Friendships in Late Adulthood

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  • 0:02 Late Adulthood
  • 0:44 Function
  • 3:38 Characteristics
  • 5:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Friendships in late life are both similar and different from friendships earlier in life. Watch this lesson to find out what the functions and characteristics of friendship in late adulthood are, as well as how they differ from friendships at other times in life.

Late Adulthood

Ida and Lisa have been best friends for most of their lives. They are now in their 70s, and they are closer than ever. They have lunch together on most days and play bridge with some other friends once a week. They go for walks together and sit next to each other at church. Ida and Lisa are in late adulthood or the time of life after age 65. During that time, people face a whole host of new challenges, both physically and emotionally, as they deal with the last years of their lives. Because of this, friendships can be particularly important. Let's look closer at the function and characteristics of friendships in late adulthood.


Lisa and Ida met in the second grade and have been best friends for almost seven decades. They've seen each other through raising their families, finding success at work, and through tough times, like when Lisa got a divorce in her 50s. Through all of that, their friendship has been constant. Friendships are important at all stages of life, but they are particularly important during late adulthood. During the later part of life, friendships serve four functions which can be remembered by remembering the name, 'LISA'.

  • L: Link to the larger world. As people age, their world tends to shrink. It becomes harder and harder to get around and many people don't travel as much. Some even end up homebound, meaning that their health keeps them from being able to leave home. Lisa and Ida have another friend, Betty, who is homebound. They go and visit her a couple of times a week. Those visits are very important to Betty because it makes her feel in touch with the world and less alienated and alone than she otherwise would. In this way, their friendship serves as a link to the world outside of Betty's home.
  • I: Intimacy. Feelings of belonging and bonding with other humans are important at every stage in life, but in late adulthood, they are particularly important because older adults can feel alone in the world. Having each other helps Ida and Lisa remember that they aren't alone, even when their families don't visit as often as they'd like.
  • S: Support. Older adults often face loss. Whether it's the loss of a friend, family member, or loss of freedom, like when Betty became homebound, late life is full of dealing with big issues that can sometimes feel overwhelming and depressing. Having friends helps people deal. Ida knows this better than most. When her husband of over 50 years died last year, Lisa helped her get through it. If Lisa hadn't been there, Ida probably would've ended up much more depressed than she did.
  • A: Acceptance. Society and people within it often make assumptions about older adults. Whether it's judging them based on their appearance or underestimating their abilities, many people in late adulthood feel as though they are constantly being judged or dismissed. Friends help them feel accepted and remind them that they are okay. For example, last week Lisa was carrying a jug of fruit punch to the church social. A younger man came and took the jug, telling Lisa, 'Here, let me. You might hurt yourself.' He only wanted to help, but it made Lisa feel inadequate. Luckily, Ida saw the whole thing. She handed a couple of gallons of ice cream to Lisa and said, 'Take these.' Just by that small gesture, she made Lisa feel accepted again.

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