When you were a kid, you knew who your best friend was, you went on playdates, and you always had a birthday party on the calendar. But as you age, friendships aren’t always as easy to make and maintain.
However, strong social ties are just as important now as they were then. In fact, having a supportive social network is vital for healthy aging. Research shows that people who feel socially connected experience benefits such as:
- Better physical health
- Greater happiness and quality of life
- Stronger mental functioning
- Decreased risk for death
Make New Friends, but Keep the Old
Here are some ideas that can help you strengthen the ties you already have, as well as build new ones:
- Make an effort to regularly connect with people who are close to you. Call a loved one and talk. Make plans to meet a friend for lunch or go to a movie. Reach out to a neighbor and take a walk together. Attend sporting events with someone else who’s a fan.
- Follow your interests. Sign up for classes that seems interesting to you. You’ll meet people while developing a new skill.
- Join a book club. This may be with people you already know or with a group you haven’t met yet.
- Volunteer. Get involved at a local community center or your place of worship. While giving your time and energy, you’ll also gain new relationships.
- Explore. Take advantage of opportunities to go on organized trips with a group. Let someone else do the planning while you enjoy new experiences and build new connections.
Quality over Quantity
Don’t look at the number of friends you have as a measure of how strong your social network is. While your circle of friends may shrink as you age, many older adults actually report that they feel more satisfied with their relationships than younger people.
The quality of your bonds is what matters. So if you feel positive, supported, and fulfilled with the social relationships that you have, you’ll reap all the physical and emotional benefits that come with having strong social ties as you age.