Studies of monkeys show how older male monkeys fit into their social group, closely resembles how well old men age. The male monkeys fit into one of two  groups, the first is the one where males are always pushing and fighting to be at the top of the hierarchy. This group doesn’t age well.  As expected there always will be younger and stronger males to take their place. These older males will then be scorned and picked on by the younger males at the top of the group.

These older males then have no choice but to leave their tribe and join another group, where they will no longer be picked on, only ignored. They will finish their days alone and friendless.  These male monkeys are like men who have a constant need to be in control.

This kind of man has a compulsive need to feel like number one, and many times will accomplish this by monopolizing conversations. Every conversation with this man turns into a monologue, and when someone tries to make it into a dialogue, they will frequently interrupt until they have successfully killed the conversation. They will enjoy being with people they feel they can push around, as long as it is a bit of a fight. They enjoy the contest and don’t want it over too soon or too easily won.  These men like the monkeys, when they become old men also are pretty much alone. They have worn out friends and family with their competitiveness.

The second kind of male monkey is very different. These males even at a young age make the choice to not join in this push to the top of the tribe. Instead, these males spend their time making friends. These males have calmer social behaviors and are accepting of the hierarchy of the tribe. Then in old age, they have their friends, especially female friends and they live longer and happier then their more aggressive counterparts.

Every study of the elderly, to see what people have in common when they have attained an advanced age, includes being social. Maintaining friendships and developing new ones is always viewed as a positive way to age. Having several and varied activities that include getting together with other people. Attending church, doing volunteer work, joining card clubs, health clubs, singing in a choir, even becoming comfortable chatting with strangers, store clerks, and waitresses. If you have always been more of an introvert, you can be the best listener in the group.  Live a longer and a happier life by avoiding social isolation.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing