Friendship has increased in importance during the last few decades. The study examines whether friendship has become more prevalent in personal networks of older adults. Three cohorts of older persons have been followed since 1992 for 17 years in the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. The younger cohort had friends more often and retained friends longer than two older cohorts. The differences are related to personal choice, relational competence and greater structural opportunities for making and keeping friends that were available to the younger cohort. Women retained same-sex friends longer than men. The oldest women lost cross-sex friends more often than did men. This is related to different gender-specific survival rates and to women's tendency to retain friendships longer. © The Author(s) 2011.