You've Got a Friend in Me

Having friends is a positive and important aspect of navigating life. It’s been found through research that friendship can help improve our health, reduce stress, increase feelings of belonging, and do wonders for our confidence. Sounds great right? But have you ever thought about what friendship means to you? What makes a good friend?

“It’s difficult to pinpoint…” says Derek (84), an older neighbour in Bermondsey.

Our Love Your Neighbour programme is all about introducing two people locally who we hope will become steadfast friends. We get to know our younger and older neighbours, and try our best to match people who we think have some similar interests, and will enjoy having a cuppa and conversation. The (sometimes) hard work of forming a genuine and mutual friendship, however, comes down to our neighbours themselves. Seeing as they are experts, we had a little help from our friends to explore what friendship means to them:

Tatiana And Beatrice

Empathy

“Someone you have an equal relationship with. One that is not one-sided, someone who is a good listener, and you can provide that to them as well.” Florence, 30 (friends with Beatrice, 76)

Being able to put yourself into the shoes of another, and understanding what is going on for someone else is important when it comes to recognising how a friend is feeling and knowing how best to support them and connect with them as the individual they are.

“You must learn to understand each other, understanding is the greatest thing. When you understand each other, then you don’t have any problems.” Archie, 98 (friends with Alice, 28)

Trust

“I’d say… not feeling like you need to be performative and being able to be fully yourself around that person… just knowing and feeling safe with that person and being able to tell them how you are really feeling.” Megan, 28 (friends with Derek, 84)

Trustworthiness is akin to honesty, dependability and loyalty. Being able to count on a friend means we can feel safe with that person. Making plans, sharing ourselves, and trusting that what we share will be held with respect… all of these things are important elements to friendship.

“Loyalty is a big part of it, being there for someone. Having a laugh together.” Florence, 29 (friends with Yvonne, 70)

Megan And Derek 1

Honesty and Acceptance

“I had a friend from work who could argue with me. We were the greatest of friends, we used to meet up once a week at the pub. Friendship is when you can share your differences of opinion and still be friends afterwards.Derek, 84 (friends with Megan, 28)

Speaking honestly and freely with someone, with respect and acceptance for differences in perspective and lived experience can help build bridges to cross divides. This seems to be an important part of what our neighbours think makes a good friend. Someone to speak with who is non-judgemental and accepts your choices and opinions even if they differ from their own.

“Understanding, someone who can listen and respect you, someone who understands you really, and can listen to you and maybe advise you about things, even if you don’t agree with them. Friendship is lovely, it’s so nice to have a close friend. Someone who knows your character and moods.” Yvonne, 70 (friends with Florence, 29)

“I think it's good to have interests in common but what’s interesting about this friendship is that Beatrice and I don't really have anything in common. We have found common ground, however, and get along. I think that can be the basis of an interesting friendship... Maybe these differences can make friendships deeper, go beyond surface things." Florence, 30 (friends with Beatrice, 76)

Archie And Alice 1

Unexpected things in common

“I was really worried about what we were going to talk about. There was the realisation that age is not a barrier to friendship. Actually, the best thing about our friendship is the age difference, finding similarities despite a significant gap… there is a lot of appreciation.” Fran, 32 (friends with Sheila, 87)

Being friends with Brian has given me confidence to know that I can find something in common with anyone. If I see an older person on the bus, I feel more likely to strike up a conversation, because I know that I can find common ground with pretty much anyone.” Rosie (friends with Brian).

Friendship at first sight

These are just some of the ingredients our neighbours shared with us, but some friends you know the moment you set eyes on them…

“With Fran it was instant. We clicked straight away… it was the same as my husband and we just clicked. She walked in and it was like I knew.” Sheila, 87 (friends with Fran, 32).

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If you want a taste of these friendship ingredients, a new mate might be just round the corner! We’d love to get to know you on our Love Your Neighbour programme, so feel free to introduce yourself, we love chatting!

Emily Martin

Posted by Emily Martin on Tuesday 1st March 2022

Emily leads on our Love Your Neighbour programme in Southwark, connecting younger and older neighbours for one-to-one friendship. South London is her treasured home since arriving from New Zealand. When she’s not enjoying shows at the Young Vic or Southwark Playhouse, you can find her seeking out music, creative events, cheap eats or even wandering the beaches of the Thames, spotting pieces of histories as the mud reveals them.