Men need friends. So do women for that matter. But men in our society, particularly middle-aged and older men, have a problem. Time and time again I’ve heard their wives say something like, “My husband has no friends and he says he doesn’t need any because I’m his best friend.”
Men tend to have lots of acquaintances: the people they work with, play golf with or serve as clients. But close friends … very few or none. And the acquaintances come and go.
People retire here and after the dust settles men often complain of loneliness and isolation. Then if he gets sick or disabled, and his wife is his only friend, the demands on her can become crippling. When she tries to maintain a life, he may get possessive and resent her having friends beyond him, or he may just sink into depression.
A few years ago I had an assignment as a psychologist to have weekly visits with two very ill men in a care home — different times and unknown to each other, each lasting about six months and ending with their deaths.
Both men had emotional/behavioural problems which I helped them with, but something else happened: they got to tell their stories that none of their other caregivers had time to hear. We became close. Staff, and later, family members, told me that for each of these men my visit became the highlight of their week. The hardest part for me was my grief when they passed.
We all need connection throughout life, both men and women, but it can become tougher later in life. You can’t just hang up a sign saying “I need a friend.” You’d be a target for the con artist of the week. If you’re middle aged or older, in good health, at loose ends and want to give back, neither can you hang up a sign saying “Friendship available,” because it would provoke the immediate question, “What’s his agenda?”
What if there were a way to put the two together with all the checks and balances needed to assure the legitimacy of the connection?
There is such a way. Families and individuals needing home support can find what they need through Nurse Next Door.
You may have read an article about it in The News last August. Often as part of their service to someone either at home or in long-term care, they offer simple companionship. Who is the companion? The companion could be any healthy man or woman with time and presence who wants to give back.
Nurse next Door puts you through an interview process, checks your references, requires a criminal record check and a health check before employing you. I use the word “employ” because they do pay you, albeit at a nominal rate. I suggest thinking of the work as volunteering and the qualification process as what you’re being paid for.
Both men and women companions are needed. I’ve slanted my comments towards men, because there are so many able male retirees in our community that are looking for something beyond golf. Check it out by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who knows? You may kindle some bonds that are life giving to all parties, including you.
You can reach Registered Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill for an appointment at 250-752-8684 or through his website www.neillneill.com/contact.