Poker buddies, pickleball clubs, bridge circles, golfing groups.
What do these have in common, other than they all keep our brains and bodies engaged as we age? They’re also all great ideas for how seniors can make friends.
If you’ve noticed your personal circle of pals has shrunk as co-workers retire and neighbors move away, leveraging long-standing hobbies like golfing or bridge can introduce you to other older adults who have the same interests as you.
But why bother, you might wonder. You’re doing just fine hanging out by yourself at home. Or are you?
The power of friendship for older adults
You might not know it, but there’s a lot of power in friendships. Loneliness and social isolation can actually be detrimental to our health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among the risks of loneliness:
- It’s associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia
- It’s connected to higher rates of depression, suicide and anxiety
- It increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that could rival those from obesity, smoking and physical inactivity
Conversely, having friends and strong social connections can greatly improve our overall health. Friendships can help boost our immune systems, help us recover faster from an illness, lower our blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, sharpen memory and even improve our odds of living longer.
That’s the proven power of friendship. So how do you go about reaping all those benefits? You have to do a little planting. The first seeds to plant in your friendship garden have to do with cultivating your interests: Find activities you already like to do, and start doing them with other people.
The importance of social activities for elderly people
We mentioned the benefits of having strong social connections as we age. Not only can we enjoy improved emotional health, but depending on the types of social activities, we can improve our physical health as well. Staying socially active and engaged also gives us a sense of belonging and purpose in our lives.
So when you’re curious about how to make senior friends through your personal interests, consider these suggestions:
- Sign up for a Neighborhood Program. Episcopal SeniorLife Communities started this program in 2012 to provide older adults with exercise, fun and friendship. Now eight programs strong, the Neighborhood Program is open to all seniors who live nearby, not just ESLC residents, and are part of our commitment to serve seniors wherever they live in Monroe County. Check out the calendar of events to find something that piques your interest, then apply for membership.
- Volunteer for a group that interests you. If you’ve always contributed to causes that help feed hungry people, volunteer at a food bank. If you’ve had an interest in improving childhood literacy, consider volunteering to drive a book-mobile or reading to youngsters at your local library. Organizations are always looking for people to help — think about what you have a passion for, and find an opportunity to get involved in a way that’s meaningful to you. Chances are pretty good you’ll find a lot of other caring people who would welcome you into their ranks.
- Explore a lifelong learning opportunity. If you live near a community college or university, enroll in a class, or ask if you can audit courses. If you’re interested in experiential learning opportunities, consider a learning adventure as a Road Scholar. Both of these will put you right next to others who share your desire to keep learning and growing.
- Be a joiner. If you’ve typically enjoyed more solitary pursuits like painting, birdwatching or going to film festivals, consider joining groups or clubs that do these things together. You can continue to enjoy your hobby just as you always have — but by joining a group, you can share your love with others. You might just find yourself becoming something of a teacher as well, by helping others deepen their knowledge or understanding of something you’ve had a lifetime to learn.
- Become a regular host. If you’re completely happy staying at home, maybe it’s time to invite some people in. Host regular game nights with friends, and encourage them to bring along a new friend. You probably have board games like Cranium, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly or Clue in your closet right now. Dust ‘em off, put out a couple of bowls of pretzels and M&Ms and start playing! If board games aren’t your thing, don’t worry. Host a weekly neighborhood walk, invite people over for Wii bowling, or invite your friends who have pets to your backyard for a weekly Pets & Their People date.
- Consider giving yourself the gift of a socially active lifestyle at an Episcopal SeniorLife Community. And what a wonderful gift it is, as these residents will tell you.
If you’re curious about #6, schedule a visit to one of our communities close to where you live. It’s a great way to see all that we offer, and learn more about how our communities can keep you socially connected.