We all need friends, at any stage of life. Research shows that having close friendships can positively influence our health and help us live longer, more fulfilling lives. This is because our tight circle of friends often plays a role in our health-related behaviors, from the type of exercise we do to the healthy diet we follow. Our friends also serve as a source of emotional support, helping us celebrate good times and navigate tough times with more resilience.
But as we get older, it’s natural for our social networks to shrink. When we leave the workforce and enter retirement, we also leave behind daily social encounters with co-workers, clients, or customers. We may spend less time going out to meet new people and more time with our spouse and family. Over time, neighbors may move away. Before we know it, we’re spending longer periods alone.
Thankfully, loneliness doesn’t have to be a part of growing older! Relocating to a senior living community can be a smart move to increase your social connections and make meeting new friends less intimidating.
If you or a loved one will be moving to a senior living community soon, here are some tips for forming new friendships:
Spend time in common areas
Most senior living communities have several common areas on campus where residents can gather together. From television and movie rooms to comfortable lounges and libraries, these welcoming environments are ideal for striking up a conversation and meeting other residents. If you’re new to senior living, try spending some time in these common areas each day. You’re bound to run into a friendly face!
One of the best aspects of senior living is the abundance of life-enriching activities for residents to enjoy. Activity coordinators work hard to schedule social events, outings, and programs that suit an array of interests. Take a look at the monthly activity calendar and pick a few activities that sound interesting. It could be a fitness class, card club, art class, or movie night. Participating in weekly activities will give you the chance to get to know the other residents who share your interests.
Dine with different people
In senior living communities, dining is a vibrant social experience. Nothing brings people together more than food, and sharing a conversation around the table is an easy way to get to know those around you. However, don’t feel obligated to sit at the same place in the dining room for each meal. Feel free to switch things up and dine with different people. Take the time to introduce yourself to your fellow residents, even if you think you won’t have much in common. You might be surprised to find out how similar you are!
Be a good listener
Being new can feel nerve-wracking at times, especially if you’re already naturally shy. One way to attract potential friends is by taking an interest in others’ lives and lending a listening ear. Here are a few conversation starters that will help to break the ice:
- How long have you lived here?
- Where did you grow up?
- What was your previous career or field of study?
- Do you like sports? Which teams?
- Tell me about your kids, grandchildren, and family.
- What TV shows, books, or movies do you enjoy?
Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know yet. Asking good questions will help you connect and find common ground.
Throw a housewarming party
Once you’ve settled into the senior living community, consider planning a small “housewarming” party. Invite family members and long-time friends to see your place and meet some of your new friends in the community. For a more casual get-together, invite your new neighbors over for a cup of coffee or tea and cookies.
Life in a senior living community presents endless opportunities to meet new people and make “fast friends” with like-minded peers. But like any move, relocating to senior living is a big transition. Give yourself plenty of time to get settled and adjust to community living. Before long, you’ll be forming new friendships and feeling right at home!