It’s in our nature to be social, and as we age we spend time forming relationships and friendships with family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and more to connect. This connection is why friendships are an important element of our life, as they play a significant role, positively impacting our health and wellbeing.

Studies have shown how important friendships are for older people, with one study even reporting that as we get older our friends have a bigger impact on our health and wellbeing more so than our family.

The benefits of friendship on the health and wellbeing of older people

Preventing loneliness and depression

Older people who find themselves isolated from friends or family can lose their sense of purpose which in turn, can cause them to feel lonely or depressed without these interactions. This is why it’s important for people, of all ages, to stay active within their community and engage in events to keep these connections.

Friendships are good for your brain health

Friends often have common interests, sharing these helps to keep your brain active and stimulates mental engagement. Forming connections with new people allows you to meet people with different interests which will help expand your knowledge of new subjects and you could learn a new hobby which will have an impact on improving your cognitive health.

Friendships are good for your physical health

Your friends’ healthy habits can rub off on you! For example if your friend wants to join a new dance class, sign up to the gym, or go for a walk and they want a buddy to go along with them, it can help with encouraging and supporting each other’s fitness to do it together.

Friendships can help lower stress

When you meet up with friends, you like to have a good laugh, right? Well when you socialise with friends, there are a number of hormones that are triggered which help to improve mood and lower stress levels.

With good friends you can live longer

Many research studies have shown that having good friends improves health, reduces health problems and you live longer. Indeed, one study highlights that lack of good friendships can increase the risk of premature death by up to 50%.

How can older people preserve friendships?

As we get older, we can find times where we drift apart from our friends, and with lives becoming busier with a number of things like health conditions, children or grandchildren or working, it can sometimes feel harder to maintain friendships.

Making time and maintaining contact is an important factor in friendships, as if you want to remain friends you should try and speak and catch up regularly. For example, if you live in a different town you could try and meet them halfway somewhere or if they come into town you could try and meet up.

With technology we no longer have to let things like mobility or distance become a factor in how often we can ‘meet’ with friends. You can do video calls via Facebook, WhatsApp or Skype, so you can catch up virtually, or even just a regular phone call.

How can I, as an older person, make new friends?

  • Take up a new hobby or spend more time doing a hobby you love – always wanted to try something new, or was there something you loved doing but other things seemed to get in the way? Well now’s the time to do it and it can be a way to meet new like-minded people with the same interests.
  • Make the first move – making new friends means you have to put yourself out there. Start by taking the initiative and start a conversation, you never know where it might lead!
  • Volunteer – you’ll develop a regular routine, and if you’ve got a passion for something you’d like to help with then you can develop skills and meet new people.
  • Find groups on social media – there’s a lot of groups online where you can meet like-minded people and you might even find people who are local to you and can meet up with at events.
  • Join a club or sports team – why not get fitter or take part in something that helps to stimulate your mind whilst meeting new people?
  • Get involved in your place of worship – if you haven’t been to a church in years, why not go along? You’ll get a chance to socialise with people who share your faith and there’s usually quite a few opportunities to get involved in activities and events.