Seeking Social; A quick guide to finding friendships later in life
Are you facing some new changes in your retirement? Perhaps you’re relocating and are having to find ways to connect within your new community? Or maybe you’re newly separated and are looking towards a different future. Finding your feet and new friends can be an exciting time, but the transition period can sometimes leave you feeling at odds.
With people living online in a digital world, social interaction has become stripped-back for many. Subsequently, across the globe, we’re facing what has been described as a “loneliness epidemic”.
According to a study produced by the Red Cross, in partnership with the Co-op, it’s been estimated that there are nine million adults across the UK that often or always experience feelings of loneliness. Whilst it has been suggested that loneliness is detrimental to our health across all age groups, older age is where the effects are often felt to a greater degree. According to Age UK, up to 2 million older people live alone; if isolated from other members of their community, the effects to their health could be as bad as smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day!
Whilst it’s easy to get stuck in a rut, positive thinking is the best way forward. It’s never too late to find and make new friends, and discover what they may blossom into.
We’ve got those all important tips and tricks on where to find friends and the potential health benefits of investing time in your enjoyment and wellbeing.
Looking for a quick read? You can skip to the bits that are most relevant for what you’re looking for!
The health benefits of reaching out
Finding new friends can not only boost your day to day mood, and reduce feelings of loneliness, it can be beneficial to both your mental and physical wellbeing too.
Sometimes in older age, certain illnesses and types of disease can become more prevalent. It’s not always the easiest topic of discussion, but Age UK have reported that with a growth in the number of people aged over 50 that are predicted to be lonely, it comes with it a 40% increased risk of dementia.
However, it is understood that making friends and having a more active social life can alter the likelihood of issues such as this. A two year long study has identified that those over 60 who have frequent contact within their social groups, could reduce their risk of dementia by 12%. Whilst this is obviously not a guarantee, it can highlight how social interactions could keep your mind sharp and your memory focussed.
Social seclusion later in life can also lead to poorer habits. The British Heart Foundation identifies that these can include aspects such as an increase or taking up of smoking, or eating foods that are less beneficial to your diet and health. These issues are not necessarily direct, but they can bring about illnesses such as heart disease and stroke. By surrounding yourself with friends, they can influence healthier decisions as a collective and can heighten the want to look after your own wellbeing.
A good way to stay healthy and to be more social, is to set up a cooking club! Taking turns to cook, can ease the burden, help with making friends and challenge everyone involved to come up with the most creative and healthy meals! Further to this, it can help you save time throughout the week for other jobs you may need to do or just more time for hobbies and evening events.
The effects of feeling lonely can differ from person to person, and for many, can have a knock on effect to your mental health.
Mind has outlined that one of these knock on effects can include loss of sleep, which can affect how you go about in your day to day functionality.
Social interactions, whether that be from having a regular cuppa, volunteering with others or taking part in a weekly activity or event can help you feel more empowered. It can also aid with you feeling more engaged in your community, and able to talk to someone when you may need the support.
How to make new friends in later life
The older you get, it may feel harder and more daunting to put yourself out there and make new friends. However, opportunities to do so are closer than you think.
One of the first steps to making new friends is getting yourself out there! You don’t need to be a fan of large social interactions, there is likely to be plenty going on in your local area. Have you considered joining a social group that enjoys walking or just sharing a cup of tea in a local centre get together? If that doesn’t take your fancy, why not learn a new skill by joining a class, or perhaps lend a helping hand with some local volunteering.
There are nationwide volunteering schemes that run across the UK, but it’s always worth popping down to your local community centre or high street to see who could do with a helping hand. Volunteering is an easy way to connect with many people within the community, from all ages and walks of life.
Some of the larger volunteering schemes that may be of interest include, Volunteering Matters and Do-It.
Clubs & Classes
If you’re looking to stay active or get fit, there are resources out there that can help you find the class that is right for your ability. Some of these include Age UK and NHS, where you can easily search for what is available in your area.
