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Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HerbSilverman.Com

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/03/26

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: We talked some sessions ago about the death of Paul Krassner. A cultural elephant in the countercultural room, or, more properly, the plural alternative cultures room. Friends come from many different areas. What makes a friendship?

Dr. Herb Silverman: There are all kinds of friends. I recently met someone I had never seen before, and she informed me that she was a friend of mine—a Facebook friend. When I first got on Facebook I agreed to be friends with anyone who requested it, and now I think I have too many such “friends.” I’m also friends with some charities I support, as in “Friends of the Library.” I am not a Quaker (the Society of Friends), though among religions I think it is one of the best because of its emphasis on peace, social justice, and finding the light within. Surprisingly, there is also a group called Nontheistic Quakers (nontheistic Friends). A more traditional notion of friends would be people not related to you whom you know well, and whose company you enjoy. This might include professional colleagues, fellow supporters in a cause, or someone you are intimate with. Friends are the family you choose. No matter how down you are, good friends should be able to make you laugh. I think the best kind of friend is someone you love and who loves you, someone you respect and who respects you, someone you trust and who trusts you, someone with whom you can be honest and who is honest with you, and someone you are loyal to and who is loyal to you. (We are fortunate in life if we have two such friends.) My wife, Sharon, is my best friend.

Jacobsen: What makes a friendship last?

Silverman: A friendship lasts as long as you continue to enjoy one another’s company. You should be able to be yourself, give support when needed, empathize, express your feelings, forgive, and make mistakes without fear of judgment. 

Sometimes friends drift apart (becoming former friends) because their interests change. Last year I attended my 55thhigh school reunion. Some of my former friends might become friends again if we stayed in touch, but our lives and interests have moved on, so there are no such plans. On the other hand, I continue to communicate with a former colleague who left the College of Charleston 40 years ago and moved to another state. We remain good friends with many similar interests and activities, and go out of our way occasionally to get together. To make a friendship endure often requires hard work. If you value the friendship, you should learn about your friend’s new interests and see if you can turn them into interests of yours as well. It likely will include the friend’s spouse and children. 

Jacobsen: Why are long-term friends important to maintain for emotional health and a sense of connection with other human beings, and to think about others besides oneself, i.e., to have social responsibility and consideration?

Silverman: Life is a continuous journey. It helps to have long-term friends who know a lot about your past, so you don’t have to explain it to them. As we age, family responsibilities and occupational pressures lessen, and so friendships become more important. Friendship in adulthood provides companionship and affection, as well as emotional support, and contributes positively to mental well-being and improved physical health.

Among the elderly, friendships are especially important. Should close relatives die, friends can provide links to the larger community, mitigate depression and loneliness, and compensate for potential losses in social support previously given by family members. Older people also feel more useful when they can do something for the community. Research has shown that older adults report the highest level of happiness and general well-being when they have close ties to friends. This satisfaction is associated with an increased ability to accomplish activities of daily living. 

The number of friends in old age usually declines, often because of their death. I’ve gotten used to checking the daily obituary section in my local paper. Sometimes I learn that friends younger than I am (77) have died. This makes me more appreciative of my friends who remain. 

Friends are important at any age, but especially for the elderly who might not be able to get out as often. Interaction with friends provides a continued social life. So, if you are young, think about staying in touch with elderly people you know. They will appreciate your attention more than you might have realized.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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