Are you or someone you know are a 'solo ager' and want to expand your social circles? Here are suggestions for you...
Your longtime friends know all your best stories, what you'll order when you go out to eat and how you feel about your relatives, current events and exercise preferences. We suggest you make new friends and open up a whole new world — and that's good for you as you age!
"We've all just gone through an unwanted national experiment on social isolation, and there's no better time than the present for increasing your social circle," said Dr. Eric Lenze, a geriatric psychiatrist and psychiatry professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
His research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, explores the effects of stress and social isolation on older adults and the benefits of social activities for increasing resilience.
"Older adults who report a higher level of social support have better emotional health, physical health and brain health, plus they have better cognitive functioning over time," Lenze said. "Initially, many older adults proved quite resilient at sheltering in place. But as it went along, it started to take a toll on mental and physical health."
That may be especially true for "solo agers." Some 27% of adults 60 and older in the U.S. live alone, and it's particularly important for these individuals to stay connected. Source...
According to Dr. Lenze, here are ways to ramp up social interactions:
More 'Intentionality' Is Required
Increasing your social interactions requires a deliberative effort.
According to Margit Novack, "Developing friends as an older woman requires more 'intentionality'. When I was raising kids or at work, friendships developed naturally. Now, if I want deeper relationships than acquaintances, I need to create space/opportunity for that to happen."
Conventional wisdom suggests that we'll find new friends by joining a book club or knitting group — or starting one. Others choose to volunteer at a food bank, work on a political campaign or sign up for docent training at a museum or zoo.
"You get a two-fer if you join an exercise or yoga class or a meditation group because you get the physical and mental benefits of the activity plus the socialization," Lenze said. "Going to a dance class is a three-fer, because that's also cognitively stimulating."
When you move to a new city or town, opportunities immediately arise for making new friends. Volunteering for local organizations is an excellent way to learn more about your new community and what it has to offer even if you aren't particularly 'social'.
The Value of Younger Friends
Charlotte Japp makes a case for welcoming younger people into your inner circle. Japp is the founder of CIRKEL, a platform that connects workers ages 20 through 70+. "More and more, we are siloed by age, and there are career and social consequences to that," Japp said. "We all go through very nuanced abstract experiences and it's good to talk to someone who has a different perspective. Life is so enriched by diversity, in every sense."
Find 'New Horizons'
Hart Edmonds, a Presbyterian pastor, appreciates younger adults, "I give thanks for several younger adults as friends as I enter retirement," he wrote. "As a minister, I've been privileged to work with and learn from younger people who I find yearning for mentors and friendship with older adults. Too often our culture segments people by age and stage of life."
Anne Crowley also appreciates her younger friends, "for the energy they have and for reminding me it's important to have hope and keep working to make this world a better place."
Steve Trickler is in his 60s, and he's noticed many people his age are starting to slow down. "Maintaining ties with my younger friends allows me to stay more active," he wrote. "Plus, they are more adventuresome, more willing to try new things, go places. They are more in tune with literature and music — all of which excites me and keeps me enthused. Staying young at heart is about challenging yourself and finding new horizons to excite you and energize you."
Making new friends may help you do just that.