A Guide for Staying Social and Making Friends as a Senior

A Guide for Staying Social and Making Friends as a Senior

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Senior loneliness and isolation are serious and growing problems in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made it more difficult for older adults to socialize regularly. Loneliness and social isolation can have adverse effects on both senior’s mental and physical health, but having a fulfilling social life can help delay certain conditions. This includes symptoms of dementia and other stress-induced conditions.

Alert1 understands how important socializing is for seniors’ overall health. We have compiled this list of tips for staying social as you age to help you maintain a healthy social life. Below you will find strategies for making friends and maintaining relationships while ageing in place. It is important to find a social outlet that you can engage with regularly. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing any level of social isolation, a medical alert system can help keep you safe and connected if you fall. Read on for a comprehensive guide to staying social and making friends as a senior. 

Loneliness and Social Isolation are Health Issues

Loneliness and social isolation have specific definitions when referring to senior health. Social isolation is an absence of social connections.  Loneliness is feeling alone, no matter how frequent or deep your social interactions are. 

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report that one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely.  After the age of 65, one-fourth of adults become socially isolated. Combine those statistics with COVID-19 quarantine regulations and the issue of senior loneliness becomes even more serious. 

The NASEM report outlines the potential impacts loneliness and social isolation can have on seniors’ physical health, including:

  • 50% increased risk of dementia
  • 32% increased risk of stroke
  • 29% increased risk of heart disease
  • Higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide
  • Increased risk of premature death

Loneliness and social isolation disproportionately affect seniors who are immigrants, minorities, part of the LGBTQIA+ community, or victims of elder abuse.[i] This increase is often due to language barriers, discrimination, and/or a lack of financial resources. 

Socializing Benefits Your Health

 

Prioritizing your social life can have wonderful effects on both your physical and mental health. 

Socializing can also help delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, a huge threat to seniors’ wellbeing. A study from the University College London reported that 60-year-old people who socialize with friends almost every day are 12% less likely to develop dementia than 60-year-old people who saw their friends every few months. [ii] 

Socializing can also boost your mental health. The NASEM report reveals that senior loneliness is associated with increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide. Maintaining a healthy social life might help keep those mental health issues at bay. According to the NASEM report, a healthy social life can also help you:

  • Improve physical health
  • Boost cognitive function
  • Live longer 

Your social calendar is an amazing tool that can help you maintain good health. A medical alert system is another connective health tool for seniors who are ageing-in-place. It is a direct line to someone who can help if you fall and need support.

Social Activities

 

Seeking out social activities is a great way to socialize and make friends. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, you should prioritize social activities that ensure your health and safety. Even socializing online or through video chat services can help you maintain strong social connections. However, these in-person social activities below are sure to boost your mood and keep you healthy.  

Clubs 

Do you love reading? Photography? Gardening? Crossword puzzling? Golf? There are senior clubs for all sorts of interests. You can even join a club to learn about a new hobby. Clubs bring people together with common interests, so you can make new friends while doing what you love. 

Game Nights 

Senior centers will often organize game nights once a week or once a month. Groups of seniors will meet to play bingo, poker, canasta, bridge, or other games. Game nights are low-stress social activities that help you stay stimulated.  

Volunteering 

Connect with your community by helping out at your local thrift store, library, or museum. Some cities even offer foster grandparent programs. These programs allow you to spend time with children who need a positive role model. You can satisfy your social needs while giving back to your community. 

Senior Camps 

Unleash your inner child at senior summer camp.[iii] Swim, kayak, make art projects, and eat s’mores with other adults over 50. After a long year spent indoors, summer camp is the perfect way to spend some time outside and be social. Simply being outside comes with its own list of benefits including boosted mood, improved focus, better sleep, fewer aches and pains, improved mobility, and better performance for daily activities. 

Exercise Classes 

Sign up for low-impact exercise classes to stay active. Classes like yoga, swimming, tai chi, or dance can improve your strength and balance to help you prevent falls. Exercise classes boost your physical health through movement and socializing.  

Educational Classes 

Some colleges and universities offer classes to seniors for free or at a discounted rate. Learn something new and engage with other students in the class of your choice. If you audit the class, you do not have to turn in assignments or take exams. 

Where to Find Friends

It can be difficult to find your social niche as a senior. Luckily, there are tons of resources to help seniors navigate and maintain friendships. 

Senior Social Groups

Your community likely offers a senior social group through a community center, library, or religious institution. Senior social groups typically organize activities like game night or fun classes. Sometimes, these groups will offer meals for free or at a discounted rate. 

