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The Importance of Friendship for Seniors | Retirement Center Management


Why Friendship Is Important for Healthy Aging

Friends can do more for us than make us laugh, lift our spirits and get us into and out of trouble. Friends are also important for our overall health, especially as we get older.

For seniors, the power of friendship can stave off loneliness that may lead to depression, strengthen our immune systems and sharpen our memory. They can even help us live 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.

Importance of friendship for seniors

It took a while for sociologists even to conduct research into the benefits of friendships. As recently as the 1970s, researchers typically only studied the importance marital and family bonds had on our lives as we age.

But in the 1980s, scholars started to look more closely at the value of friendships between older adults. There was a growing awareness of the need to “examine friendship in the context of social networks; to view friendship as evolving over the life course and proceeding through phases over time; and to assess cognitive, affective, and behavioral processes as dynamic aspects of friend interactions.”

Numerous studies have since placed prominent focus on the importance of friendships for seniors and found that older adults with strong friendships:

  • Reported liking and caring about their friends, laughing together and having fun
  • Felt greater satisfaction with their lives
  • Had a valuable confidant who could relate to their difficulties and perspectives of aging
  • Believed their strong friendship ties gave them needed emotional support and helped alleviate loneliness
  • Provided companionship through mutual interests and shared activities
  • Gave their lives more meaning

But the power of friendship didn’t end with those many benefits. More recent studies showed friendships helped maintain older adults’ cognitive health as well as physical health, because friends encouraged each other to maintain good eating and exercising habits.

How to make senior friends

“Do you want to be my friend?” That’s all it took to make a friend when we were in grade school. It takes a bit more than that to make new friends when we’re older, but it can certainly be done. So how do you make senior friends? Just like mustering up the courage to ask that question back in grade school, you need to be willing to put yourself out there.

Here are some great ways to do that:

  1. Introduce yourself to your neighbors. If you’ve lived in your house for years, chances are your neighborhood has changed around you. Get to know the people who live around you by hosting a small afternoon tea or happy hour.
  2. Become a member of your local community center. Community centers cater to all its residents, and often have programs just for older adults. Take a fitness class or enroll in an enrichment course.
  3. Try something totally new. Ever considered trying yoga? How about birdwatching? Or baking bread? These are all hobbies that people of all ages enjoy — chances are there are clubs in your area you can join, and they’re an easy way to meet friendly people.
  4. Pursue something you’ve always loved. You may have sung in a choir when you were younger — leverage that talent to become part of a seniors musical group. Or if you’ve always enjoyed playing chess, look for a club you can join.
  5. Volunteer. Aside from the many benefits of volunteering, when you give your time to a cause you believe in, you’ll be working alongside others who feel as passionately as you do. Pet lovers can connect at the animal shelter. People who believe in serving others come together at food banks or soup kitchens. You’ll find your kind of people when you go where your heart is.

An added importance of social activities for the elderly

You might have noticed that many of the suggestions above — volunteering, joining a community center, pursuing a new hobby or reengaging in an old interest — aren’t just highly social activities. They can also help keep us physically engaged, too.

Like the idea of volunteering? Consider volunteering at a cycling event or for a local 5k or 10k run. Most of these types of events have categories specifically for older adult entrants.

Interested in becoming a member of your community center? Maybe go a step further and become a swimming instructor for older adults who want to learn how to swim.

Want to get to know your neighbors? A perfect way to do that is to organize regular neighborhood walks or weekend hikes through a local park.

Always loved art? Become a docent at a museum. You’ll get your steps in when you give tours, and you’ll meet others who share your love of art.

Here’s one perfect way to make new friends: Become a resident at a Retirement Center Management community. Whether you’re seeking independent living, assisted living or memory care, each level of living at our communities offers opportunities to make new connections with others through social activities, at special events and community outings, during a game of bridge or bingo, or over a delicious meal in one of our dining rooms.

If you live in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas or North Carolina, there may be the perfect RCM community nearby. Discover all the unique friendship-making opportunities available in our communities, or contact us to learn more.

Retirement Center Management


6363 Woodway Dr Ste. 300 Houston, TX 77057