“Do you want to be my friend?” A simple question uttered by one child to another is often the only prerequisite for a happy friendship. But as we get older, it can become harder to make friends. Even though it may be more difficult, it is no less important to create and maintain friendships later in life than when we were young. In fact, studies show that friendship is instrumental in creating a healthy lifestyle as we age. A study by The Gerontological Society of America assessed adults aged 65 and over and found that having friends in old age is linked to higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of friendship during the senior years and why these relationships are vital to a healthy life.
Benefits of Adult Friendships
1) Friendships are a cure for loneliness and depression.
There is perhaps no other time in life where loneliness can take a tole than in the senior years. Many times, mobility is lessened and getting out of the house to see others becomes more difficult. Family members and spouses can also pass on, leaving their loved ones alone. Friendships can become a lifeline – giving a sense of purpose, community, and human connection. Sharing meals with others, spending time outdoors with neighbors, or attending social events can help boost one’s mood and show a senior that they are not alone after all.
2) Social engagement encourages cognitive health and mental acuity.
The human brain has the ability to learn and grow as we age, and staying socially active can further this growth. Friends can help you stay mentally sharp as you try new hobbies together, engage in stimulating discussions, attend cultural events together, or learn a new game with one another. Friendships may just be the key to fueling lifelong learning.
3) An understanding friend is priceless.
Many times as we age, those closest to us, such as children or other family members, take on more of a caregiver role. It can become hard for them to understand the experience of the aging process and the challenges that can come with it. Our peers become our biggest allies, sources of comfort, and the understanding shoulder to lean on. Talking to someone in the same stage of life can be helpful and even therapeutic.
4) Friends help bring purpose.
When you know you have a luncheon to go to or a fishing trip with a buddy scheduled, it’s much easier to wake up in the morning with anticipation. Friends provide a sense of purpose and encouragement to get out and live life. Community living, such as in a retirement community, offers numerous opportunities for engagement with others around the same age. You’re more willing to take pride in your appearance and take on the day when your friends are nearby.
5) Senior friendships encourage healthy habits.
Peers and friends have a great influence over your health and wellness – possibly more than you think. Accountability from friends can help you keep fitness goals, and it’s always easier to try a new exercise class, go on a brisk walk, or eat healthier when friends are together. A health-conscious friend can motivate those around them to embrace healthier fitness and nutrition habits.
Finding Friendships in Community
Judy Brandow, Joan Gerjets, and Rosie Alig met one another shortly after moving to the Snyder Village Retirement Community in Metamora, IL. Each came to the community under different circumstances – widowed, still with a spouse, or still working – but all found a shared love for staying active and socially involved. Each became involved in the Resident Council on campus and took part in the campus events offered. “We had the same interests and were known as the three amigos, or troublemakers,” says Joan.
Now, more than eight years into their friendship, the three amigos encourage one another to stay busy. “Our friendship sometimes is an encouragement to attend some activities that I might not think of doing,” explains Rosie. “I’m not a crafty person and they both are, but they will help me with anything and encourage me to come to the craft activity anyway. I know I can always call them about anything. We will help each other whenever we can.”
We just love having a good time together planning our next adventure,” says Joan. We have served on the Resident Council, organized the community garage sale, held pizza nights, helped at Bingo and potlucks, and volunteered wherever we’re needed.”
The emotional support their friendship provides and the community created has formed an invaluable bond between the ladies. “Our special friendship means we are there to celebrate the good times and support each other on the sad days,” says Joan. Judy adds, “We are very close friends and talk and listen to whatever is on our minds or going on in our families. We are always there for each other. We have been through deaths and sickness…and fun. We always have each other to depend on for anything we need. Rosie and Joan are my family. My life feels complete knowing they are here.”
Snyder Village in Metamora is a Life Plan Community that offers independent living, assisted living, memory care programs, skilled nursing care, therapy, and home care. For more information, call (309) 367-4300 or visit www.snydervillage.com.