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Friendship found

Hosts of The Girls prove friendship becomes more essential—and enjoyable—with age

Created date

March 23rd, 2016
Hosts of The Girls (from left): Judy Tier, Rona Mininni, Judy Sullivan, and Amy Volz.

Hosts of The Girls (from left): Judy Tier, Rona Mininni, Judy Sullivan, and Amy Volz (not pictured: Barbara Kouri, advisor to the show).

Judy Sullivan never imagined forming strong friendships at this stage in her life. In her 70s, she thought she had already made the friends of her lifetime.

Amy Volz felt the same way. So did Barbara Kouri.

But when they each moved to Seabrook, the Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J., along with Judy Tier and Rona Mininni, the group formed an unbreakable bond of friendship none of them had anticipated.

“I didn’t expect to have this type of rapport at this stage in my life,” says Amy. “These are friendships I’m going to have for the rest of my life.”

The fivesome meets for brunch once a week and chats like a bunch of old friends, despite the fact that they’ve all known each other for just over a year.

Their friendly banter led them to start their own TV show on the community’s in-house TV channel. The Girls features discussions of current events, health tips, comedy routines, and heartwarming stories. 

Positive impact

While most of the women claim Judy Tier as their fearless leader, they each contribute their own talents to the show, to their friendships, and to the Seabrook community.

From serving as ambassadors to prospective residents to welcoming new neighbors, they certainly do their part to make Seabrook a friendly place to live.

On the show, they also share experiences and challenges they’ve had “to provide advice,” says Amy.

And laughter. 

“We have so much fun laughing,” says Rona, recalling a time on the show when Amy shared an experience she had catching a mouse that sneaked into her house in Bronxville, N.Y. 

“She was so animated in telling the story, you could just picture her catching that mouse,” says Rona.

The rapport seen on camera is just as true as the group’s rapport off camera. If one of them is away, they’ll not only care for her plants, they’ll play a lighthearted practical joke on her as well.

They dine together several times a week, celebrate holidays together, and take line dancing classes. Everything is available on campus, which makes socializing that much easier.

“The girls have been fantastic friends,” says Barbara, who doesn’t appear on screen but, as the eldest friend and longest resident of Seabrook, acts as “senior advisor” to the group. It’s one of their many internal jokes. “We gravitated toward each other. They’ve made a really positive impact on my life at Seabrook.”

Importance of social relationships

That’s the special thing about friendship, especially in later life. From 5 to 95 and beyond, friendship continues to bestow both physical and mental health benefits. 

One study published in 2013 by PLOS ONE, “Social relationships and depression,” found that high-quality social relationships lower people’s risk of depression.

And decades of research links social isolation to physical health problems as well, from heart disease to cancer.

Perhaps most telling is The Grant Study, an almost 70-year and ongoing study that followed a group of men from college until the end of life. It found that “the capacity to love and be loved was the single strength most clearly associated with subjective well-being at age 80.”

When asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” the lead researcher replied: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships with other people.”

That’s a pretty strong statement, one that Judy Sullivan echoes: “I believe people are the most important thing in life.”

Time for friendship

But as life transitions from childhood to adulthood and parenthood, friendships take a back seat to other relationships and commitments, like family, work, and home maintenance. 

Even as adult children move out of the house, older adults are left with not only an aging body but an aging home to care for.

Amy decided to change that. She moved to Seabrook because life in her condo was getting to be a burden. The laundry room was far away, steps were becoming a bear, and the area was more and more congested. 

Among all of Seabrook’s listed amenities—the fitness center, indoor swimming pool, restaurants, and activities, to name a few—Amy discovered one that wasn’t in the brochure: friendship. “I’m actually closer to people now who I’ve known from the past, and I’ve made new friends as well,” she says.

After living alone, her friendships with the “girls” was a welcome surprise. “We have become really close friends, which was quick after we all started living here,” she says. “We immediately seemed to connect.”

“You’d think we’d known each other our whole lives,” says Rona. “That’s the kind of bond we have.”

If anything, they’re proof positive that friendship should take priority in the hierarchy of relationships. “We’re very positive people,” says Judy Tier. “As ambassadors, we encourage people to move in when they’re young to take advantage of this amazing community and all the people in it.”

What’s more, Judy Sullivan says her life has “absolutely improved” because of the friendships she’s formed at Seabrook. “I think they’re essential.”