The friendships you build throughout your life are all significant. But, as you age, they seem to become increasingly important. Having a good set of friends around you as you reach your elderly years can offer benefits, not just in terms of dispelling loneliness, but also in improving your overall health.
So, what is the importance of friendships for the elderly, and how can you support your loved ones as they continue to live a socially rich life?
Importance of friendship
One of the most significant benefits that stem from having close bonds with others is that it reduces any potential feelings of loneliness.
As we all grow older and enter retirement, it’s likely that we’ll find ourselves with more time on our hands that family can’t always fill. As a result, loneliness can begin to develop. Feelings of isolation can be incredibly harmful to our health with research from Brigham Young University, finding that it can increase the likelihood of premature death.
In addition to this, loneliness can also lead to feelings of depression and anxiety, which can leave individuals feeling disinterested in typical day to day activities. However, by developing friendships with other people, a person will feel an increased sense of belonging and purpose, along with improved confidence and self-worth.
Friendships can also play an essential part in a person’s ability to cope with trauma. Having someone available to provide support and talk through emotions can be crucial in dealing with upsetting events such as divorce, serious illnesses or the death of a loved one.
But, most importantly for those experiencing dementia, friendships can support sharp cognitive skills as being able to talk and interact with people can stimulate the brain, exercising the mind.
Some older people can begin to find it harder to nurture their existing friendships as travelling independently can become more difficult, as can communication with disorders such as dementia impacting on cognitive ability.
However, it’s important to remember that it’s not about having lots of friends. Instead, many older people receive the best benefits from having closer connections with a few people, while others will benefit more from being around other individuals.
So, try to support your loved one in being able to communicate with existing friends, or find scenarios where they can be surrounded by others.
Meeting new people
If your loved one is beginning to feel lonely, it can be much simpler than you think to find social scenarios for them to engage with.
Consider finding community events, groups or day centres that they can become a part of. These boast loads of benefits for older people as they are often packed full of activities and likeminded people, supporting elderly individuals to stay healthy and meet new people.
There are also plenty of befriending services available for those who may find it hard to get out and about. For example, Age UK offer both face-to-face befriending and telephone friendship calls.
Alternatively, if they also need additional care and support, it may be time to explore the option of moving into a care home. Many residential homes support individuals in remaining independent and healthy but provide them with the opportunity to meet new people, take part in social interactions and enjoy plenty of activities.
Based in Ixworth, just outside of Bury St Edmunds, The Beeches provides specialist dementia support and a daily roster of activities to enjoy, creating a safe and supportive environment to meet others and live happily.
If you’re interested in hearing more about The Beeches Residential Home, our team would be happy to talk to you. Contact us on 01359 230773 or email firstname.lastname@example.org