Remaining social as we age
While making friends and developing those friendships is important to everyone, it is even more important for seniors. As we grow older, family members and friends may die or move away. If the elderly don’t replace these relationships, they can end up feeling lonely and isolated. Having someone to whom you can talk to and enjoy activities with boosts your self esteem, independence, mental and physical health.
Seniors who have always been more of the social type will certainly find making new friends easier than those who were more dependent on family and spouses for companionship and emotional support. Being able to share your interests, activities and feelings with others can be the building blocks of a friendship, but it is important not to overburden potential friends with problems as well. The loss of a spouse or poor health may be a huge blow to a senior and certainly is information that you would share with your friends. However, keep in mind that others in your group may have experienced similar issues and while everyone may sympathize with your problem. For your own mental health, as well as for maintaining your friendships, you need to continue working through your feelings and remain positive in your thoughts and actions. Relationships built on common interests build stronger relationships than those built around problems or loss.
Just because your may be a senior citizen doesn’t mean that you community of friends have to all be in that demographic either. Making friends and developing relationships with a wide range of individuals can put a spark in your life and maybe open new opportunities and experiences. Great ways to meet a wide range of individuals include volunteering, taking classes or finding a local social group such as a supper club, book club or nature group.
Here’s some tips to building and maintaining relationships as you age:
Look back at the activities you used to enjoy and consider picking them up again. Find new ways to enjoy old hobbies and activities that you may dropped in the past due to time restraints or other issues that aren’t as constraining now that you’re older. Look up information at your local library or on the internet regarding local clubs and groups around your hobby.
Focus on your fitness. Staying fit is a sure way to build confidence and regain a healthy outlook on life! Find a local class, group or gym to join. Swimming, walking, yoga…there are classes for every age and physical ability out there.
Attend a class, lecture or event in your area. Push yourself to try new things. It may feel uncomfortable at first, especially if it involves new technology, but it’s worth the effort. Consider trying new activities that are possible given your level of health and fitness, and that you find interesting. Try not to react negatively to suggestions from others who try to help. Think things through before rejecting the ideas altogether. You may discover something you wished you’d tried earlier.
Offer your services at local clubs to give talks, to teach a skill or to guide people (museums, zoos, parks etc.). Elderly people are respected for their knowledge; capitalize on this by sharing it. You’ll meet a variety of new people from co workers to general public and increase your pool of potential relationships.
Remain positive and smile when you’re feeling down. Smiling induces positive chemical changes in the brain and brings us back up. Help cheer up others with a kind word or deed. A good mood, sense of humor and caring is infectious and benefits everyone involved.
As a senior citizen, you have a world of knowledge and experience to build upon and it’s never too late to share! Pursue new relationships and experiences at every opportunity!
For information on some senior activities around Milwaukee, here are two great websites to start with;