The Older We Get, the More We Benefit From Friendship

“Thank You for Being a Friend”

If you’re a fan of 1980s sitcoms, you may recognize that as the theme song from “The Golden Girls.” While the show was (and still is) good for a few laughs, it also serves as an example of why, for seniors, friendship matters so much. Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia may have had their squabbles, but in the end, they were always there for one another.

With February being International Friendship Month, it’s an excellent time for all of us, no matter what age we are, to show our friends we appreciate them. Friends do more than add joy to our lives. Researchers have found that friendship can have long-ranging physical, mental, and emotional benefits and even help us live longer.

While positive friendships enhance well-being for people of any age, the importance of friends may be especially noteworthy for older adults.

Friends for Life May Not Necessarily Be Lifelong Friends

When we’re children, we have myriad opportunities to makes friends at school and through extracurricular activities. As we develop more and more interests, our social circles tend to widen.

As adults, we often make friends through work or, if we have children, we may connect with other parents.

After retirement, though, when the kids are grown and gone from home, and we no longer see work colleagues on a regular basis, it can be more challenging to form new friendships. Paradoxically, this may be the time of life when we most need new friends. 

Why Is Friendship Important for Seniors?

Older adults may not be involved in as many activities that take them outside the home as they once were, and their family members may live far enough away that frequent visits just aren’t feasible.

As the years pass, friends and neighbors may move away, and seniors may find their social circles growing smaller. The loss of a spouse can leave an older adult with few close relationships — especially for women of the baby boomer generation who may have devoted their lives to their families.

Additionally, health concerns can cause older adults to stop participating in activities they once enjoyed and to turn down invitations to social outings. Vision loss, difficulty hearing, diminished mobility, incontinence, depression, and a lack of energy are among the many health reasons older adults might withdraw from family and friends.  

The more isolated they become, the more likely they are to experience loneliness and chronic stress, which may increase their risk for chronic diseases (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and arthritis), depression, anxiety, stroke, dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), and premature death.

Here’s the good news: We can make new friends and derive the positive impacts of friendship at any age. For older adults, friends can:

  • Help them feel connected
  • Give them a sense of belonging
  • Add meaning to their lives
  • Encourage healthy behaviors and habits
  • Bolster their self-esteem
  • Help them maintain their cognitive functioning
  • Provide an empathetic ear
  • Buffer them from stress
  • Help them cope with grief

How Park Senior Villas Promotes Friendships

Instead of apartment homes or casitas, neighborhoods in all four Park Senior Villas communities feature family-style villas. Each villa can accommodate around 10 to 12 residents. Residents enjoy the privacy of their own room and bathroom — though in some cases residents prefer having a roommate and we are happy to accommodate.

The villas each have their own community kitchen, where residents can help themselves to snacks, assist with meals if they want, and dine together. Villas feature a spacious great room where residents can participate in group activities or simply be among their neighbors and friends.

In each Park Senior Villas community, the villas offer amenities such as a fitness room or a salon, and residents from throughout the community are welcome to enjoy the amenities.

This type of living arrangement makes it easy for residents to interact with one another, staff, and family members (their own and those of other residents). Residents can participate in all group activities throughout the community, not just those in their own villa. And we frequently hold community-wide celebrations and events for residents and their families.

While it sometimes takes new residents a little time to adjust, we have found that once they settle in, they enjoy having the option to be part of whatever is going on at their villa or elsewhere in the community. They may not actively participate at first, opting to sit quietly and observe. Eventually, though, they start connecting with others and forming new friendships with their fellow residents and staff members. 

It’s heartwarming to witness these new relationships in the making, and many family members have expressed surprise and delight upon seeing their loved ones connecting with the people around them.

Our Programs Nurture Intergenerational Friendships, Too

It’s good for seniors to have friends of different ages. Being friends with people from younger generations can help older adults stay up to date with what’s going on in the world, keep an open mind to new perspectives, and enjoy some additional levity.  

We invite families to bring their children and grandchildren to the community events we host, and all are welcome to join us for the regularly scheduled activities we have throughout the day.

We also have programs like the one we recently started with Young at HeART Together, a Tucson-area nonprofit organization that promotes interactions between older adults and children. In addition to the children creating heARTwork for residents, they enjoy coming for play-group visits with their “grandfriends.” You can read more about this program in our December blog post.

The benefits of laughing and singing with the children who come to play are undeniable, and residents look forward to the next visit. On a day-to-day basis, though, it’s their senior friends who are most cherished.

Come See for Yourself!

If you’ve been wondering, “Why are friends important for older adults?”, we hope we’ve provided some helpful answers. But there’s no need to take our word for it. We invite you to check out our events calendar, pick an event that interests you, and come visit us at Park Senior Villas!

Featured Image: Stockbroker / Shutterstock