37-year-old Jennifer Rosner has traded her busy life in the city for a quieter and more fulfilling life in the suburbs of Chicago.
The key component to that fulfillment? Making lasting friendships with a group of older women, some of whom are double her age.
It all started when Rosner moved to the suburbs to live with her parents during the pandemic. Within a short time of being there, Rosner realized that she liked being under the same roof as her family again.
"Someone was always asking me how that call went at work. And they just became really involved in my life and me involved in their life more than we had ever been, and I actually didn’t think it was possible to be closer to them," Rosner said.
Rosner eventually moved back to the city, but her heart was still in the suburbs. So she decided to move once again — this time, into an apartment complex near her parents' house where mostly older, semi-retired people lived.
And it was there that she met an older group of women who turned into her close friends, allowing her to realize the full truth in the saying, age is but a number.
Rosner always felt like an old soul
Growing up as an only child, Rosner always found herself around older people, whether it be her parents, her grandparents or her aunts. Her family brought her along to adult events and activities, and she felt that she grew up “fairly fast.”
When in high school, Rosner realized that she was different from her peers. She would find herself listening to Rat Pack and Frank Sinatra, saying that a highlight of her life was when she met Tony Bennett.
“My soul is around 92,” she joked.
She looked up to her grandmother
Rosner loved to hang out with her grandmother, Mae Molly, who she remembers being a “really vibrant” and “incredibly genuine” person.
One thing she loved about her was how much of a socialite she was.
"She had a really cool life that I always wanted to be a part of," Rosner shared of her grandma. "And I think that I got to for many years."
Her grandma died when she was 20, but she remembers how big of an impact she had on everyone's life.
"She had this really cool group of girlfriends and they would play Mahjong every Wednesday, and she’d go out to dinner with my grandpa on Fridays and Saturdays," Rosner recalled. "She always had something to do, someplace to be. She was incredibly busy."
Another thing Rosner admired about her grandmother was that she believed in looking her best and was "always perfectly made up" from head to toe.
Rosner said that when she's out with her mom, they try to look for someone who is dressed the same way or has her features. When they find someone who closely resembled her, they yell, “There’s Mae. Mae’s here.”
When Rosner moved into the complex, she felt a familiar presence
Fast forward several years, and Rosner was moving into the apartment complex in the suburbs. She had "no expectations" of what it would be like living there, but she did notice the general age range was from 50 to 90 — and many of them reminded her of her grandmother.
“When I met these girls in this building, I was really struck by each one of them kind of has a quality of her. So I almost kind of found her in all of them,” Rosner said.
Rosner started to feel more at home once she began attending a weekly happy hour that was held by fellow resident Erica Stone, aka the building's unofficial "mayor."
"What I found in the happy hours is it attracted people from all ages and all segments of our world that we live in around here," Stone explained. "People came down and each person would bring something to share, something to eat, something to drink, maybe a sweet or an hors d’oeuvre. And we just began to really enjoy each other’s company."
The happy hours were just the beginning of Rosner's relationship with her neighbors.
Rosner formed a close bond with the other residents
Through various activities and events like birthday celebrations, dance classes, and just grabbing a bite to eat, Rosner became immersed in the community.
"We do everything together so there is not a single thing that’s off limits," she shared. "I’ve been in nice relationships in my life ... friendships, boyfriends, whatever, but I don’t know that I’ve ever had someone there for every single thing that I possibly need them for outside of like my parents."
Rosner called the bond with her neighbors a "total novelty" that she feels is "true companionate love." And her neighbors felt the same way.
“We truly have a sisterhood here. And if you had told me that in my 50s, I’d be making friends that I’m going to have forever, I would have said, no way," Stone said.
Fellow resident Christy Mahru also says that she "loves talking about guys and boys" with the girls.
Age doesn't matter when it comes to friendship
At the apartment complex, everyone seems to enjoy each other’s company, and being around women from older generations has taught Rosner a valuable lesson in life.
“Many things in life are socially constructed,” Rosner said. “I think we have to really think about intrinsic human qualities — what makes us all the same — and lean into that stuff."
Rosner says that as long as you can focus on that, then "anyone can become your friend."