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The Power of Female Friendships: A Secret to Healthy Ageing




"Female friendships are a lifeline, a treasure trove of wisdom, laughter, and love. They’re a safe harbour in the storms of life and the secret to navigating the journey of womanhood with grace and strength."

 

Emily Logan Decens, author and feminist."

  

 

I just had a wonderful weekend with my dear friend Cleo Glyde. We've had many sleepovers, and with my partner moving in, we thought they were a thing of the past. However, my partner supports my friendship and was insistent that some things should not change because of our new living arrangements. So the three of us ate yummy food, watched bad TV, and laughed late into the night.

 

Cleo and I kept our tradition in the morning and went for a swim at the Lady's Pool in Coogee while my partner did his Sunday ritual without me.

 

I am blessed to have many strong female friends, and amongst them are four that I would consider 'besties'. I've questioned whether it's frivolous to have so many besties until I heard about tending and befriending and how strong friendships are why women live longer and age better than most men.

 

As we journey through life, we encounter many experiences and relationships that shape our well-being. One of the most significant relationships in a woman's life is often found in her friendships with other women. Far from being a supplementary relationship, research suggests that female friendships contribute significantly to emotional and physical health, particularly as we age.

 

Shared Experiences Foster Strong Bonds

There's something undeniably special about the bond between women. Shared experiences—from navigating the complexities of womanhood to overcoming societal expectations—often forge these connections, leading to an understanding and empathy that can be deeply comforting and empowering. This is particularly important as we age, as the social landscape can shift dramatically with retirement, loss of partners and loved ones, or relocation. Having a support network that understands these life-altering experiences can make all the difference.

 

The Tend and Befriend Response: A Secret Weapon

 

While stress triggers a "fight-or-flight" response in men, women are likelier to "tend and befriend." This unique female response to stress sees women nurturing and caring for others (tending) and seeking social support (befriending). This has been shown to protect against the harmful effects of stress and promote health and resilience. This behaviour further strengthens female bonds, providing a safe space for women to share, laugh, cry, and grow together.

 

The Health Benefits of Female Friendships

 

Female friendships can also contribute to physical health. Studies have shown that women with strong social networks have a lower risk of developing certain health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or dementia. They can also help boost the immune system and speed up recovery from illness. A shared interest in health and wellness can also result in regular exercise routines or healthy eating habits, vital for ageing.

 

The Joy of Ageing Together

 

As we age, our friendships can take on a new dimension. The shared laughter and tears, the collective wisdom gleaned from life’s ups and downs, and the enduring love and support all contribute to a sense of purpose and belonging. Whether it’s travelling together, learning new skills, or simply spending time in each other’s company, these experiences enrich our lives and create lasting memories.

 

Female friendships are undoubtedly a powerful force that can significantly enhance our journey through life, providing comfort, joy, and strength along the way.

 

Nurturing these relationships is an investment in our emotional and physical well-being, proving that tending and befriending can be a secret to healthy ageing.

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