Something wonderful happened two weeks ago – something I’ve missed so much these past few months that, at times, it has felt like my heart was breaking. What was it? Simply this: I got to spend an evening with my girlfriends.

My female friendships have been the bedrock of my life. They’re all about strength and resilience. When friendship is done right, it’s a huge source of confidence, reassurance, joy and candour that can last a lifetime. And it becomes more and more important the older we get.

We all need emotional support – and we don’t always find it in our romantic relationships. As we age, we may lose our partner – through divorce, illness or even death. In the good times, it’s our girlfriends who we turn to for help and advice. In the bad times, their love and support can be invaluable.

As we get older, having a strong network of female friends – whether it’s just a few close confidantes or a proper gaggle – is important both for our quality of life and to shore up our future happiness.

In Okinawa, in Japan, older women are connected for life in a circle of friends called a moai. The members of the group commit to provide support and camaraderie for each other as they age. These women have all known each other for decades, and are there to help each other solve problems, manage emotional crises – and reduce stress.

It’s easy to become isolated as we grow older. If we have children, they might leave home; we retire from our jobs; we may lose a spouse; we cut off ties. It takes a lot of planning to stay busy, and it’s easy to end up home alone, feeling miserable.

Girlfriends can help. I think of all the times I’ve turned to mine when I’ve been feeling blue – and whether it’s a listening ear or a kick up the ass, they’ve made me feel better. And they always make me laugh. But why are girlfriends particularly important as we age?

First, we can share our feelings with them. Typically, women feel more comfortable opening up to other women for advice. We can help each other in times of need, whether that means bringing over a dish of food if we can’t/don’t want to cook, providing a shoulder to cry on or spending time hanging out together at yoga – or over a bottle of wine. Which leads me on to…

Having fun together. I’ve had some of the best times of my life with my female friends. It might just be getting together for dinner – and now you know how much I was looking forward to that! – or doing something a bit more focused, but it’s refreshing to see the world from the perspective of a bunch of women. We laugh a lot.

We also talk – particularly about what’s happening to our bodies. Women understand what’s going on and can relate to each other when, say, a friend has a hot flush, or a relationship problem – or just can’t fit into her jeans. It’s easier to talk to your girlfriends, in the first instance, than, say, a doctor. Particularly if your GP isn’t clued up on women’s health.

As we age, women are often the ones who end up caring for elderly parents or other family members. This can take its toll after a while. Support – both emotional and practical – from your friends is vital to ensure you don’t burn out as a caregiver.

It might not just be you caring for someone else. If you’re unwell, you’ll need your friends. Going through a personal illness is difficult – whether you have a partner or are on your own. Friends are important to help with appointments, advocacy and emotional support.

And your girlfriends can help you dream big. As we get older, lots of women think about turning those ideas to start our own business or take on a meaningful project into a reality. Groups of friends can empower each other to achieve goals and offer feedback and support along the way.

Female friendships are a powerful thing. I don’t know how I’d have made it this far without my girls. So to all of you, from my oldest friends to everyone in the Studio10 community, thank you for your love and support. We’re doing great things together. I’m so excited to see what we’ll go on to achieve.

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