When I was nineteen, I was befriended by a woman named Adriana, who was thirty-three years older than I was. Although Adriana was then a fifty-two-year-old lady, she did not feel it was wrong to befriend me.
She did not live with the social belief that she should pick her friends only from her own age. We became extremely close friends and remained so until her passing at the age of eight-one.
When Adriana turned sixty-five, she lost her husband from a heart attack. The week she turned seventy-five, Adriana threw a couple of birthday parties for herself, one on a Tuesday afternoon and one on Friday. Over forty people attended each party. I was the only person who was invited to both.
In all, about eighty of Adrianas’ friends came that week to enjoy with her on her birthday. On both nights, many people stayed until past midnight.
As I looked around the place at both parties that week in awe, I noticed that the people celebrating her birthday parties were of all ages. They included toddlers, middle-aged people, teenagers, and the elderly.
Adriana had never confined herself to making friends only within her granny circle. She had always made it a point to find friends of all ages. Consequently, she did not undergo the same social fate, so many older adults face when their circle of same-age friends starts to dwindle from death and sickness.
I didn’t know any other person her age who could throw two birthday gatherings in one week and have eighty people show up.
I wondered how Adriana had made these many friends. She had never been wealthy, but Adriana and her husband had made a practice of opening their doors and their home to many people over the years.
She and her partner not only encouraged a lot of people and developed those friendships over the years, but they also befriended the kids of their friends and stayed close with the younger generation.
I hoped that when I was the same age as Adriana, I would have as many acquaintances and friends gathered to help celebrate my days.
I saw that whenever I brought some of my own friends with me to visit Adriana, she never treated my friends as expendable people that she would never want to see again. She was kind and gracious and interested in all of them. Her caring about each human was always visible.
When we ended our visit, Adriana would often share an invitation to the friends I had brought to come and revisit her, and many of them did so monthly.
When she presented invitations, Adriana never seemed to invite people because she was desperate or lonely for company. Her invitations were always genuinely cheery. She loved meeting humans and wanted to see them over and over again.
As Adriana neared the end of her life, she became seriously ill. Yet, she never lacked support and love from the many friends she had made throughout her whole life.
I learned something valuable that week at Adrian’s two birthday parties. I realized that we make a big blunder if we tell middle-aged and even young people to save their money for their old age but neglect to tell them that it is also necessary to invest in relationships with other people.
We make a blunder if we don’t tell people that it is just as necessary to invest compassion in the people we meet and show our interest in them. There are other types of investment accounts besides those held by banks. A big bank account won’t make up for isolation in your old age.
I understood that if I wished to have as many friends as Adriana did, I would have to keep making colleagues and keep maintaining friendships my entire life. I would have to build a friendship with people of all ages, including those much older and much younger than me.
And I would have to begin now to invest in making friends for my old age.