ACCORDING TO A 2018 survey by the AARP, 35% of people aged 45 and above feel lonely. That includes residents in assisted living communities. While the percentage who answer this way hasn’t changed since the first time the survey was conducted in 2010, the population is larger now, so 35% now includes 5 million more people, and many of them say they’ve felt isolated for at least six years.
Nothing Can Replace Friendship
While there are many ways we can feel less lonely, there’s not much we can substitute for the companionship of friends. Family and friends move around over the years, and declining health can make it harder to get out to see old friends and make new ones. However, it’s definitely worth it, including for people living in assisted living communities such as ours in Corona, CA.
Negative Effects of Not Having Friends
Here are some of the negative effects that can come from neglecting social connections:
- Elevated risk of heart disease and stroke
- Greatly increased cognitive decline and risk of dementia
- Increased risk of death
- More long-term illness and chronic disease
- Greater vulnerability to scams and abuse
Positive Effects of Having Friends
Studies show a wide range of positive effects from building and maintaining good friendships:
- Better mental health, particularly decreased feelings of depression that can be so common among senior citizens
- Decreased risk and slowed progression of dementia
- Improved physical health, with lower inflammation and even reduced risk of cancer
- Greater longevity, because having social connections is vital for getting enough sleep, eating well, and quitting smoking
- Greater sense of belonging and purpose thanks to better self-esteem and fulfillment
So How Can Seniors Make Friends in Assisted Living?
There are many simple ways seniors living in assisted living communities like ours in Corona, CA can maintain and build friendships.
1. Attend Religious Services
Whether in person or online, going to a church, mosque or synagogue is a great way to find like-minded individuals. Religion can be a connecting force, and today’s places of worship often offer online opportunities and discussion groups. If you’re not religious but are spiritual, you can find similar groups.
2. Participate With Activity Groups
Local activity groups center on common interests, and many are for older adults seeking community and friendship. Check community centers, churches, and senior centers around you.
3. Enroll in Continuing Education
Continuing education and lifelong learning courses can connect people and keep minds sharp and engaged. Classes can be academic, like history or languages, or just activity-based, such as music and sewing.
4. Extend Social Invitations
Invite a friend to join you for coffee or lunch. Also, accept invitations you receive, then turn it around again by inviting them to lunch or coffee. You’ll quickly find your schedule filled with friendships.
5. Go on a Date
Just as friendship doesn’t have to stop at 50, neither does romance. Dating can be done in person or online, for a deeper connection or just companionship. Some dating sites, including OurTime and SilverSingles, specialize in people over age 50.
6. Join Support Groups
Life brings changes, and support groups can be a great way to feel comforted as you navigate these challenges. These groups can help seniors understand their feelings of loneliness and regain a sense of purpose.
7. Starting Exercising
Taking an exercise class or joining a fitness group can be a great way for older adults to get active, and become part of a dynamic community. Options can range from senior dance classes to walking clubs, water aerobics sessions to yoga meetups.
8. Strike up a Conversation
Introducing yourself to a stranger can feel awkward or intrusive, but asking questions can help break the ice. What’s that coffee drink you’re ordering? How’s that book you’re reading? Listen and share in return, and you might just make a new friend.
9. Volunteer or Get a Part-time Job
Giving back can be a fulfilling and empowering activity for older adults, plus it’s an easy, convenient way to meet like-minded new people. Service organizations always need volunteers, as do hospitals, schools, and the like. If you still want to work, a part-time gig can keep your skills sharp and provide you with another important social outlet.
Find Friends and Security at a Senior Lifestyle Community
Avista Senior Living in Corona, CA understands the importance of social connections. We want to help our assisted living seniors make and build meaningful connections through classes, games, recreation, and technology. You can learn more about our community on our business page, and make sure to get directions before you come for a visit.