Updated: Aug 16, 2022
"What do I do to ensure personal fulfillment and support in life?" Hold fast to your meaningful female friendships!
There is a show that has been streaming on Netflix for seven seasons, since 2015. It’s called Grace and Frankie, and stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as two gray divorcees whose long-term husbands announce that they are in love with each other and leave their wives to be together. Now, the premise may sound crazy and unbelievable. The two couples are long-time friends, and the husbands are law partners who have been involved in a clandestine relationship with one another for many years. They announce their love for each other just as the wives are settling in on a long-awaited life of casual and comfortable retirement with their husbands.
Leaving that aspect of the story for another discussion, the part of the show that we love is the fun-filled and fond relationship between the two female protagonists, Grace and Frankie. Both are two totally different women: Grace is a corporate, formal-type who drinks heavily and can churn out come-back lines almost faster than Cookie (aka, of Fox’s Empire), and Frankie is a granola-loving artist and naturalist with a big heart but also tosses lines criticizing capitalism and practicality with a humorous zeal. While these two characters have been friendly for years, the unexpected circumstance of their husbands’ announcement brings these two women together in ways they never anticipated. And we have been along for the ride since day one.
You might wonder how it is that Two Black Moms would find so much relevancy in Grace and Frankie. Well, we think it’s pretty obvious. Female Friendship! You can read a lot about the importance of female friendships, certainly in high school, college and the fun days of a woman’s early professional life. These relationships, and the development of new friendships, are inevitable as a woman’s life changes – whether it’s navigating a career, getting married, or the arrival of children in a woman’s life. At each of these stages, the need to connect and learn are triggered during these significant life-transitioning moments. But, you know, life transitions are ongoing, and in that time you still need your friends. It’s more likely your friends with whom you will have that hard talk, and they are the ones who help pull you away from the edge of that cliff! It’s your friends who will help you navigate those terrible comments by your husband, the surprising comments from your kids, the insensitivity of your boss, and rejection by that client. We know that’s been the case for us. But, you know, it can go deeper than that. Our friends, even as we age, can save us from ourselves.
A Harvard study released last month showed that there is rising alcohol use among older adults. Studies show that alcohol use in older adults has been trending upward over the years, especially among women. The report states that between 2001 and 2013, among people 65 and older, the rate of alcohol use disorder increased 107%. Rising alcohol use among older adults - Harvard Health.
More recently, a University of Michigan (UMich) 2021 Study on Healthy Aging found that while 67% of older adults (aged 50 to 80) were drinking alcohol at up to moderate levels, there was a significant subset of older adults exceeding the recommended guidelines for alcohol. Among heavier drinkers, 20% reported drinking alcohol four or more times per week, 23% had 3 or more drinks on a typical day of drinking, and 27% reported having six or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past year. In addition, 7% reported alcohol related black outs. Alcohol Use Among Older Adults | National Poll on Healthy Aging (healthyagingpoll.org). Quite significantly, the UMich Study also reported on use of alcohol during the COVID pandemic. During that time, while 59% reported no change, 14% of older adults reported an increase in alcohol use at social events and to ease anxiety and pain. Among adults reporting drinking for social reasons, 11% increased their drinking during the pandemic, and among those who reported drinking to relax, 26% increased their alcohol use. The proportion who reported an increase in alcohol use during the pandemic was higher for those who said they drink to help with pain (49%), to cope with stress (48%), out of boredom (46%), to help with mood (38%), or as part of their routine (31%). This is concerning, as alcohol use by older adults can have proportionally greater health risks. Older adults tend to have increased sensitivity to alcohol because it is metabolized more slowly in aging bodies; this puts an even greater increased risk to the heart and liver, memory and mood, and can lead to falls that can cause bone fractures and other injuries.
So, how does this get us back to Grace and Frankie? Well, it’s simple. When getting through the pandemic, or any difficult life period even as we age, it helps to be able to lean on our close friends. Grace and Frankie leaned on each other as each dealt with the perceived betrayals of their spouses; of course done with the comedic exploits of two great older actors. Real life, though, is not necessarily fun. But, fun or not, it is our friends who know us best, who can see changes in our mood or appearance (even through Zoom), and will not fear standing up to us and intervening in our alcohol routines (or any other destructive routine) and explore with us the underlying reason for such self-destructive acts.
So, that gets us back to the initial question: "What do I do to ensure personal fulfillment and support in life?" Well, hold fast to your meaningful friendships, that's what. So, as we get older and explore other aspects of our beings, let’s bring our friends along for the ride. They can be our companions on our journey; the perfect companions who can support us, love us, and protect us from ourselves.