Senior Centers

Senior centers are some of the best resources for seniors seeking social connections. You can attend arts and crafts workshops, computer classes, field trips, exercise classes, and potluck dinners through a senior center. These activities are often free or offered at a discount rate. 

Online Dating

There are several online dating sites specifically geared towards helping people over 50 make connections.[iv] If you crave romantic connection, you are not alone. Complete an online dating profile and meet other seniors who are also looking for a spark.

Methods of Communication

The past couple of years have taught us that online social events can be just as robust, fun, and fulfilling as in-person events. Several social events are more accessible for home-bound or quarantined individuals, and online communication is a great tool even if you can leave the house safely. Communication is an integral part of your social life and your health. 

Phone Calls 

Landlines keep you connected and safe at home. You can also take a mobile phone with you when you leave the house. Try to arrange phone calls with loved ones a few times a week to check in and stay social. 

Video Chats

You may have used a video chat service to communicate with loved ones or even medical professionals during the pandemic. Video chats are an easy way to connect even when you do not have to isolate. Some social networking sites offer video chats as part of their platform.

Senior Social Networking Sites

Join a social networking site to see updates from your loved ones’ lives. You can also use social networking sites to message or video chat online. Some sites are specifically made for seniors, while other sites are for people of all ages.[v]If you are not computer savvy, consider asking a friend, neighbor or loved one to help you get set up and teach you the basics.

In Person

Pick any of the activities, groups, or organizations we have listed above and try it. If the pandemic safety guidelines in your town allow people to gather safely, consider taking advantage of socializing in-person. Some senior centers and other organizations will even arrange transportation to and from events. 

Communication in an Emergency

If you are ageing-in-place, make sure you have a communication plan in case of emergencies. Falling is a significant threat to senior safety. An Alert1 medical alert system is a safe and effective communication tool that helps ensure you have the help you need if you fall. You can also supplement your communication plan with landlines throughout your home and regular check-ins with loved ones. 

  

Facing the Challenges of Socializing

If you feel reluctant or nervous to socialize, try to identify what barriers could potentially be keeping you from an active, healthy social life. 

  • Having difficulty keeping track of your social life? Plan events ahead of time and make a social calendar. Have a loved one check in to make sure you make it to your event. 
  • Unable to drive yourself? Arrange transportation to take you to your social events. 
  • Feeling nervous about your safety? Take an on-the- go medical alert system with you when you attend social events. 

Stay Safe While Communicating Online

There are countless ways to connect with others online. Make sure to stay safe while socializing online with these tips:

  • Create strong passwords and use different passwords for different websites. (Keep a notebook of usernames and passwords so you can remember them.)
  • Never share your personal data.
  • Keep an eye on your bank accounts.
  • Familiarize yourself with scams and learn how to avoid them.
  • If you come across anything suspicious or too good to be true, it is generally best to delete it or seek help from someone that is more computer savvy.
The internet can be a great place to socialize, but make sure that you are using it safely. Alert1 medical alert systems are completely safe to use. Pressing the button connects you to Alert1’s 24/7 Command Center only. These Command Centers are staffed with certified and trained personnel.  

Alert1 Keeps You Safe While You’re Being Social

 A medical alert system can keep you safe, especially with a strong network of professionals to contact. Alert1 has In-Home and On-The-Go options, as well as an In-Home + On-The-Go + Fall Detection option that can accompany you to all your social obligations. Fall detection technology senses falls and contacts a Command Center even if you cannot press the button. We also send updates to your emergency contacts. Your social network keeps you healthy, and an Alert1 medical alert system helps you stay connected and safe. 
 

 

 

 

[1] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25663.

[2] Sommerlad, Andrew. 2019, Aug. 2. Association of Social Contact with Dementia to Cognition: 28-Year Follow-Up of the Whitehall II Cohort Study. PLOS Medicine. Association of Social Contact with Dementia to Cognition: 28-Year Follow-Up of the Whitehall II Cohort Study.

[3] Barnes, Susan. 2019, May 28. Get Away and Play at Summer Camps for Adults. AARP.org. Get Away and Play at Summer Camps for Adults.

[4] Hochwald, Lambeth. 2021, Jul. 12. Guide to the Best Senior Dating Sites 2021. Forbes.com. Guide to the Best Senior Dating Sites 2021.

[5] Schauer, Pete. 2015, Nov. 1. Social Network Stitch Caters to Senior Citizens. SocialMediaToday.com. Social Network Stitch Caters to Senior Citizens.