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An illustration saying 'don't mind the gap'

“My advice? When it comes to making friends, Embrace the age gap!”

Posted by Johanna Brooks on 9th May 2022

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Michelle, 44, a Community Champion at North London Cares, shares a blog and a beautiful illustration on how connecting with older and younger neighbours at North London Cares helped her to find her happy place during the pandemic.

Michelle, 44

I am someone who has always felt happiest when surrounded by people of all ages. My favourite type of pub is one where you would feel perfectly comfortable sipping a pint alongside your parents and your nan, whilst also rubbing shoulders with a younger crowd.

I’m a forty-something-year-old woman, and I live a slightly Peter Pan life in London. I often find myself eating and drinking in bars and restaurants alongside people a decade or even two decades younger than me. Before Covid changed my social life, I looked forward to chatting with younger people on my evenings out, and I’d enjoy the benefit of learning things from my younger colleagues in the office (such as navigating my way through my new phone settings).

But the pandemic made me nervous about socialising indoors and I now go out far less than I used to and like lots of people, I work from home a lot more now too. I never thought I’d find myself in a position where I could go a whole day without speaking with someone. But during the pandemic, that happened more and more. It got to the point where my heart would sometimes sink when, after a day alone, I was directed to a self-checkout instead of being given the opportunity for even the smallest of human interactions during my evening shop.

It’s no wonder then that North London Cares social clubs became my happy place. I work in Camden and first came across North London Cares in a local magazine several years ago. I joined at a time when I already had an abundant social life, and I have come to value the social connection even more in recent times.

Michelle and Chrissy

Through North London Cares, I’ve chatted to and laughed along with my older and younger neighbours and experienced new things like group walks, singing lessons, philosophy and film nights. I love chatting with younger people too and discovering new bars and restaurants to try in London.

And I love interacting with the older neighbours too. My grandparents have passed away and my family don’t live in London. I love the unique conversations you can have with someone who has more life experience under their belt. There’s often a sense of calm someone can offer you when they are wise enough to know that some things don’t matter and experienced enough to know that most difficult situations will pass. In particular, I love the element of naughtiness and fun that my older neighbours have - who have let go of the self-consciousness that takes years to shake off.

Before the pandemic, I barely spent an evening at home, but two years on, I am still taking my time to venture back into ‘normal life’. That’s why it’s great having a choice of ways to stay connected with other local neighbours in my community – whether it’s exploring a park I’ve never been to before or settling on my sofa to tackle an online crossword with my neighbours on Zoom.

Maybe it could be your happy place, too.

My advice? When it comes to making friends, Embrace the age gap!

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The Cares Family is a UK registered company (10236615) and registered charity (no. 1180638). North London Cares is a UK registered company (07737818) and registered charity (1153137). South London Cares is a UK registered company (8757344) and registered charity (1157401). Manchester Cares is a UK registered company (10893107) and registered charity (1176902). Liverpool Cares is a UK registered company (11166325) and registered charity (no. 1177749). East London Cares is a UK registered company (11809555) and registered charity (no. 1186012).