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Images by Charoul Aon and Charlo Garcia on Unsplash.

You walk into a roomful of people. You’re wearing a blue shirt. You see a few people also wearing blue shirts. You decide that you can bond on “blue shirts.” You seek out those people and begin a conversation.

Could anything be more ridiculous?

It’s no more ridiculous than expecting people to be friends because they happen to be the same sexual orientation, ethnic group, or (especially) age.

Claudia K wrote a comment on a Facebook forum. She’s 70. She was riding a subway in a metropolitan area, minding her own business, when a stranger offered to give up his seat “so you can be next to your friend.”

Friend? Claudia was traveling alone. 

The man pointed to a woman, who appeared to be Claudia’s age, standing near the door.  

“Why would you assume we know each other?” Claudia asked. The man became angry. He was, he insisted, trying to be kind.

One reason a lot of people are lonely is that they’re programed to seek friendship among people “your own age.” 

Think about it. 

When you’re 35, do you have a lot in common with other people just because they’re also 35?

In high school, you had a lot in common with your classmates. But you probably didn’t love everyone your own age. 

If you were a party-going sports fan you probably didn’t mingle with classmates who listed “reading” as a hobby and thought the Dallas Cowboys were a country music band.

In your sixties and seventies, you’re actually less likely to share common interests and values with people “your own age” than you were in high school. 

Geriatricians know that “if you’ve seen one 80-year-old, you’ve seen one 80-year-old.”

I remember seeing a comment about an 82-year-old woman confined to a nursing home, unable to walk, with no quality of life. 

But Willie Murphy, also an 82-year-old woman, does power-lifting at the local Y; she fought off a burglar who dared to enter her home. The burglar left in an ambulance and the cops took selfies with her. 

 In her book Out of Time, Lynne Segal makes this point: people tend to become “more rather than less different from each other with the accumulation of time,” (p 71) especially with regard to issues of death and old age.

But it’s awfully convenient to insist that older people befriend one another…

especially for anyone who wants to hide older people away in a ghetto, cleverly disguised as a place for “senior living.”  

By the way, it’s not just age. We need to become sensitized to differences within a group. 

A thirty-something gay man experiences similar incidents all the time. People say, “I’d like to introduce you to Bill (or Sam or Jeremy). I know you’d like him. He’s gay too.”

These well-meaning people assume every gay person will like every other gay person (and maybe even want to go to bed with them – they’d be busy!).