A man needs friends

Men need friends, but men in our society, particularly middle-aged and older men, have a problem. Time and time again I’ve heard their wives complain, “My husband has no friends; he says he doesn’t need any because I’m his best friend.”

Men tend to have lots of acquaintances, usually from among the people they work with. But close friends? Very few or none.

Acquaintances come and go, so retired men often complain of loneliness and isolation.

When his wife tries to maintain a life, he may get possessive and resent her having friends beyond him, or he may just sink into depression. Then if he gets sick or disabled, and his wife is his only friend, the demands on her can become crippling.

A while back I was contracted to have weekly visits with two very ill men in care. Each lasted about six months before he died.

Both men had emotional and behavioural problems which I helped them with, but something else happened: they got to tell their stories that none of their other caregivers had time to hear. We became close.

Staff, and later, family members, told me that for each of these men my visit became the highlight of their week. The hardest part for me was my grief when they passed.

We all need connection throughout life, both men and women, but it can become tougher later in life. You can’t just hang up a sign saying “I need a friend.” You’d be a target for the con artist of the week. On the other hand, if you’re middle aged or older and want to give back, neither can you hang up a sign saying “friendship available.” Imagine the suspicion that would evoke!

Fortunately, there is such a way to put the two together. “Nurse Next Door” provides home support services to families and individuals.  As part of their service they offer simple companionship, either at home or in long-term care facilities. The companion could be any healthy man or woman with time and presence who wants to give back.

Nurse Next Door puts you through an interview process, checks your references, requires a criminal records check and a health check before employing you. They do pay you, albeit at a nominal rate. I suggest thinking of the work as volunteering and the qualification process as what you’re being paid for.

Both men and women companions are needed. I’ve slanted my comments towards men, because there are so many able men looking for something in retirement beyond golf. Check it out by contacting them at vancouverisland north@nursenextdoor.com. Who knows? You may kindle some bonds that are life giving to all parties, including you.

Dr. Neill is a Central-Island Registered Psychologist. You can reach him for an appointment at 250-752-8684 or through his website www.neillneill.com.