Friends or family? It’s not usually a choice people have to make. But after my father died, that was the choice my mother faced.

None of her three children lived in Perth; two of us lived on the other side of the country, one on the other side of the world. But Perth is where my outgoing mother had spent her then-68 years, and all her friends lived there.

She decided to stay put.

My mother, now 84, was right to stay with her friends rather than move to Sydney to be near us. Research is mounting to show that if you had ...

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  • Reply March 14, 2013

    Maureen P.

    Welcome back into my life, Adele Horin. My Herald just isn’t the same without you!

    We are experiencing a similar situation with my husband’s widowed mother, who’s 87..(.both my parents died at relatively young ages)…and I really do believe it is a combination of friends and family that get us through.
    My m-i-l lives in her own home and is active in her local community (another important factor) and there is a daughter (and her family) 20 mins away. She is lonely and is missing her sister who died last year, but she’s taken up a mind-stimulating boardgame, which also provides social contact and the opportunityfor new friendships. She’s much loved by her children, numerous grandchildren and her friends, and we remind her of this when she gets a bit low.
    I hope I do so well when I’m in her situation, but my husband is my best friend…life without him is horribly imaginable!

  • Reply March 14, 2013

    Annie Also

    Family you cannot pick and choose. They can be cruel and hurtful, neglectful and abusive and you have to stick with them even when you don’t want to.
    Friends you can nurture and encourage, drop if they become abusive or ‘users’.
    I would be more interested in studies on the stress that extended families can bring.
    I’m afraid I could not do without my husband of 40 years. He is my best friend and an amazing human…why can’t he be counted in my ‘circle’ of close friends too?
    Love that you are still around to read Adele. Thank heavens for the internet …

  • Reply March 14, 2013

    Lady Penelope

    The only problem is that it is likely our friends will age along with us and will be unable to assist us at times like Adele is describing. Fir those of us without children being in the aged care system without someone to watch out for us is a frightening thought. Having said that I havenfriendships reaching back over 30 years & it’s wonderful to remenisce on the hits & misses.

  • Reply March 14, 2013

    Narelle Matheson

    I guess a little of both is a good thing. My Mum is 82′ healthy, and independent. She has friends, but loves the company of her children and their children and enjoys the best of both worlds. We are close, and close by. It’s a good thing!

  • Reply March 14, 2013

    Sonya Math

    A loving family is more likely to travel to see their mother regularly as opposed to friends (particularly older ones) who are less likely to unless they are going to the other city for another purpose.

  • Reply March 14, 2013


    Womderful to see Adele Horin writing so well again. I really missed her when she disappeared off the pages of the SMH.
    I’ll be taking this article to my group at the U3A where I work as a volunteer tutor and teach all about happiness and well-being. This is a wonderful addition to our knowledge about how to look after ourselves, and our loved ones, into our old age. I’m really looking forward to following Adele’s blog too.

  • Reply March 14, 2013

    Tone M Nilsen

    I think it can apply both ways, it entirely depends on what kind of relationship you have with your family, I have a better relationship with my friends and would rather have approached me to them than my family if there was anything I needed help to. But to my children, I have a very good relationship also to my oldest daughter who has moved out, we often meet and socialize together,I can not imagine life without them, we are good friends and will always be close.So when I get old, I can trust that they will be there, my kids and my friends are my family. :-)

  • Reply March 16, 2013


    My elderly mum has outlived all her siblings and friends. She socializes with the older folk that her family introduce to her now. It is to the younger generations of her own family that my mother now looks to for company and outings. Friends grow old with you and are as vulnerable as yourself to the needs and demands of old age.

    She lives on her own and of course she’s lonely and relies on us to ring her every week. The younger generation visit when they can and take her out – do all the odd jobs for her. We keep an eye on the house and do what needs doing. She’ll never be parked in a nursing home and left to die. Her family will see to that.

    Friends are precious but so is family. Worth working on all your relationships.

  • Reply March 17, 2013


    Adele it is great to have you back – SMH is not the same without you and a few others. My mother chose to return to live in the country where her sister lives when I left school and away from the city where I was brought up. She is now 89 and still lives independently. Her sister is 87 and also lives independently. I ring my mother every day to see how she is, but of course I worry about her. She wouldn’t want to move away and so I have to accept that my level of care is going to be long distance most of the time. I would love to do more for her but have to accept that is the way she wants to live.

  • Reply March 23, 2013

    Adrian Glamorgan

    Thank you! This adds to our life planning…

  • [...] Much has been written about the importance of community in longevity – that being surrounded by friends extends health and happiness. Adele Horin wrote about that here. [...]

  • [...] Friends… Or Family? [...]

  • Reply July 9, 2013


    You should really control the commentary at this website

  • Reply April 15, 2014


    This is such a complex issue – the value of family v friends and reading the comments above provides much scope for thought and discussion. My family of origin is fractured beyond repair and out of my 6 siblings 4 of us have no relationship with our parents, their (parents)decision not ours; my 2 daughters and I have a reasonably solid relationship and I enjoy them immensly, however, I am aware not to burden, nor outstay my welcomes with them whereas with friends I can come and go with spending time with them and enjoying the outings etc. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately I don’t have a partner so I have learnt over the last 10 years to be independent and enjoy my own company so as I don’t have to be too reliant on someone close to manage everyday living and I’m only a young 60 still working full-time and will have to do so for a lot longer.

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