Diminishing Networks and What to do About It


I spoke with a client this week who need to remove people from her address list because they had died.  She spoke about her network becoming smaller and smaller.  If you look at a teenager or young adult's social network (such as Facebook or MySpace), it may number in the 100's.  If you look at a 50 something person's it may number in the 20's or 30's at best (unless they have a lot of work contacts there).  And if you look at a person in their 80's there may be no social networking site at all, but just a paper address book that keeps diminishing.

And if it's a 50 something person, they can't claim network diminishment because of death of friends.  So what is it?  I think as we become older, we retain the friends that we can communicate with frequently and whose life experiences we have shared.  As a young adult, everything and anything and anyone is a possible friend.  And time expands to fit in almost all we want to do.  As an older adult, time is less expansive, fewer things seem possible, and life becomes so difficult that the easy relationships are the ones we lean toward.

What's the answer for the older adult?  Find a younger adult and make an effort.  Even if you didn't have any older adult friends when you were a young adult, you can still be an older adult friend to a current young adult.  No, it won't be easy with the younger adult juggling school, work, or children.  And it won't be easy building any shared experiences.  But it still may be worth the try.  There are a couple of younger women I would like to know better.  Now, whether they want to know me better is another matter!

And for younger adults. . . if you want to be helpful, take the initiative.  Contact an older adult and offer friendship. . . even if you can't afford lunch--the older adult will be willing to do free things or even pay for lunch.

What do you think?  Have any ideas?  Please comment.

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