Senior Companionship: The Importance of Togetherness
There are some things you can’t do alone, such as give a hug or sing a duet. There are some things that you shouldn’t do alone, such as grieve or cut your hair. There are other things you can do alone but when done together instead, become magical.
Shared experiences offer seniors companionship, which is especially beneficial.
At The Kensington, we have a healthy respect for independence and privacy, but senior companionship is an integral part of the lifestyle. And it’s good for the heart.
Sadly, some aging loved ones feel like they are too old to make new friendships. The truth is that the opportunities to connect and form new friendships are plentiful, especially for those living in community with other seniors.
Ways Seniors Connect and Form New Friendships
Be Open to Invites
Often all that is required to make new friends is to say, “Yes!” Getting out and about will increase the opportunities to meet others that share similar interests. The next time an organization or an acquaintance invites you to an event, even if you’re skeptical, take a chance and accept.
Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
Vincent Van Gogh, Artist
No One Has Too Many Friends
Sometimes we think, as we get older, that we’re done making friends. Can you have too many friends? Most of us probably don’t go on the hunt for new friends, but it’s stimulating when you add someone new to our circle of friends. They often bring new ideas, life, and spark to everyone in the group.
Seniors, with all of their knowledge and experience, bring so much value to the workplace. Continuing to work, in some capacity, has lots of benefits for socialization and companionship. A part-time job, especially in service sectors, or even taking on responsibilities in a volunteer or civic organization can introduce you to new friends.
Pursue Old and New Interests
We all have interests that we never had time to pursue or new things we’d love to try. Now is the time. In retirement, we often have extra time to devote to personal interests that got pushed ahead in the hustle and bustle of working and raising a family. As you begin to explore and enjoy these interests, you’re going to meet new people.
Taking a class or learning something new is a great way to engage with others. Often local colleges, universities, community centers, and assisted living communities offer a full schedule of learning opportunities.
Our communities are full of events, activities, and causes that are open to anyone. They create lots of opportunities to fill our schedule with fun things to do. They can also be opportunities to plan, work, and promote these activities – creating even more chances to meet new people.
Those who have never known the deep intimacy and the intense companionship of mutual love have missed the best thing that life has to give.
Bertrand Russell, Nobel Prize for Literature
Engage on Facebook, Yes Facebook
Can you believe it? Social media can be used for good. In all seriousness, Facebook and other similar social media platforms can be helpful in assisting less mobile seniors to reach out and stay connected to friends and family.
Many wonderful organizations are always at a deficit for hands and feet to do their good works. Seniors can be incredible resources as smart, experienced volunteers. The benefit to the senior volunteer is that they get to work alongside passionate and often multi-generational new friends.
Hit the Gym
There’s lots of research to support the importance of physical activity to quality of life. Moving and exercising is just the beginning of the health benefit. Taking part in exercise classes or even just taking a daily walk can introduce us to new exercise companions.
Exercise Your Faith
Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship are often welcoming and warm places to meet and get socially involved with new friends. If you are of faith or even curious about religion, this can be a great place to meet new people.
What are the Benefits of Senior Companionship?
Numerous research studies demonstrate that social relationships over isolation improve long-term health. Senior companionship, social connectivity, and getting involved in an active community help keep loneliness and depression in check – improving overall health and quality of life.
Gives a Sense of Peace
As we age and our strength, mobility, and memory begin to naturally deteriorate, living in a community and having companions gives us peace of mind. Seniors feel supported and secure when friends and family surround them.
Keep an Active Mind
Friends keep our minds active and challenged in a variety of ways. Senior companions can help engage our minds in simple ways like playing games, reminiscing and telling stories, or maybe even arguing over politics and kids these days.
Too many of the elderly do not have the family or the communal attachments necessary to feel valued; too many are widowed or otherwise alone; too many live in surroundings where they are essentially without the companionship necessary to stimulate a mind in danger of deteriorating.
Sherwin B. Nuland, Author and taught at Yale School of Medicine
It’s Good for Your Heart
Could loneliness be as bad for you as smoking? A recent Harvard Medical School article highlights over twenty-three studies involving 181,000 adults that found exactly that. What’s more, loneliness is also linked to weaker immune systems and high blood pressure. Researchers are concluding that friendships and senior companionship might be an effective way to prevent disease.
Helps You Bounce Back
Relationships have also been shown to be an essential part of recovery from a variety of health conditions – addiction, brain injury, and even pain. Having a community of encouraging friends can help us as work through and recover from the variety of health challenges we inevitably experience as we age.
Companionship provides the social connection that keeps isolation and depression at bay. It lowers the risk of developing heart disease and protects against dementia. It accelerates healing after surgery or illness. And, it provides peace of mind, which contributes positively to our overall health and well-being.