Many people feel lonely and isolated right now due to the social distancing and self quarantining imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic. However, even during more normal times, older adults often deal with these feelings on a regular basis. A recent survey of U.S. adults indicated that almost 50 percent of adults over the age of 65 experience frequent feelings of loneliness. On the whole, human beings are naturally social creatures. Numerous studies have shown that loneliness can have a serious negative impact on both physical and mental health, contributing to conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and depression, Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia and even a weakened immune system. Conversely, those who have strong social networks tend to live longer and have fewer health problems. The evidence is clear: good friends equals good health. With that in mind, here are some tips for making new friends if you are part of the 65 and older set.
Participate in Leisure Learning
A myriad of leisure learning programs are readily available to seniors, from knitting to travel, music lessons and art. Enrolling in a class provides an opportunity to learn something new, meet people with shared interests and have something to look forward to each week. Community colleges, libraries and other organizations offer classes specifically geared toward those over 65. Many classes are also available online.
Join a Gym or Exercise Group
Organizations such as the local YMCA or community center have entire exercise programs geared toward older adults. In addition to having a positive impact on physical health, exercise has been shown to boost mood and reduce the risk of depression. If you are new to exercise, check with your physician first and consider starting with something low-key like a gentle yoga or low-impact cardio class or a walking group. Participating in group exercise classes is an opportunity to meet others who are also focused on staying healthy.
Enroll in a Volunteer Program
After years of focusing on career and family, having the luxury of time is a gift. Volunteering your time to a worthy cause is a way to help make the world a better place and meet others who share your passion. Through volunteer work, you can meet people of all ages and walks of life who can become lifelong friends.
Find a Club or Online Forum
The best part about digital connectivity is that it is now easier than ever to find like-minded people online. The key is to identify your interests and hobbies and then search for groups or online forums for people who like the same things. Whether you’re into bird watching, mystery novels, classical music, history, art or cooking, there are many, many online clubs and groups filled with people who share these very same interests. Online groups may meet virtually through a platform like Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts, and they may also offer occasional in-person events and get-togethers.
Join a House of Worship
There are many psychological benefits to attending (either in person or through live streaming) a church, synagogue, mosque or other house of worship, such as seeing the world from a new perspective, gaining new and deeper inspiration and connecting with others. Joining a house of worship also brings opportunities to build connections with like-minded people, further explore and deepen your spirituality, volunteer, make charitable donations and participate in social justice initiatives that may be important to you personally.
Become Part of a Senior Community
Senior living communities boast a number of benefits including socialization and community support. Time and again, studies show that residents of senior living communities experience less loneliness and report higher levels of fulfillment than seniors who live alone. At Lighthouse Senior Living, we believe that an active and engaged life is a brighter life. Contact us to schedule a virtual tour and learn more about our vibrant community.