Let’s Connect More
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 11 million, or 28% of people aged 65 and older, lived alone in 2010. As people get older, their likelihood of living alone only increases. Additionally, more and more older adults do not have children, and that means fewer family members to provide company and care as those adults become seniors.
While living alone does not inevitably lead to social isolation, it is certainly a predisposing factor. Yet another important consideration is how often seniors engage in social activities.
Additionally, not only do seniors have fewer opportunities to meet new people, but “there’s also a little more resistance to forming new relationships later in life, and your skills can get a bit rusty,” says Marla Paul, author of The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymore.
Besides, you may feel just plain awkward. Still, it’s important to make the effort. Close relationships with others are vital to your health — physical, mental and emotional — your self-esteem and even your longevity, according to recent research. So, if watching TV is the highlight of your week, or you find yourself enthusiastically chatting with telemarketers, you probably need to make some new connections. Here are 12 things that can help you.
- Get over the idea that everybody else your age already has all the friends they need.There are a lot of people out there in the same boat.
- Accept invitations, even if you suspect it won’t be the night of your life. Just getting out increases the chances of meeting new people.
- Check out continuing-education classes at your local college or university. Many colleges allow seniors to audit regular classes for free, and some even have programs specifically for seniors.
- Senior Centers have a variety of classes, activities and even trips. Stop by and ask for a schedule.
- Pursue your own interests — concerts, lectures, tai chi, cooking classes, whatever. Look for things you’re passionate about and attend consistently so that you have time to build relationships naturally.
- Set up a page on Facebook. You can connect with old friends and friends of friends — who just may happen to know someone in your area.
- Invite a few of your neighbors for dinner if you like to cook, or organize a potluck meal if you don’t.
- Work out at a nearby gym or the Y. Join a class so you see the same people every week.
- Don’t put too much pressure on a fragile new friendship because that can scare people away. If someone doesn’t call you back immediately, don’t assume they simply don’t like you. Try again.
- Have faith — and exercise it. Many houses of worship make it a point to welcome newbies and introduce them around.
- Volunteer in your community. Museums, hospitals, churches, animal shelters and schools are always looking for people to help out. Find opportunities in your area at AARP’s createthegood.org or VolunteersofAmerica.org.
- Be willing to take a risk. When you meet someone you like — a salesperson or someone seated next to you at a lunch counter — take the initiative and ask for an email address. What’s the worst that can happen?