retirement or other life transitions and writes a monthly e-newsletter to her entire online community. Please visit her website at

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