Having friends makes life a lot more fun, enjoyable and easier to deal with challenges. But as one grows older, research shows, it’s harder to hang onto companions because we leave the workforce and a big part of our relationships develop with people on the job.
When retired, seniors enjoy their free time and travel more, taking time away from developing new relationships. Some seniors move to another city, perhaps to be closer to their children and grandchildren. When doing so, the move puts an end to establish long-term friendships and acquaintances. That’s the hardest decision, to leave behind old friends or to be closer to the grandkids?
During our younger years, we take friendships for granted and don’t think too much about shedding close relationships in exchange for a romantic partnership. And even more are lost when offspring arrive, which puts new demands on one’s resources like time and energy. Every person is guilty of spending all of their time with their immediate family. It’s normal.
But when a person becomes older, it’s necessary to have close ties with nearby friends. It not only feels good but it’s good for you. Research by an American and Canadian scientists have found that having a wide variety of friends decreases the risks of heart disease and stroke. Plus having more friends encourage you to participate in health-related activities and behaviors like consuming fruits and vegetables, staying fit, and quitting bad habits like smoking.
In a Facebook group for seniors aging alone without the support of nearby loved ones, they claim that having friends close by gives them a sense of security knowing they can call someone for help. But some have trouble meeting new friends because they are immobile, live in the country, or have difficulty driving. What we all know is that making new friends isn’t like it was when we were younger.
So what can older adults do to make new friends and revitalize their social connections?
I think it’s important to know that there are many older individuals like you who are in the same boat. So, feel reassured that you are not alone. Secondly, try hard not feel embarrassed or ashamed that you have lost close ties. We all have.
The best opportunities to find new people to connect with are the ones that share your interests. Make a list of your hobbies, places you enjoy, favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and the library. Other places could be book clubs, organizations where you volunteer, art classes, sports leagues, political organizations, local parks, and senior centers.
Having friends will enrich your life and may even keep the mind sharp, helping you stave off dementia.
Carol Marak, aging advocate, and editor at Seniorcare.com. She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.