Friendships amongst seniors remain vitally important but are sometimes more difficult to sustain as life brings on many changes.
Whether it is a new living situation or adapting to a major loss, the importance of making new friends is not something that is top of mind for many seniors. Whether it is because of a move away from ones’ home and neighbors, or adjusting to the loss of a partner, many elderly people find making new friends to be a secondary goal. Additionally, It is not always easy to join in and try new opportunities to meet new friends.
“It’s inevitable to lose friends as we age,” says Sherry Cormier, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of Sweet Sorrow: Finding Enduring Wholeness After Loss and Grief in an article by SilverSneakers. “We tend to stay in familiar social groups, like a book club or church group, so as people leave, move away, or pass away, our social circles dwindle.”
It is not surprising that new friendships are not at the top of mind for elders, when according to a recent report from the AARP Foundation as the over-45 population has increased substantially it is estimated that almost 48 million adults are lonely.
However, one reason why new friendships remain vitally important for seniors is that we thrive on deeper connection, according to the blog Sixty & Me. No matter our age, we all have curious minds, and seek more meaningful dialogue, or a good laugh, an inspiring insight or a new perspective on a subject. These can be the foundation for friendships that withstand the test of time, the blog says.
Further, studies have found socializing can strengthen the immune system. It can help us recover more quickly from illness, lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, sharpen memory and help us even get a better night’s sleep. Socializing can also improve our odds of living longer. According to one study, people with strong connections to family and friends have a 50% greater chance of outliving those with fewer social ties.
One of the very clear benefits of living at the Brookhouse Home is that we certainly all value our friendships here and we can see the effect that connecting with others have on our residents.
For this reason, our activities and programs strive for lively and meaningful discussions and deeper friendships. Our activities director Marsha DiCesare is consistently offering enough activities to interest the varied tastes of our residents. Some activities like book club and knitting group are great ways to foster like-minded friendships.
Director of Nursing Carol Gawrys is also a professor in nursing at Salem State University where a focus of study is developing programs that address and alleviate the effect of isolation on seniors. “I believe that isolation and loneliness is one of the biggest problems with older adults and it can result in very poor health outcomes,” Carol says.
According to the AARP, invest in friendships that inspire you to stay healthy and you have a good chance at being healthy – in fact, this is probably the best bet you can make, the older you get.
It is not always easy to make friends in later years, but it is well worth the effort and also good for your health!