“We take self-segregation by age for granted. But age segregation isn’t the norm everywhere.”
The older I get, the less I enjoy the exclusive company of my age-mates. That’s not because they’re old mind you. I’m old (74) and I’m not ashamed of it. I just don’t have a lot in common with my peers on many levels. The main one: I’m not retired. I actually have to work to survive and I don’t have a hefty pension and savings to spend on high end restaurants and travel to exotic places like most of my friends do. And I hate doo-wop music, which seems to be an obsession with my age-mates who grew up in the ‘60s.
As friends my age get more cautious, I prefer not to stifle whatever wild I’ve got left. Their mantra for just about every occasion is “Be Careful!” Mine is Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal this book.” No, my risk taking does not involve extreme sports. I’ve read the news stories about 95-year-olds who go skydiving, but that’s not what I mean—I’ve got the usual complement of elder health complaints and I have no intention of risking my brittle bones by jumping out of a plane, although it sure does look like fun. I mean doing foolish stuff like getting tipsy and driving home at 3am, sneaking into the movies, making illegal U-turns, watching gory movies, listening to rap music or just staying up past midnight partying. Really risky behavior like that.
We take self-segregation by age for granted. But age segregation isn’t the norm everywhere. A friend where I live in Century Village condo community in Florida—where I live because 55+ condos happen to be cheaper than the all-ages options—had a visit from her Russian relative. They looked around and asked her in all seriousness, “Do they force you to live here?” They couldn’t fathom a community with just older people.
Not that it helps to live in mixed age communities. I have friends who live in mixed communities but don’t have a lot of young friends either. I didn’t have any when I lived in Woodstock, a small town in Upstate New York. Young singles and young parents hang out with other young singles and parents, not elderly women
So what is the solution? Go where the action is. I joined the Horror and SciFi Meetup in South Florida, not specifically to meet young people but because no one my age would consider accompanying me to the latest X-Men or Hunger Games movies. As a perk, I not only get company for movies that no friends my age would be caught undead at, but I get invited to parties and other social events with people in their 20s through 50s. They are mostly super smart nerdy types (like the folks who show up at Comic Cons) and share interests that most people my age could care less about.
Here are a few of the things I get to do with my new buddies:
- Drink jello shots. Who knew jello could be so delicious!
- Eat junk food. No quinoa salads at a Creature Feature party.
- Play “Cards Against Humanity.” I hate Canasta and MahJong, but I LOVE Cards Against Humanity. It takes no skill, just a willingness to be truly irreverent—and a high tolerance for profanity.
- Get deferred to. These youngsters actually seem to listen to me and value my opinion.
- Get the best seat in the room. Unlike events with other old ladies where we all dive for the comfiest chair, the youngsters save the best seat for me.
- Hang out with different ethnicities. Not only are we an age-segregated culture but we are a race-segregated one as well. My interest-based meetups have members who are African American, Cuban, Jamaican, Chinese, Japanese….. Nerds come in all colors and from all ethnic backgrounds. I cannot begin to express how refreshing this is.
- Meet people from all walks of life. I’ve met undertakers, district attorneys, sushi chefs, speech therapists, machinists, utility company managers, and scads of IT and other techie types.
- Discuss my TV series passions such as Game of Thrones, Westworld, Black Mirror, Leftovers, Colony, and find out what’s being renewed for another season.
- Figure out which new gadget to buy. Should I shouldn’t I switch to an iPhone? My techie young friends are the ones who know.
- Play Marco Polo at pool parties.
- Stay up late. I’m a night owl—not an early bird like just about every other person my age who I know.
If you aspire to have young friends as well as friends your age, go where the action is. Join meetup.com and look for groups in your area that attract younger members. If you don’t like horror movies, look for social groups. There’s one in my area called Music, Mingle and Mischief which features “live music, dancing, happy hours, pool parties, themed parties, bike nights, dinners and so much more. I didn’t put an age range on our group….some events will be geared towards the 30s , 40s and 50s+. When it comes to music…it’s up to the individual and what they like.”
Do you have young friends who you aren’t related to you? How did you meet them?
Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who
writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction.
Friend her on Facebook.