Having a strong social network is vital for good mental health, especially as one gets older. Many studies have verified the importance of friendships; friendships play a large role in emotional, physical, and social well-being, and can help alleviate symptoms of depression that are particularly prevalent among older folks as they undergo life changes such as retirement, the loss of a spouse and new health limitations associated with aging.
Loneliness as an Ailment
As we grow older, it gets harder to make new friends and we tend to spend less time with current friends due to work and life commitments. Hence, loneliness is a common issue that older adults face due to this social isolation, especially when living alone, the loss of family and friends.
Loneliness is known to lead to distress and dysfunction among older adults, such as feelings of abandonment and separation. In many cases, it could also lead to the development of depression, a mental health issue that older adults are susceptible to, and impact their quality of life. On the other hand, socially active individuals display a marked difference in health outcomes compared to socially-isolated individuals.
If you do not receive frequent companionship, support, and human contact, you may be at risk of loneliness.
Older adults need to have strong connections and maintain their friendships because friends provide the emotional support and social stimulation that combat loneliness.
Whilst having a group of casual friends is good, having just one very close friend is extremely helpful for relieving stress and depression. They can be a source of comfort as one goes through hardships and aid in coping with changes in an older adult’s life. They may also inspire each other to adopt healthy habits, and encourage them to engage better with life.
To preserve current friendships, one should remember to keep in contact with friends. A simple call or reply to a text goes a long way in maintaining connections. Going a step further, one could initiate a meeting, or even start a new hobby together that could motivate frequent meetups.
Making New Connections
Older adults who find their social circles lacking would do well to go out and make new connections. Whilst this may take a little more effort, it is also usually rewarding to find someone new that you can get along with.
Here are some things you can do to make new connections:
- Volunteering. This is a great way to step out of the house, meet new people and give back to your local community.
- Taking a class. It is never too late to learn a new skill or improve an existing one! Take the opportunity to make friends with classmates – and the best part? You would already have a common interest to talk about!
- Adopt a Hobby. Engaging in a new hobby often grants you access to its community. If the hobby is an activity you can do with others, such as exercising or games, you are bound to meet new people.