By Adriane Berg
I am about to go out for my morning walk with my friend and neighbor Barbara. Barbara and her husband are going to Rome for their anniversary, and she wants to get used to walking a lot. This Sunday, I re-start my belly-dancing lessons with Christina at Hunterdon Wellness Center in Whitehouse, New Jersey. I have been walking and dancing for a while now, and they’re the only things that keep my core weight down. Miracle of miracles, I have a little suggestion of a six-pack. But, what is most essential for me is that Barbara and Christina, who also teaches at the Clinton Wellness Center, are more than twenty years my junior.
My friend Sharon is joining a private investment club where the women cook at each others’ homes and invest one hundred dollars a month in stocks. I want to join, too. Every Monday I attend self actualization classes at Landmark Education in South Plainfield and every Tuesday morning I have a 6:30 a.m. call with friends I met there, who support my life goals. Every Tuesday evening I study at the Jewish Learning Center set up in the Annandale Chabad, where Rabbi Kornfield teaches, and where my fellow students somehow make the Old Testament into a political statement. I am a Friendly Visitor to a 91-year-old in Ringoes. In this way my life includes people of all ages, 15 to 91.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because it illustrates the most neglected and most important aspect of successful aging: hanging out with interesting people of all ages and types. Every person is a world in themselves, and when you choose to know someone you enter their world and yours expands.
Our culture herds us into hanging out with people our own age. Nonsense. I don’t like it when I hear, as my Mom used to say, “I don’t want to go there, the people are too old.” She said that up to the time she passed away at age 91.
I don’t blame younger people for not wanting to join older groups. We have a bad rap.
They think we are uninteresting to be with. We are more fascinating, more experienced, and have seen history. The trouble is that ageism has so stereotyped us that we don’t even want to be with each other. So why should younger people want to be with us?
Yet, age-diverse friendships are essential. And they are hard work. It can take a long time before a young group member becomes a true and intimate friend. But it happens.
And if you are one of those people who hangs out only with those your own age, whatever age that may be, I highly recommend age diversity. Give a party for people of all ages. Invite your hairdresser, your dentist, and your mother. Walk in a mixed-age group, take a mixed-age trip. Volunteer.
Tonight I have the pleasure of having dinner at the famous Elaine’s Restaurant in New York City. My 28-year-old son invited me. Our publisher will be there—she is about my age—and Elaine herself, who is in the big numbers. My son says Elaine holds dinner the way people hold a salon, great food and great talk. We will span three generations. We will stimulate each other’s memories and future plans.