A long walk around the park, a fresh cup of coffee, visiting a local museum — everything is better with a good friend. And that doesn’t change as we get older. Seniors need social connections not only to survive but to thrive. However, as people age, we often find ourselves spending more time alone.
According to a study, having senior friendships can improve your health, increase your overall well-being, and even add a few years to your life. So, let’s talk about what friendship might look like as you’re getting older and explore some reasons why prioritizing friendships is essential for your health:
1: The remedy to loneliness and isolation
Senior isolation and loneliness are damaging to self-esteem, physical and emotional well-being, and even to your longevity. Studies show that social isolation was associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia and other serious illnesses. Having strong social connections, even if it’s just one or a few friends, helps you keep your thinking and cognitive skills sharp.
2. Friends help hold you accountable
Not only do social bonds come with physical and mental benefits, but they also create a support system and accountability for you, helping to keep you safe and feeling your very best, particularly in trying times. The National Institute on Aging reports that seniors who report experiencing “a strong emotional bond” with family members often “lead a more active lifestyle, eat healthier meals, and may even reduce or stop smoking.”
3. Friends help you remain active
Staying active to prevent a sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest challenges seniors face, especially those who are living alone and don’t have family nearby. A body in motion stays in motion, and a healthy body supports a healthy mind. When seniors move around, walk to visit each other (even if it is just down the street) and engage in activities together, they help keep their bodies in good shape and wits sharp. Enjoying time with friends and family is key to being (and staying) young and healthy.
4. Friendships may be the key to longevity
Do you want to live longer? Form close friendships as you age! Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. In fact, one study showed that your overall survival rate increases by 50% if you have strong social relationships.
5. Improves cognitive function
Our cognitive functions help us understand information and carry out our daily tasks. As we age, our short-term and long-term memory and the speed at which we can process information gradually begins to decline. Fortunately, socialization can help. Engaging in conversations with others will exercise your mind, improving your cognitive ability.
Where to make new friends
Now that you know all the benefits of having friends, you may wonder: Where do I even make friends? The simple answer is everywhere. Just remember to keep calm and be yourself. Everything else will come naturally. Here are some great ways to start meeting new people:
- Volunteer your time. Helping others is a great way to make friends. It puts you around great people and lets them see that you believe in helping your community.
- Give social media a try. It may seem like new territory if you’ve never tried it before, but it allows you to find and reconnect with old friends.
- Become more active in your church. Check out the upcoming events at your place of worship. Many churches offer social gatherings for seniors.
- Accept the invitation. When people reach out to you, keep an open mind to the possibilities. Simply getting out more increases the odds of meeting people and potentially making new friends.
- Join a gym. Find a senior-friendly gym or class in your local area. This allows you to stay in shape and make a friend or two.
- Go out for bingo night. If you’re in an area where organizations hold weekly bingo nights, don’t be afraid to attend one. A potential friend could be waiting for you inside.
- Locate a local senior center. Most local markets have a senior center where you can meet and work with other seniors for events, art classes, and exercise classes.
It goes without saying that maintaining close relationships is good for the mind and body. However, remember that nurturing a friendship isn’t a one-way street — it takes effort regardless of your age. Once you’ve found a good friendship, you will need to take steps to stay in touch and communicate with them frequently. While making new friends may feel daunting at first, you will enjoy having someone to create new memories with and be there for you.
Another great place to start making new friends could be in the comfort of your own home. At HomeWell, we specialize in more than just the practical needs of daily life. Our reliable in-home caregivers also provide a far more fundamental need: friendship. Bringing a HomeWell companion caregiver into your home will help provide you with the necessary social stimulation to live a healthy, happy life.
To learn more about our different levels of care, visit our website.