Playing together on the playground, bonding over a ghastly study guide or putting in long hours to deliver on a big client deadline were all easy ways to form social ties. However, you may be discovering that making friends as an older adult isn’t quite the same as it was in your younger years.
Fortunately, there’s some great news to consider when you’re thinking about how to make friends when you’re older. Your social circle in your later years tends to be less the result of circumstance (like school or work) and more about the things that matter to you personally, like interests and hobbies you both enjoy or sharing a similar vision for an ideal retirement lifestyle.
Why Friends Are so Important as You Age
You may not think of friendships as a factor in your health, but they are! Senior isolation and loneliness pose serious risks, with a potential impact on older adults’ mental health, as well as their physical and cognitive health.
Older adults are more likely to be isolated from others, whether due to medical conditions or factors like hearing loss that make it difficult to engage. Living alone and loss of family and friends can also be isolating. Loneliness may occur with or without social connections; it’s based in the feeling or sense of being alone.
Research has shown that social isolation may affect a person’s life expectancy on the same scale as smoking, obesity and physical activity. People who are socially isolated also have a higher incidence of dementia, heart disease and stroke. Loneliness goes hand in hand with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
How Living in a Retirement Community Helps You Make Friends
Living in a retirement community means you’re surrounded by neighbors in the same stage of life — many of whom may share your interests. It’s a setting that nurtures terrific friendships you’ll cherish for life.
Take a walk. If you’re not a social butterfly, you may be tempted to stick close to home. Getting out of your senior apartment for a walk around the community is a great way to get some exercise while giving you a natural opportunity to interact with others you encounter along the way. A friendly hello or a brief chat may be all it takes to convert an acquaintance into a friend.
Participate in activities. Most retirement communities offer a wide range of social activities for seniors and programs designed to get residents engaged. Keep tabs on the calendar and make a point to join in at least a couple of activities with your neighbors each week, whether it’s a club meeting, fitness class or social event.
Learn something new. When you’re exploring the activity calendar, don’t limit yourself to familiar territory. Challenging yourself or exploring a new hobby can be an exciting way to meet someone who shares your interests and let your friendship bloom.
Make meals more enjoyable. A delicious meal is always better served with a side of engaging conversation. Take advantage of your community’s dining room and make a point to dine with others. Look for an empty spot at a table and greet everyone with a friendly smile. You may even surprise yourself with the warm welcome you receive.
Ask for introductions. If you’re still stumbling to make friendly connections, you can always ask for a little help. The community activities director is a valuable resource for learning about upcoming programs and events that may interest you. They usually get to know a large number of residents, so they’re in a good position to introduce you to others who are equally eager to make new friends.
Start Searching for a Friendly Community
Finding the perfect senior living community is the first step towards making friends when you are older. Use our community finder to begin exploring a new place you — and all your new friends — will be proud to call home.
Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.