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Elderly monkeys choose to have fewer friends – just like us

Elderly monkeys choose to have fewer friends – just like us

New Scientist

Image:  David Holt London

Do you see as many friends now as you did 10 years ago? Your shrinking social circle isn’t just a human trait – it seems that, as they get older, monkeys become more selective about who they spend time with too.

We have known for decades that older people are generally less sociable than young adults. This used to be considered a bad thing – a sign that older adults become cut off from society and lonely. But on quizzing them, researchers found that older adults were generally no more likely to report being depressed or lonely than college students. As a general rule, people actually seem to choose to be less socially active as they age.

“It’s not that they don’t like to interact with people, but given a choice they will interact with people they know and like – people who have more emotional meaning in their lives,” says Susan Charles at the University of California, Irvine.

Now Julia Fischer at the Leibniz Institute for Primate Research in Göttingen, Germany, and her team have found that some monkeys do the same. Observing free-roaming Barbary macaques living in a wildlife park in southern France, they found that the macaques spent less time grooming other monkeys as they aged, and groomed an ever-shrinking number of individuals. Read more on…