Many of the factors that play a role in healthy aging are commonly known: exercising, eating a balanced diet, and getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep per night. Each is important at every stage in life. For older adults, friendships also play a role. Having a strong, supportive circle of friends might help you live a longer, healthier life.
Experts say staying connected with friends usually means you will socialize more frequently and stay actively engaged with your community. You’ll probably be more motivated to stay on track with health screenings and other self-care. Each of these promotes better overall physical and mental health.
By contrast, older adults who are isolated are more likely to live a sedentary life and develop health problems. Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression are just a few that are common among seniors who suffer from loneliness.
Under the Influence: How Friends Influence Health
It’s also important to surround yourself with the right friends as you grow older. If your friends are healthy eaters, for example, you are more likely to be mindful of your diet as well. But the reverse is also true.
If your friends are smokers or heavy alcohol consumers, you are more likely to indulge too. Those negative habits are linked to increased rates of cancer, high blood pressure, strokes, and other potentially life-limiting illnesses.
Being exposed to secondhand smoke is also dangerous for your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke is linked to lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Rebuilding Social Networks
Many seniors find their social circle decreasing for reasons beyond their control. A friend might retire and move away to live closer to their adult children and grandchildren. Others retire and relocate to a warmer climate. Another reality older adults face is friends pass away more often than in younger days.
These losses mean a senior must find new avenues for meeting people and rebuilding their social circle. A few to explore might include:
- senior groups at your church or synagogue
- dining with friends, family, and neighbors
- volunteer opportunities at a local nonprofit
- programs for older adults at your local YMCA or fitness center
- book club at the local library or bookstore
- continuing education classes and workshops
- volunteer docent programs at a local art museum
- interest groups, such as a garden club or photography club.
Moving to an independent or assisted living community is another way to increase your social circle. Residents soon find friends who support one another through life’s ups and downs. Older adults who live in a senior community can also participate in a variety of life enrichment programs designed to nurture the body, mind, and spirit.
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