Why Friendship Is Important for Healthy Aging
Importance of friendship for seniors
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.