You may have just noticed that your parents don’t seem to talk about their friends much any more, but they—and you—have been losing friends since you reached the age of 25. So say researchers, but they were only considering mobile phone users. The researchers theorize that around the age of 25, people begin to assess their friendships and make choices about which ones to keep.
Scientists also report a trend for people to have fewer close friends. One study showed that the number of people who said they had no one with whom to discuss important matters doubled between 1985 and 2004. For that time period, respondents also say the reported rate of close friends declines from 2.94 to 2.08.
Seniors face additional challenges in finding and keeping friends because of retirement, disability, and mortality.
Friends Are Important
But the importance of social contact can’t be understated. The Mayo Clinic states that friends:
- Prevent loneliness
- Add meaning to your life
- Increase your sense of belonging
- Boost your happiness
- Reduce your stress
- Increase your self-confidence and self-worth
- Help you cope with traumatic events, such as divorce, serious illness or death
- Encourage healthy lifestyle habits
People with strong social support are likely to live longer, and they are less likely to experience depression, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Making Friends May Be Challenging for Seniors
As people grow older, they may have difficulty making friends for the same reasons they’re losing friends.
- Many older adults who are no longer working are not constantly exposed to co-workers and customers.
- Seniors may develop disabilities, such as poor vision, that make it difficult for them to get out and meet new friends.
- They may develop disabilities, such as dementia, depression, and poor hearing, that make it difficult to communicate with others.
- They may feel they have little in common with other people.
How to Help Your Parent Make (and Keep) Friends
You’re likely to be at a loss when considering how to keep your parent’s social network strong. Here are 5 ways you can encourage them to meet new people and, potentially, make new friends:
One of the best ways for your parent to meet and make new friends is through their church. After all, they are sure to have at least one thing in common. Many churches offer pick-up services for seniors and children who can’t drive. If not, call the pastor and ask if there’s someone in the neighborhood who can offer a ride.
#2 Senior Center
Your local senior center has numerous activities, including crafts, entertainment, and meals. Many also provide transportation. If you’re unsure where your local Council on Aging is located, you can look it up on the Eldercare Locator.
Senior volunteer programs range from opportunities abroad to local programs to Senior Corps, a federal program administered by local government. Nearby schools always need volunteer tutors, too. Your parent can get out and meet new people and, perhaps, learn new skills.
If you’re lucky enough to live near an institution of higher learning, your parent may be able to take classes at minimal or no cost. Most colleges and universities also offer classes specifically for seniors.
Walking enhances health and gives your parent numerous opportunities to meet new people. If your parent’s a little shy, they can bring their dog, which is sure to spark a lot of interaction! You may want to go with them the first few times or, if they live in a neighborhood with other seniors, organize a walking club.
Making Friends at The Arbors
If your parent is fortunate enough to live at one of The Arbors Assisted Living Residential Communities, they probably already have made new friends. Our team members, programs, and residents encourage new residents to enjoy all we have to offer. If you’re concerned that your parent is receiving the social support they need, please contact the community closest to you for help.