What makes family relationships different from that of friendships, as seniors perceive? How are friendships important for seniors?
Your family indeed offers the support system you need as you age. Your emotional and mental well-being is good when you have strong family ties. As a result, you are most likely to have fewer health issues and, more importantly, live a happier and longer life. However, a study by William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, revealed that it somehow creates a sense of obligation with family members as caregivers. Therefore, long-term friends provide unique happiness to seniors’ lives (Hayes, 2017).
Keeping Your Brain Sharp
Having friends allows you to have social interactions that maintain brain function. Constant conversations keep you thinking and sharpen your cognitive skills, said Rosemarie Blieszner, Ph.D., an expert in human development and aging and a professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg (Doheny, 2019).
Encouraging You to Stay Healthy
Friends, who are most likely the same age as yours, know the importance of keeping the body healthy. Therefore, you motivate and influence each other to adopt a healthy lifestyle. They are constant reminders to eat healthily, stay active, and get regular checkups as they often become your companions during meals and exercises.
Doing Better Despite the Medical Conditions
Another reason that friendships are important for seniors is that even with health issues, you still do better.
According to Aetna Medical Director and Senior Health Specialist John Moore, DO, patients could have congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes, but because they are socially engaged, they tend to still be doing well because they are regularly attending social activities and improving their mental health (Vengrow, 2022). In addition, because they surround themselves with people and seniors their age, they focus on taking care of their health to maintain their independence and continue doing what they are doing.
Aside from the friends you already have, you can also build new friendships:
1. Attend community activities
Your community may offer activities where you not only learn new things but also meet new friends. Check with them which of these social activities you can join. In case you have limited mobility, you can ask a family member or a respite caregiver to assist you.
2. Join gym classes
Going to a local gym will keep you active. This is also where you can meet new people who will later become your friends and inspire you more to stay healthy.
3. Get online
Benefit from social media and reconnect with friends. You or some of your friends may have mobility issues, but this should not prevent you from connecting with them. Talk to them online and get yourself busy.
How are friendships important for seniors? It does not matter if you have few or even only one friend by your side. Quality is more essential than quantity. As long as you have someone who can understand you and whom you can rely on, talk to, and walk to the park with, that is sufficient to give you joy.