Research shows that friendship is critical for health and well-being. While that’s true at any age, it’s especially true for older adults, who may experience premature memory aging, depression and even increased risks to physical health as a result of loneliness.
If you’ve been feeling lonely – you’re not alone. An AARP study found that 35 percent of adults over 45 years old share that feeling.
If you’ve noticed your social network shrinking, take the initiative to stay in touch with old friends and make new ones. Not sure where to start? From online classes and volunteering to clubs and dating, this blog will supply you with helpful tips for getting out there and making new friends.
Seniors looking for friends online
Making connections virtually can take many forms. From video calls to online classes, technology is a tool that can help you stay connected. Here are a few platforms where you can hang out with old friends and meet someone new.
The next best thing to in person
With video platforms like Zoom® or Whatsapp®, it’s easy to see and hear friends from a distance. Whether you’re reconnecting with an old college classmate, maintaining a close friendship after relocating, or shifting from an in-person coffee date to a virtual one to avoid the spread of COVID or the flu, chatting via video is an easy way to stay connected from home.
Share your passion
There are also a host of safe and easy ways to meet new friends online. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn about weaving or photography. Online classes can introduce you to a virtual community of people who share your passions.
In addition to the mood-boosting benefits of spending time with others, continuing to learn gives a boost to your brain as well. A study in The Journals of Gerontology found that, “Learning multiple skills simultaneously increased cognitive abilities in older adults…to levels similar to performance in a separate sample of middle-aged adults, 30 years younger.”
Building community online
You don’t have to sign up for a class to make new friends, though. You can also find like-minded people through community groups on platforms like Facebook or Meetup.com.
Both sites have groups that serve almost any interest, and many of the groups also meet up in person to share or discuss favorite hobbies and topics. Search for groups within your local area so that once you make those meaningful connections, they don’t have to stay online. In fact, SilverSneakers notes that making the transition from virtual to in-person gatherings is key to making close friendships that last.
While the first few months of retirement may feel like a blissful vacation, eventually, many retirees begin to wonder how to fill their days. Being out of the workforce can also leave some people feeling unsure of their purpose and lonely without the daily interaction that coworkers provide. That’s why being an active community member can help older adults thrive in retirement.
There are many benefits of volunteering for older adults. Consider reading to children, serving meals to those in need, giving tours at a local museum or joining an organization you’ve always admired.
Mentoring is another way to share your time – and skills – with others. Working with young people can be especially beneficial, as it helps foster connection between generations and can even help retirees improve their relationships with their own children.
The volunteer opportunities for retirees are almost limitless.
According to the Pew Research Center, the social engagement that comes with regular church attendance is linked to greater levels of happiness. The study reports that “those who frequently attend a house of worship may have more people they can rely on for information and help during both good and bad times.”
Whatever your religious affiliation, finding a place where you can engage thoughtfully with a community of caring people can be a meaningful part of developing a healthy support network.
Join a club
From fitness to literature, share your enthusiasm with new people by joining a club. If Facebook and Meetup aren’t for you, look for groups through your local library, community center or a local college’s continuing education program.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Start a club of your own! Many of the places listed above, like local libraries, are happy to have community members facilitate activities. If that feels too formal, start a book club with friends or take turns hosting a weekly wine tasting. If you and your friends have always wanted to take up watercolor painting, consider hiring someone to give your group a private lesson, and then continue to meet and hone your skills as a group.
Dating for seniors
Whether you’re looking for love or just someone to hang out with, going on dates is a great way to meet new people. Dating can also encourage you to stay more physically active. From trips to a museum to strolls in the park, having someone to go out and be active with is one of the best ways to maintain fitness at any age.
Before you even meet a potential match, just building a dating profile is an opportunity to think about what you’re looking for – be it romance, a workout buddy or someone to try new restaurants with. Knowing what you want and communicating it clearly on your profile will help you meet people who are on the same page as you, and weed out people who are looking for something different.
Some of the best dating sites for older adults include eHarmony and Match (they’ve dropped the “.com”). While they aren’t focused on the 50+ demographic, the popularity and longevity of these sites means they have a lot of users. If you don’t want to swipe through a sea of millennials, though, SilverSingles is a targeted option with a large user base.
Also – you can still meet a special someone in person. It just requires you to go places where you might meet someone, and any of the clubs or classes mentioned above are great places to start.
Let’s stay connected
Whatever your interests, temperament or dating status, there are people out there ready to share your enthusiasm and company.
At Holiday by Atria, we know people belong together. That’s why our communities are designed around connection. From fitness classes to cultural programs and outings, there’s never a shortage of activities – and with hundreds of communities across the country, we’ve got a lot of good neighbors to enjoy them with.
To learn more about moving to Holiday, stop by a Holiday near you. Your friends are waiting!