Friendships at any age provide benefits you likely never thought of.
Improving your social circles by creating new friendships does more for you than just giving you someone new to play cards with. Friends can motivate us to adopt beneficial health habits, and supporting medical research indicates that those who were socially active had noticeable positive differences in health outcomes versus those who weren’t.
“Patients who were socially engaged tended to have better outcomes despite their complex conditions,” says Dr. Moore, an Aetna medical director and senior health specialist. “They could have diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, or all three things and still be doing better because of their improved mental health, their regular social activities, and their dedication to taking care of themselves so that they could continue their regular social activities.”
Numerous studies have shown that regular socialization can lead to a strengthened immune system, which can help you recover from some illnesses quicker. It can also help lower blood pressure, improve memory and help you get a better night’s sleep.
Socialization with friends increases activity.
“Adults often grow less physically active and more sedentary as they age, and these behaviors pose a risk factor for disease and death,” said Karen Fingerman, a professor of human development and family sciences at UT Austin and the director of the university’s new Texas Aging & Longevity Center. “It is difficult to convince people to go to the gym or commit to work out on a regular basis. But they may be willing to reach out to acquaintances, attend an organized group event, or talk to the barista who serves them at their favorite coffee shop. Socializing in these contexts also can increase physical activity and diverse behaviors in ways that benefit health without necessarily working up a sweat.”
“Adults often grow less physically active and more sedentary as they age, and these behaviors pose a risk factor for disease and death,” said Karen Fingerman.
“Older adults may be able to be more sedentary with their close friends and family — sitting and watching TV or otherwise lounging at home,” Fingerman said. “But to engage with acquaintances, older adults must leave the house or at least get up out of their chair to answer the door.”
Friends can do a better job keeping you active than family.
Due to the optional nature of friend-oriented relationships, what typically happens over time is that we keep friends that we like, make us feel good, and let go of the rest. Family relationships may be gratifying, but in some cases, there can be friction between family members, which can involve serious or negative interactions.
However, friendships are typically composed of positive interactions and include an activity component resulting in a lifestyle that provides more physical activity. When people participate in activities and create friendships, these friendships are the most beneficial health-wise.
Keep this in mind when you look to increase your circle of friends because if you meet new friends during group participation in physical activity, you will have an advanced health benefit.
Ways for older adults to meet healthy friends.
Finding and participating in senior-oriented group activities exposes you to a large cross-section of people, giving you a higher chance of finding people you can connect with. The key to accessing the health benefits of making new friends via a group activity is choosing something you enjoy or have always wanted to try. Exercise comes in many forms, such as volunteer work. They can also include activities that feel more like fun than challenging exercises if it’s something that you genuinely enjoy.
It’s important to note that before you start or restart any exercise regimen, you should consult your physician before beginning any new physical activity. Let them know your plans and follow their recommendations.
Volunteer: Volunteering is not a spectator sport; there is typically physical activity involved, as well as enjoying face-to-face interaction. The benefit is you get to be active, you will naturally interact with many people, and you will feel good by helping others.
Join a gym: There’s an old saying, “You’re never too old to join a gym.” Many gyms provide group classes that are older adult oriented. So as long as your doctor approves, taking an age-appropriate gym class is a great way to keep fit and meet new people.
Get involved in the community: If you have a religious affiliation, you can check out events and opportunities at your local place of worship. You can also check with your local community center and see
if they have volunteer opportunities you might be interested in.
Yoga: Some might view yoga as geared toward people in their 20s and 30s, but according to the (NIH) National Institute of Health, older adults can improve their health through safe and gentle yoga. Seniors’ bodies may find some yoga poses too advanced, but modifying all poses to suit an individual’s limited mobility is easily achievable.
Chair yoga: Chair yoga resembles regular yoga, except it is performed in a seated position using a chair. It allows seniors and those with mobility issues or disabilities to stay active and improve their muscle strength and flexibility with a lower risk of strain or injury.
Walking groups: You can easily search for walking groups through websites like “meetup,” and it’s typically easy to find groups who walk in your neighborhood.
Dance classes: Dancing is a great way to meet new people and has excellent health benefits from a cardiovascular and balanced perspective. Couples classes typically involve frequent switching of dance partners, which will aid you in meeting new people.
Walking parks or hiking trails: If the weather is on your side, you can also find hiking groups or walking groups that frequent specific parks. These are great because your walking paths are natural, providing fresh air and peaceful sounds.
Swimming: Many community centers and even some high schools provide public access to swimming, and community centers typically have elderly swim classes. Swimming is a great, low-impact exercise with tons of health benefits. Due to its popularity in warm climates, you usually swim in larger groups, providing more opportunities for making new friends.
Rediscover an old favorite sport: The benefit of revisiting an old sport is you are typically the subject matter expert, so if you find a group that participates in your sport, it should be much easier for you to converse with fellow participants.
Regularly, group settings conduct all of these activities. Individuals will still benefit from the social interaction during their participation and the physical benefits, even if they do not make long-term friends.
Some key benefits to meeting new people.
People widely accept that social connections are crucial for the quality of life of older adults. But benefits can also provide specific value related to a pre-existing condition, such as high stress. Some of the expected benefits can include the following.
Reduced stress: Socializing with friends can help to reduce stress levels. Studies have shown that social support can help to lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress.
Improved mood: Making new friends can provide opportunities for socializing and having fun, which can help to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Better cognitive function: Socializing with friends can help keep the brain active and engaged, improving cognitive function and reducing the risk of cognitive decline.
