One of the challenges of getting older is not only maintaining friendships, but building new ones. In the absence of friendship, life can seem more difficult than it already is. In fact, nearly a quarter of adults age 65 and older are considered “socially isolated,” according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM).
There are a myriad of reasons why our friendships seem to dwindle as we get older. People naturally grow apart, as friends move great distances for jobs, school or to be closer to family. Our responsibilities also increase as we get older. More responsibilities generally means fewer opportunities for social activities that could lead to new friendships.
Whatever the reason, friendships should not be neglected. Research shows that positive friendships can be just as important to our health and longevity as regular exercise. Here, we’ll explore why friendships have such a positive impact on our lives, and offer suggestions for how you can continue to make meaningful connections later in life.
The Impact of Friendships on Our Health and Well-Being
From improving your cognitive health to reducing stress, many studies have demonstrated the health benefits of maintaining positive friendships.
- Adults who feel a sense of belonging in a group are less likely to struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, according to one peer-reviewed study.
- Surrounding yourself with friends who make healthy choices means you are more likely to make healthy choices, which has a positive impact on life expectancy. You may also be more motivated to take care of yourself knowing others care about your well-being.
- Friendships can help reduce and manage stress, which can take a toll on your body and impact everything from your blood pressure to your immune system.
Strategies For Making Friends Later In Life
Now that you understand the importance of friendships, the challenge becomes how to create and then maintain these connections. The easiest way to forge new friendships is to put yourself in situations where you are surrounded by like-minded individuals. Shared interests are the perfect foundation for a new friendship, and a simple but effective conversation starter.
Take Your Hobbies to a Group Setting
It’s never too late to engage in a neglected hobby or to foster a new one. Consider taking up new or existing hobbies in a group setting. Many educational institutions offer continuing education classes in art, history or another subject, affording you the opportunity to rekindle a former passion while also connecting with others who share your interests. Film, pottery, art and even dance classes are also wonderful opportunities to meet new people.
Volunteer for Causes You Care About
Another good way to find others who share your values is to volunteer your time with a community organization or charity. The work itself will vary from one organization to the next, and could be anything from stuffing envelopes to sorting through donated items. But it’s a valuable use of your time and also allows you to socialize with other volunteers.
Focus on Existing Friendships
While building new friendships is important, it’s important not to neglect the friends you already have. Be proactive and extend an invitation to go to lunch, attend a performing arts event or visit a scenic locale. It’s less about the activity itself and more about carving out time for maintaining the friendships that bring so much joy and purpose to your life.
Join a Senior Living Community
Newcastle Place is a premier independent living community in Mequon, WI. Nestled in a peaceful area of the North Shore near Milwaukee, our community has exceptional services and amenities, warm and friendly residents and a wide variety of social events, groups, clubs and trips to suit nearly every passion. It’s the ideal place to build the kind of life-enriching relationships that matter so much to our health and well-being. Contact us to learn more about what life is like at this exceptional community.