One of the questions people ask most, either before or after they tour Sugar Hill Retirement Community, is: How do I make friends?
At first, we reassured them that our community is the perfect size to meet people, and our programs are designed to bring people together with similar interests. Many of our residents have made new friends after dining together, playing bocce or cards or even traveling into Wolfeboro.
The Number of Friends Decreases as You Age
When we dug deeper, we found that it is more difficult for older people to make friends. One study found that people make more and more friends until the age of 25. After that, the number of new friendships drops off.
That makes sense, because around 25 is the time when most people begin to develop long-term romantic relationships. The circle of friendship for most people gradually shrinks until retirement, when scientists say there just isn’t enough data to theorize.
It’s likely that your circle of friends may shrink even further after retirement when you find you have little in common with friends who are still working or you adopt a new lifestyle.
As you get older, research indicates the number of friends continue to decline as long-time friends move or die. And if you are no longer able to drive or don’t feel comfortable driving at night or during bad weather, you are no longer putting yourself in environments, such as church, volunteer programs, or even the grocery store, where you may make new friends.
Seniors Make Fewer New Friends
Of course, living at Sugar Hill offers you the opportunity to meet people at dinner, on walking paths, on trips, in the community garden, and during entertainment and educational programs. But opportunity may not be enough. There are other reasons seniors find it difficult to make friends.
Friendship guru Shasta Nelson says that, as people age, they may invest more time and effort into their marital partner, and not as much into casual relationships. She says that building relationships take time and effort, and many seniors may not seek relationships outside of marriage.
Older adults may have also learned to wall themselves off and present a polished exterior that makes it difficult for others to get to know you. Daniel Wendler, the author of Improve Your Social Skills, says many seniors have forgotten how to open up to others and are hesitant to involve themselves in the lives of others.
Why Is Friendship Important?
You may have read all of this and wondered: Do I really need more than my family members? Yes.
Family members do provide some of the benefits of friendship such as boosting your happiness and (usually) reducing your stress. They also help you cope with traumas, such as serious illness or the death of a loved one. Studies show that having strong social support, whether friends or family, may actually help you live longer.
The benefits that friends can provide better than a family member may include:
—Increasing your sense of purpose
—Improving your self-confidence and self-worth
—Encouraging you to be healthy
—Preventing loneliness and depression
—Introducing you to new ideas and new perspectives
—Boosting your empathy
How to Make Friends
Here’s some general advice from Greatist on how to make and keep new friends:
- Have a current friend introduce you to one of their friends.
- Pursue activities and interests you currently have to meet like-minded people.
- Ask personal questions that show you have a real interest in the person instead of general conversation about the weather.
- Don’t be afraid to take the next step after meeting someone. Invite them out for coffee or to a concert.
- Set yourself a friend-making goal. For example, if you’re going out to eat, set a goal of talking to someone while you’re waiting in line. If you’re at a church function, set a goal of making a new friend.
Here at Sugar Hill, we’ve discovered ways to help our residents get to know one another:
- Eat in the dining room. Sure, you have a state-of-the-art kitchen in your cottage or apartment, but it’s easier to make friends when you dine together. And you always have a conversation-starter, such as, “Aren’t Chef Elena’s desserts amazing?”
- Take a group trip. What else are you going to do during the drive but chat? You may make a new friend or two.
- Participate in the 10 a.m. social hour in the Coffee Shop. It’s held 3 times a week at the Coffee Shop in the Sugar House.
- Take a class, participate in a lecture or enjoy entertainment. You’re sure to meet people with the same interests.
- Walk. Our walking paths are very busy during the spring, summer, and fall. You’re likely to find a walking (or biking) buddy, and you can both take the path to fitness.
Experience Sugar Hill
Schedule a tour to discover your new friends online or by calling (603) 569-8485.