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Senior Friendship - Does Your Aging Loved One Need a BFF?
Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on September 15th, 2016

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Senior Friendship - Does Your Aging Loved One Need a BFF?

Aging & Caregiving

senior friendshipTerms like “BFF” and “bestie” may be new to our vocabularies, but the basic concept remains the same: Everyone needs a good friend. Having a strong social network may be even more critical for seniors, according to research indicating the paramount role of friendships in supporting quality of life during the golden years. Let’s take a closer look at why friends are so important, along with highlighting tips aimed at helping aging loved ones live better with a little help from their friends.

Why Friends Matter

Connections with friends, family and community outweigh all other factors when it comes to feeling fulfilled in the senior years, according to a report from the National Council on Aging. In fact, 53 percent of seniors claim that being close to family and friends is important to them. Meanwhile, seniors who are without close friends are not only more likely to become isolated and depressed, but are also more pessimistic about both their future health and quality of life.

Unfortunately, seniors face more obstacles than the rest of the population when it comes to making and maintaining friendships. Distance from loved ones, inadequate transportation options, a dwindling social network, and limited job opportunities all add up to challenges to keeping and staying connected.

Making Friends During the Senior Years

The good news? Just because it may be harder to make friends during the seniors years doesn’t mean it's impossible. For starters, aging loved ones residing in senior living communities have a huge head start. Not only are there plenty of potential friends in their immediate vicinity, but senior living communities also offer a breadth and depth of programming designed to keep seniors social.

Social media is also a terrific avenue for connecting with others. Keep in mind, however, that older people may initially push back on the idea of entering the wired world. An encouraging and patient approach can help them feel comfortable using new technology. Social media is also a simple way to nurture both new and old relationships.

Other places great for seniors to meet other seniors? Church or synagogue, the gym, senior centers, community college courses, and volunteering opportunities. Bereavement support groups, meanwhile, can be a source of empathy and understanding for seniors who have recently lost spouses, siblings, or other loved ones.

And don’t forget about the value of a different kind of friend -- man’s best friend, to be exact. Pets and seniors can vastly enrich each others’ lives. Just be sure to factor in your aging loved one’s preferences and limitations when choosing which kind of pet to get.

One last thing to keep in mind? Making friends as a septuagenarian or octogenarian may not be as easy as it was at the age of seven or eight. Be sure to remind aging loved ones that while building real friendships takes time, the benefits are well worth the effort.

Key Takeaways

  • We all need friends -- regardless of our age or living situation.
  • Older adults may be more vulnerable to loneliness, which can be detrimental to their health and overall quality of life.
  • Senior living communities help seniors stay connected with their peers.
  • Many community organizations promote friendships among older adults, including everything from senior centers to adult learning classes.

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.