Improved immune function: Social support can also help boost immune function, positively impacting physical health. Studies have shown that people with strong social connections tend to have more robust immune systems than socially isolated people.
Increased physical activity: Making new friends who enjoy physical activity can provide opportunities to exercise and stay active, positively impacting physical health. Regular physical activity can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Social challenges of meeting new people
Older adults may face many possible challenges when trying to meet new people. Still, by understanding common barriers, they can take steps to overcome them and build valuable social connections. Some challenges may look like this:
Lack of family support: Many older adults who no longer drive lack the transportation support of family members to help them maintain social connections.
Age-related changes: As we age, we may experience physical or cognitive changes such as hearing loss or mobility issues, making participating in conversations problematic or arriving at the event difficult without reliable transport.
Living in remote locations: Seniors who live in rural areas or areas with limited public transportation will naturally have fewer opportunities for social interaction due to the lower population density.
Personal preferences: Some people may have particular personal preferences or rare niche interests, making it harder to find like-minded individuals.
Fear of rejection: Some people may hesitate to put themselves out there and make new friends due to fear of rejection or the possible feeling of anxiety that others may not be interested in forming new connections with them.
Fear and social anxiety can make social interactions difficult and uncomfortable. People with social anxiety may feel intense fear or worry about social situations and avoid them altogether, leading to isolation and loneliness.
One of the best ways to overcome this fear of rejection is to have a friend to be by your side to support you and who can act as your social sidekick when meeting new people.
Breaking barriers with a social partner.
Most of us want to meet new people and make friends. Putting oneself out there can be scary, especially for shy or introverted individuals who may experience stress and anxiety in social situations. Even the most extroverted people can feel overwhelmed when entering a new social group with many new people.
Entering a new social group situation can be challenging, primarily when people have already formed cliques or sets of couples. You end up feeling like a wallflower and feel you stand out as the lone person with all eyes on you.
In these situations, having a social partner, friend/wingman, is beneficial. When you enter a social situation with a partner, the focus shifts from trying to fit in as a lone person to one where you’re already participating because you are your clique.
Also, other people at the event will typically feel more comfortable introducing themselves to a couple or group, so you will have a higher likelihood of new people approaching you to engage in conversation, saving you the need to do this yourself.
But, if you don’t have family nearby or a large enough circle of friends near you, so you could ask one of them to be your social partner at these events, where do you find one?
Companions make great social partners.
You want to expand your social circle, but you also would like a social partner to support you while attending these activity events. So, how do you find a social partner if your social circle is small?
Situations like this are where companionship services are a perfect option. Companion services provide this type of assistance. For example, one of Maxim at Home’s main types of service to clients focuses on providing social support, individually or in mixed settings. Plus, you can schedule services to match the dates and times of the events you want to attend. You can schedule help for as little as one hour to just as long as needed. You also don’t have to worry about transportation, as MAH’s companions also provide convenient transportation if you need it.
Here are three ways a companion can help you attend health-oriented social gatherings.
They can help find events and activities to attend: Your activity partner or companions can help search for and identify local activities and events that align with your preferred interests, activities, and causes. They can also aid in navigating and solving the logistics of getting to the event, such as transportation and registration.
Acting as a wingman to help meet new people: They can act as wingmen to help ease the process of meeting new people and making new friends. This social support helps build confidence so that, eventually, you will feel confident enough to attend social activity events by yourself.
Providing emotional support and encouragement: Even the most successful people occasionally need some support and encouragement, which is one of the main reasons they are successful. They recognize when they need help and seek the service they need. Needing help and support in a social situation is not a weakness. The strength here is knowing you need help and not being afraid to get help when you need it.
A road map to improve your social and physical health.
Tests confirm what many medical experts say: expanding your social circle with more active friends will typically lead you toward improving your health. For most people, unless you live far away from civilization, you should be able to find where like-minded people are congregating.
Nowadays, it’s relatively easy to take advantage of socialization opportunities and ensure you have social support if you need it. Whether you want to attend local events or join a club or organization, you can easily make these things possible with the support of a Companion.
The path towards improving your health and increasing the number of people in your social circle is available. For anyone reading this, you can use this information to get started, and if you want a social partner to help you, support is just a click away.
Making new friends, building meaningful relationships, and staying engaged are always possible.
The Maxim at Home team is here to help
Do you need help with a loved one? Then consider Maxim at Home’s homemaker and companionship services. Our team of friendly, compassionate Companions takes great pride in serving people in their own community who need light assistance with daily chores, some company and conversation, or convenient transportation for errands, appointments, or trips to the store.
Explore our services to learn more about our:
- Homemaker and companionship services
- Easy-to-use scheduling platform
- “Best Value” service pricing
- Only 1-hour service minimum
Sign-up in seconds to enjoy free 24hr access to our on-demand scheduling platform, where you can view our team of vetted compassionate companions.
If you have questions about our services, please feel free to call 1-844-624-5646 to speak to one of our caring service Advisors.
Aging Solo: Unique Considerations for a Growing Segment of the Population
National Institute on Aging – Cognitive Health and Older Adults
Interacting With More People is Shown to Keep Older Adults More Active
Exercise Ideas for Older Adults
National Institute on Aging – Health Effects of Social Isolation
Innovation In Aging – Benefits of Senior Companion Program Participation
National Library of Medicine – Social Engagement and Cognition
CDC – Physical Activity Prevents Chronic Disease
National Library of Medicine – Social Support and Resilience to Stress
National Library of Medicine – Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy
Mayo Clinic – Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health
National Institute of Mental Health – Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness