How To Make Friends When Aging Alone
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” — Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)
In the U.S., 27% of people age 60 and older live alone, according to the Pew Research Center. The study also notes that almost a quarter of those age 65 and older and aging alone are experiencing social isolation, causing loneliness that can lead to serious health issues and even premature death. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that social isolation is associated with about a 50% risk of dementia. Socially isolated individuals often lack a support system.
Friendships are important to an individual’s well-being at any age, particularly for senior citizens living alone who lack contact with others, whether by choice, the death of a spouse, having no children, or having no family nearby. According to Louis Cozolino, professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, relating to others is the most meaningful and important experience we need to survive and thrive.
Friendships also provide support for solo agers. Dr. Eric Lenze, a geriatric psychiatrist and psychiatry professor at Washington University School of Medicine, notes in a study for the National Institutes of Health that those older adults with a higher level of social support have better emotional health, physical health and brain health.
Milne’s Winnie the Pooh was wise to the ways of friendship. If you are aging alone, Right at Home suggests you take his advice to heart. Living alone as we age does not mean we have to be socially isolated. There is a myriad of ways to make new friends, reconnect with old friends, and live well while aging solo. For example:
- Check out your local YMCA or gym for activities designed for senior citizens. Many offer exercise classes for seniors. Not only will you meet others, but you’ll also get regular workouts too.
- Step outside and say hello to your neighbors.
- Get acquainted with your local senior center and other community resources. Visit the senior center close to you and meet other senior citizens, participate in events, or even join a card club.
- Take a class. Ask about classes at the senior center, local library or YMCA. You’ll find others who share your interests. Plus, you’ll give your brain a workout, and who doesn’t like to learn something new?
- If you like animals and are physically and financially able to take care of one, consider adopting an older dog or cat. Although not a substitute for human beings, a pet can be a source of comfort.
- Join a book club. You’ll find one at your local library, senior center or YMCA.
Hop Online and Explore the Internet
The internet can be a gateway for socializing, making new friends and rediscovering old friends. Right at Home has a few suggestions:
- Seniors Guide to Computers – If you’re not up-to-speed on your computer skills, the guide is a good place to start. The site fills you in with easy-to-understand language.
- Facebook – We’re all familiar with Facebook. Log on and search for old friends, fellow alumni from high school or college, or groups in your area who share your interests.
- Nextdoor – Sign up with Nextdoor where you’ll find up-to-date news on your neighborhood happenings and local businesses, conversations with others living near you, and items to buy or sell.
- AARP – If you’re not a member, consider joining the AARP. The organization offers articles for staying involved with others online, volunteer opportunities in your community, book clubs, and tutorials among many other interesting topics.
- Senior Planet – Check out Senior Planet, in partnership with the AARP. It’s a site that offers courses, programs and activities to help seniors learn skills, exercise and make friends. If you aren’t computer savvy, Senior Planet has a course to get you up-to-date on technology.
- Pogo – Think online games are just for kids? Log on to Pogo where you’ll find games such as Scrabble or chess. You may even connect with someone for a friendly challenge.
- SENIORSonly Club – SENIORSonly Club is a free online discussion forum for baby boomers and those age 50 and older.
Online sites for seniors are growing every day. Do a search and discover what’s out there on the internet and consider joining a few.
As Winnie the Pooh recommends, get out of your corner and make some friends. Whether it’s in your neighborhood or online, if you are a solo ager or even if you are not, your participation will help you thrive, live well, make friends and banish loneliness.
How Can Right at Home Help?
Right at Home’s professionally trained caregivers provide services that promote healthy living and well-being through the benefits of social interaction. Caregivers provide wellness support, meal preparation, light housekeeping and other services, including mobility assistance, hygiene services and transportation, to help seniors maintain social interactions. If you are interested in speaking with someone to find out more, use our location finder to get the phone number of the office nearest you.
Share this article with a friend who might need a gentle nudge to “get out of their corner and make some friends.”