Making Friends Later in Life
Aging Matters

Having friends makes life a lot more fun, enjoyable, and easier to deal with challenges. But as one grows older, research shows it's harder to hang on to established connections and companions because we retire and leave the workforce. And a big part of our relationships develops with people on the job.

When retired, seniors enjoy their free time and travel more, taking time away from developing new relationships. Some seniors move to another city, perhaps be closer to their children and grandchildren. When doing so, the move puts an end to establish long-term friendships and acquaintances. That's the hardest decision, to leave behind old friends or get close to the grandkids?

During our younger years, we think friendships for granted and don't think too much about shedding close relationships in exchange for a romantic partnership. And even more are lost when offspring arrive, which puts new demands on one's resources like time and energy. Every person is guilty of spending all of their time with their immediate family. It's normal.

But when a person becomes older, it's necessary to have close ties with nearby friends, it not only feels good but it's good for you. Research by American and Canadian scientists have found that having a wide variety of friends decreases the risks of heart disease and stroke. Plus having more friends encourage you to participate in health-related activities and behaviors like consuming fruits and vegetables, staying fit, and quitting bad behaviors like smoking.

In a Facebook group for seniors aging alone without the support of nearby loved ones claim that having friends close by gives them a sense of security knowing they can call someone for help. But some have trouble meeting new friends because they are immobile, live in the country, or have difficulty driving. What we all know is that making new friends isn't like it was when we were younger.

So what can older adults do to make new friends and revitalize their social connections?

I think it's important to know that there are many older individuals like you who are in the same boat. So, feel reassured that you are not alone. Secondly, try hard not feel embarrassed or ashamed that you have lost close ties. We all have. The best opportunities to find new people to connect with are the ones that share your interests. Make a list of your hobbies, places you enjoy, favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and the library. Other places could be book clubs, organizations where you volunteer, art classes, sports leagues, political organizations, local parks, and senior centers

. Having friends will enrich your life and may even keep the mind sharp, helping you stave off dementia.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, and editor at Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.



Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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