As we grow older, sometimes our circle of friends can become smaller. You may find that you no longer feel comfortable picking up the phone to chat with people you were once close with. Life events such as children growing and leaving the nest, retirement, moving, divorce or losing a spouse can all affect our social circles. People may grow apart, but a healthy social life is important for your overall wellbeing. Rebuilding your social circle can be an intimidating task, it is not easy to put yourself out there and try to make new friends at any age. However, one thing is certain, socialization is a key element to staying healthy and active and keeping loneliness at bay.
Everyone is different when it comes to finding the perfect balance for their social life. While one person may be satisfied with meeting friends once a week for dinner, another may need a fuller schedule with a variety of activities to be satisfied. Just remember to create what YOU feel is a healthy social life and to nurture your friendships, so they will in turn nurture you.
A well-balanced social life should include a variety of friends, family, and acquaintances. Life will feel a little fuller having a diverse circle with varying types of friends. Casual acquaintances, social friends, and intimate friends will all bring you different benefits. Open yourself to new friends of all ages and backgrounds.
Unfortunately, seniors are more likely to isolate or experience loneliness than the rest of the population. A study by the University of California San Francisco Division of Geriatrics found that 43% of seniors experience loneliness on a regular basis. These seniors showed higher rates of poor physical and mental health and were more likely to suffer from the following health concerns:
- Coronary artery disease
- Cardiac failure
Luckily, there are many opportunities to meet people locally and at little or no cost to you. Some ways to meet new friends and stay socially connected:
- Check out your local library. Crandall Library in Glens Falls (518-792-6508) has many events and classes, as does Caldwell Library in Lake George (518-668-2528).
- Take a class. The Adirondack Folk School offers a variety of workshops to learn crafts like basket weaving, pottery and jewelry making (518- 696-2400). SUNY Adirondack has a continued learning program offering courses including cooking, home and garden, music, and language (518-743-2238). The Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council (LARAC) offers workshops like Worry Free Watercolors and Doodles With A Purpose (518-798-1144, x-2).
- Join a Senior Center. For a very low yearly membership fee, you will receive a monthly newsletter full of programs and activities including fitness classes, card games, crafting groups, holiday celebrations and more. For a list of senior centers, see Warren County’s Office for the Aging’s website at: https://warrencountyny.gov/ofa/clubs
- Join a Gym. Many health plans will reimburse you all or a portion of the membership fees. Additionally, your health plan may offer their own fitness classes that you can take for free as a plan member. Consult your physician before beginning any new fitness routine and make sure to ask the instructor for modifications if you are having difficulty following the program.
- Find a Crafting or Art Group. Do you like to knit, crochet, sew, scrapbook, paint, draw? Chances are there is a local group that meets regularly to practice their craft. Check local papers, Facebook, and call your local senior center to find the group for you.
- Learn to navigate social media. Facebook is a great way to reconnect with friends, learn of local events, groups that share similar interests and know what’s happening in your community.
- Church Groups. Spiritual fulfillment is a key component of overall wellbeing. Regardless of your denomination or how often you worship, you can find great support in your local church.
- Support & Senior Advocacy Groups.
- Warren County Office for the Aging advocates on behalf of older persons with legislative bodies and other agencies and offers a wealth of information on local programs and services for senior citizens (518-761-6347).
- The Conkling Center helps senior citizens, and their families find information and resources within the local community and at State and National levels (518-793-1494).
- SAIL assists people with all physical and mental disabilities living in their own homes, supported living arrangements, institutional settings, and elsewhere (518-792-3537).
- High Peaks Hospice offers caregiver support, social worker support and grievance support (518-891-0606).
- Alzheimer’s Association of Northeastern New York offers educational and support programs to provide support to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients (518-867-4999).
- Volunteer. There are so many organizations that can use a helping hand. Schools, pre-schools, churches, senior centers, animal shelters, food pantries, hospitals, senior living facilities – the list goes on and on – even a few hours a week can give you a sense of accomplishment, boost self-esteem and provide an opportunity to meet new people.
If you have resolved to work on being more social and broadening your circle, here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Check your motivation and mood. People are more receptive to an upbeat and positive new friend.
- Start a conversation and practice listening. Offer a compliment, ask an opinion, comment on something pleasant, show an interest, offer help.
- Be a host. Show your friends some gratitude by hosting a get-together.
- Pick up the phone and call a friend you have been meaning to catch up with.
- Smile and talk to strangers.
Lastly, don’t feel bad if your circle of friends doesn’t add up to dozens. Making just a couple of new connections will make you feel confident, healthier, and happier. Just know that you don’t have to go it alone. After all, that’s what friends are for.
Stephanie Smith, Director
Queensbury Senior Citizens