One of the biggest challenges many seniors face as they age isn’t about healthcare or ADLs, it’s about losing their social network. As friends start to pass away or move to be closer to their families, many seniors find themselves without nearby friends to meet up with for everyday socializing.
Making matters worse, many seniors reach an age where they can no longer drive safely and start to have an increasingly harder time getting around as age continues to take its toll. It can get far too easy for seniors of a certain age to rarely leave the house and go days without talking to loved ones.
One of the dangerous side effects of the growth in the number of seniors aging in place is senior loneliness. Loneliness can lead to a number of health issues, including higher blood pressure, more susceptibility to the flu, and a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. On top of all that is the obvious truth that loneliness is painful in and of itself.
Humans are social by nature; feeling alone makes us sad.
For seniors to fight the possibility of loneliness taking over as they age, they need to make a special point of maintaining social connections into their retirement years. These tips can help.
- Commit to a social hobby.
At any age, social hobbies are one of the best ways to meet new people with shared interests. Think about what you like to do (or what you’d like to try) and look for a group in your community to do it with. That could mean setting up a weekly bridge game, getting involved with a local organization (or a couple) through volunteering, getting more involved in your church, or taking a class –just to name a few options.
The particular hobby or activity can be anything you like that’s social. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what hobby to take on, browse your local meetups to see what groups are already out there and try out one or two that look fun to you.
- Give senior social media a try.
Stitch is a social media platform for seniors that’s specifically designed to help seniors meet other seniors with similar interests. You can find someone to join you for regular dinners out, to go on your next vacation with you, or to simply join you for a movie now and then. If you’re single, it can also be used to find people to date who share your interests and values (although there’s no pressure to use the platform that way, if you’re not looking for that).
If your social connections are dwindling, Stitch can help you find people that live close and have common interests to re-build your social circle with.
- Reach out to other seniors in your neighborhood.
Since driving’s often one of the hard parts of getting out more, finding people to connect with nearby can be especially useful. For that reason, it’s worthwhile to try to meet any other seniors that live in your neighborhood. Be quick to say hi and start up a conversation when you see anyone on walks around the neighborhood, and consider volunteering with your HOA as a way to meet people.
The website NextDoor also makes it easy to connect with your neighbors. You can post there to find fellow retirees in the area who might be interested in a regular bridge game or daily walks together.
Getting to know your fellow seniors in the neighborhood can also give you a chance to figure out if your neighborhood could benefit from developing a stay-at-home retirement village, where by banding together, you can all benefit from more affordable resources for aging in place.
- Consider roommates.
Most people think of roommates as something you only have before getting married and having kids, but for seniors it can be a good way to make new friends and get some extra help with home costs and maintenance. Many seniors – especially single women – are embracing the Golden Girls model as they age.
They either offer a room for rent in their own house or move into a home with an available room, which makes paying for a house from your retirement savings easier to afford. As an added bonus, roommates can split some of the cleaning, cooking, and other around-the-house chores that can get to be a lot for one person to handle on their own.
And of course, roommates give you someone to talk to and interact with socially on a regular basis. If you find someone that’s a good fit, you can strike up a friendship and find activities you both like to do together.
- Consider a 55+ community.
Moving to a 55+ community gives you immediate access to a whole neighborhood full of people in your general age group. You can easily meet other seniors and get involved with the community-led groups and activities.
In other neighborhoods, your neighbors will be occupied regularly with raising kids or going to work and school each day. In a 55+ community, most of your neighbors will be fellow retirees with plenty of time to socialize with their neighbors and some of the same issues and concerns you’ll have as you age. You’ll tap into a community of people more inclined to help each other out with the needs that come with aging, and are likely to find a number of fellow residents with similar interests. And most 55+ communities offer a wide range of activities, such as exercise classes, game nights, or trips to nearby museums.
One of the big benefits that draws seniors to 55+ communities is that it makes socializing as you age much easier. The likelihood of social isolation becomes almost zero, even as you continue to have your own home or apartment and as much independence as you could want.
Loneliness isn’t inevitable for seniors. By being proactive and seeking out opportunities to meet with other people, you can save yourself from the many negative consequences that come with loneliness. Make yourself get out there and spend time with people, even as it starts to become more difficult. It’s as important to maintaining your health as taking your medicine or eating well.