You’re Never Too Old to Make New Friends
Remember how easy it was to make friends when you were a kid? Back then, it seemed like every social interaction ended with a new best friend. Then you go to college and/or into the workforce, and what seemed to come easy is now more difficult. Especially when you’re busy advancing your career, raising a family and maintaining your home. Who has time to focus on making new friends as an adult? But there’s a simple reason it seemed so easy to find fast friends when you were younger: time.
A recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found it takes roughly 50 hours for someone to move from mere acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to go to simple “friend” status, and more than 200 hours before you can consider someone your close friend.
After the kids move out and/or you’ve retired from a career, you have the time to make friends. What you may be missing is the opportunity and activities for seniors to help you meet people with similar interests and life experience.
The Health Benefits of a Healthy Social Life
Research shows that social isolation can actually harm the health of older adults, and more social interaction can provide a lot of benefits, including:
- Longer life: People with more social support and relationships tend to live longer than those who are more isolated, and this is true regardless of your overall level of health.
- Better physical health: Friendship is associated with a stronger immune system, so you’ll have a better chance of fighting off colds, the flu, and even some types of cancer. You could also have a reduced risk of cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis as well lower blood pressure.
- Better mental health: Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression.
- Lower risk of dementia: Social people generally perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills, and are less likely to develop dementia. However, socializing is most effective when coupled with an overall healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and physical activity.
Maintaining and Forming New Friendships
The easiest way to avoid isolation and stay social is to maintain the friendships you currently have. So try to talk with and visit friends and family on a regular basis.
- Use Skype or Facetime to catch up with distant family and friends.
- Walk through your neighborhood and make a point of stopping to say hello to people you meet.
- Babysit your grandkids or help them with homework.
- Visit a museum with a friend and chat about what you see.
- Have a friend or family member over for coffee or tea.
- Exercise with a friend by walking, swimming, or going to the gym together.
Here are some social activities for seniors to help you stay social and improve your quality of life:
- Volunteer in your community or at your favorite charity organization.
- Visit a senior citizen center and participate in social groups and other scheduled activities.
- Join a group focused on a topic or activity you enjoy, such as card games or a book club.
- Take a class. Many local universities offer discounts to seniors or allow them to audit classes for free. Your local recreation center or library may also have free classes.
- Join a gym or fitness center to stay physically fit and engage with others.
- Attend religious services at your church, synagogue or temple.
- Participate in a neighborhood or community group.
- Play a group sport like bocce ball, golf, bowling or croquet.
Making Friends at a Senior Living Community
Some of the biggest worries many seniors have before moving to a Life Plan Community – like Harrogate – is whether or not they’ll be able to make friends. How easy will it be to form new relationships? That’s why visiting a community to check the friendliness of the residents and staff is important. You should also see what kind of planned social activities they have and if they have a wellness program. At Harrogate, we have a whole-person wellness program called “Living the 8” to help you live a happier, more well-balanced life, complemented by a wide variety of thoughtful services and amenities.
Here are some tips to help you make friends at your community.
- Go to group activities: Most senior living communities have a robust social life with plenty of activities for seniors to choose from: yoga or morning stretch activities, arts and crafts, happy hours, educational seminars, outings to museums and more. Even if it’s not something that interests you, give it a try. The opportunity to socialize is more important than the activity. As you make friends, you’ll be able to invite them to do things that interest you.
- Find similar interests: For example, if you like to read, join the book club. If there isn’t a book club, see about starting one. It’s a great way to spend time with others who share your interests and begin forming friendships.
- Bring a friend: If you don’t like doing group activities alone, ask your son or daughter to come with you. This will give you someone to talk to, and they can help you start a conversation with other people. Eventually you’ll make friends and feel more comfortable going on your own.
- Make dining a social time: Going to the dining room is a perfect time to meet people. To ensure that no one sits alone, many senior living communities will assign residents to specific tables or seat them together in groups as they show up. As you talk with your dinner companions, you may find you have a lot in common.
- Get out and about: Go for a walk down the hall. Sit in the lounge and read a book or work on a jigsaw puzzle. Ask someone to play cards or a board game. These are all great ways to get to know your neighbors.
- Show a new resident the ropes: Chances are you won’t be the newest resident in your community for very long. New people will move in, giving you the chance to bond over your “newness.” You can help them adjust to their new home by offering tips and suggestions. You can also sit with them during group activities, ensuring that neither of you feels out of place.
- Relax: It make a while to make new friends, but you have time. It may take a few days, weeks, or even months to adjust to your new lifestyle. Try to always greet people with a smile. Be willing to stop and chat, and pretty soon those chats may turn into longer conversations. People will get to know you and begin to like you, and you’ll begin to like them. And before you know it, you’ll have new friends and your new community will feel more like home.
If you’d like to learn how our engaging lifestyle promotes healthier, happier, more social lives, call us at 866-606-0178. If you come in for a tour, we’ll even treat you to lunch.