If an exercise class isn’t quite what you’re looking for, why not learn something new? The University of the Third Age (U3A), is all about people later in life, coming together and learning more in depth regarding the subjects they may be already passionate about or wanting to delve into something new.
If you’re just up for a natter, a cup of tea and maybe some entertainment, it can be easier to find social events that run in your local church or community centre. It’s an easy way to get involved that isn’t energy consuming and can be done at your pace.
However, if you are finding it hard, Age UK, have an online search system that can help you easily find what might be going on in your area. Whilst this tool is easy enough to use, it’s always worth getting another family member involved so they’re aware of where you need to go, and what you may need or want to help you get involved.
Time to Talk Befriending
Time to Talk Befriending is an awesome charity located across Brighton, Hove and Worthing. If you find it difficult to get outside of your home, you can utilise TTTB to have someone come and keep you company, as and when you feel like you may need some company or support. If you prefer to be part of a group, where you can meet even more people from the local area, this option is also available; there always seems to be an endless supply of tea!
Where to find new friends
By getting out and about in your community, you’ll be fast on your way to forging those friendships. However, if it’s not so easy for you to get into your local areas, harnessing the use of social media can be a really important tool.
There are many options out there, but Facebook is one of the easiest ways that you can keep in contact with friends, family and members of your community. It’s a free service to use and you can connect with people all over the globe. It’s also a great way of organising to get people to come to you for a cup of tea!
There are plenty of groups you can join, including the Over 60s Friendship Group UK, where you can arrange meet ups, and get together with people in your local community. Maybe you just want someone to talk to online that is in the same position as you? This is the perfect place to meet them!
Another site that is popular with the over 55s, is the SilverSurfers online community. You can find news and information that might be relevant for what you’re looking for. Further to this, there is also an opportunity to engage with forums, chats and spaces where you can showcase your creativity!
Staying Safe Online
However, whilst we’re always advocates of making new friends and reaching out, it’s always important to stay safe while you’re online. If you’ve met a friend online, don’t invite them to your home, always meet in a neutral space. It’s also a good idea to either bring a family member along with you!
Another aspect you must avoid, includes not giving out any of your financial information, no matter how much you trust someone, or how legitimate it may appear. One other safe, social networking tip we can give you, is to be mindful of the links that you’re clicking on - you never know where it might go or what it can do to your computer!
Age UK have made a quick guide on what to look out for, when staying safe online.
Dating later in life
If you’re looking to find new friends, it could also be the perfect opportunity to branch out a little bit further. If you’ve been considering starting dating, friends of friends is often the perfect place to begin; you have that mutual connection, and it may not feel quite as overwhelming.
However, if you’re seeking to meet someone new, via online dating, Age UK has a step by step guide to setting up your new dating profile.
As previously mentioned, it’s important to stay safe online. Make sure you always meet in a neutral space, let someone know where you are at all times, avoid going home with them after your first meeting and never give out any sensitive information, especially over the internet.
With this in mind, there are some great dating websites, which are perfect for all ages, as well as for those who are keeping themselves exclusive to the over 50s.
From volunteering, learning something new and getting involved with Time to Talk Befriending, there are plenty of ways you can go about meeting new people. Who knows? Some of them might end up being life-long friends.
Why not check out some of our other guides and checklists that could provide some inspiration if you’ve been thinking about making some quick and easy changes towards your health and lifestyle.
Perhaps you’re thinking about relocating? Here at Homewise we aim to make this transition as smooth as possible. Whether you’re feeling apprehensive or excited and are looking for savvy tips and tricks to help you in your move, we’ve got you covered.
Are you planning on moving, or struggling to find the perfect home? If you are over 60 years old, get in touch with our team today - we could give you all the information you need to find your next home.
Here at Homewise, we’ve been providing our customers with the tools to settle into retirement for nearly 50 years!
Give us a call on 0800 043 4488.