How to Stay Young? Expand Your Social Circle

Get-It Done Guy reveals his secret to staying young at heart (and mind): as you get older, find ways to ensure you have new friends coming into your life.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #327

Always Be Making Friends

Once upon a time, multiple generations grew up together, so old people automatically had younger people around. They were engaged with people in different stages of life. These days, many older people are quite lonely, with no surviving friends or family they can live with.

Don't let this happen. Proactively make new friends. Often.

Do volunteer tutoring of high school students. Offer yourself as a career mentor in your field to new college grads, through a local university. Volunteer for Citizens Schools or Junior Achievement or TEALS or S.C.O.R.E. These all give you ways to interact and share your knowledge with younger people.

It's Hard if You Have Children

I think cross-generational relationships are harder if you have kids, because you think of your kids as the dividing line between adults--who are to be taken seriously--and children, who aren't.

At an innovation workshop, participants were told to have a 10-minute conversation with someone they'd never normally think of talking to. One participant reported, "I just had a fantastic conversation with a 16-year old. Then I realized my son is 16, and I've never even tried to have a conversation like that with him."

If you ever think, "This person is young enough to be my child," stop. Age is irrelevant. Make friends with them, as people. Talk to your office intern. Take a class at a local community college and meet the students. Actively bring younger people into your life.

If you want to have 30-year old friends when you're 80, that means at age 70, you need to be making friends with 20-year-olds.

Offer Your Ear

One thing you have to offer younger people is your ear, just like Van Gogh.

Listen--without judging or offering advice. They may have never had an older person truly listen to them as an equal. Learn about their world. Ask what music they like. Maybe you'll like it, too. Contrary to what you may think, "Lady Gaga" is a singer, not a contagious third-world medical condition.

Listen well. Other poeple--older and younger--grew up in a different world from you. Ask about it. Instead of saying, "Well in my day, phones were attached to the walls with cords," and waiting for their wide-eyed gasp of disbelief, realize that in their day, growing up with a cell phone kept them on a leash in a way no corded phone could ever hope to achieve. Find out what that world is like.

You'll most likely find they're not so different from you. Indeed, they might make pretty great friends--which is the whole point.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.