The Power of Friendship: How Having Close Friends Keeps Seniors Healthy
Having a close circle of trusted friends makes life more enjoyable at every age. Knowing you have people you can count on through all of life’s ups and downs gives us all peace of mind. As we age, those relationships impact our mental and physical well-being even more.
In honor of Best Friends Day on June 8, we explore the important role friendships play in determining how long and how well we live.
Friendship Lessons Learned in the Blue Zones
The Blue Zones are the regions of the world where people live the longest. In these areas, you will find people who make family time and friendships a priority. This helps to mitigate the risks associated with senior isolation: depression, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more. Research shows that isolated older adults are at high risk for early mortality.
Blue Zone researchers say that your social network during retirement also plays a role in how healthy your lifestyle is—or isn’t. Having a close friend who smokes puts you at increased risk for being a smoker. The same is true for obesity. If one of your close friends is obese, you are 57 percent more likely to develop obesity, too.
Making New Friends During Retirement Years
Retirement often brings changes to a senior’s social network. You might drift away from work friends as you leave your career and place of employment behind and have less in common. Another change seniors frequently encounter is that close friends and longtime neighbors relocate to be closer to their adult children and grandchildren. It can all add up to a senior feeling lonely and isolated.
Here are a few ideas for expanding your social network during your senior years:
- Volunteer: Signing up for a volunteer project gives you an opportunity to connect with people of all ages. Intergenerational friendships can result from volunteering your time with a youth-related cause. Research shows that seniors who spend time with children feel younger and more joyful. Call your local United Way or visit VolunteerMatch.com to connect with a volunteer opportunity near you.
- Learn: Mastering a new hobby or skill helps protect your cognitive health. If you accomplish that by taking a class, you can also enjoy the added benefit of meeting new people. Think about those things you’ve always been interested in exploring but never had time to do when you were working or raising a family. Learning a musical instrument, taking a painting or drawing class, or studying a foreign language are a few examples.
- Nurture: It isn’t uncommon for seniors to find themselves becoming more interested in spiritual activities. You can join a church or synagogue or simply become more involved in the religious organization you already belong to. This can help you nurture your spirit while also building friendships with people who share your beliefs.
- Physical activity: Fitness clubs and senior centers often have activities and events designed exclusively for older members. For example, taking an aquatic class for seniors can help manage the pain of arthritis while giving you an opportunity to meet new people. Tai chi, chair yoga, and walking groups are others to explore.
- Join a club: Connecting with other seniors who share your passion for a hobby can also lead to new friendships. Your local library or area agency on aging might be able to help you find a club or organization dedicated to your favorite pastime.
Companion Living at Sunrise Senior Living
One reason older adults chose to move to a senior living community is for the opportunity to socialize and make new friends. At Sunrise communities, we offer Companion Living, a special program that brings together two residents to share a suite. This can make senior living more affordable while still providing personalized, top-quality care.
We invite you to visit the Sunrise Senior Living community nearest you to learn more!