Building a Strong Social Network as an Older Adult
As we grow older, we often experience losses. It might be a spouse, a close friend or even the loss of our health. These changes often require us to find ways to make new friends and learn new hobbies on our own. “The Bronx Aging” study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showcased just how important it is for us to do so. Researchers found that participating in leisure activities can help improve physical fitness and decrease the risk for developing dementia. Finding ways to do that later in life might seem daunting. In the final segment of our Staying Social Later In Life series, we share ideas for building a social life as a senior citizen.
8 Ways for Seniors to Connect with their Communities
Here are a few suggestions that will help older adults connect with opportunities for learning and building new friendships:
1. Develop an interest in a new hobby or skill or pick up one that you let go when you were younger. A great way to do that is by taking a class. Community education programs and local colleges offer classes ranging from watercolor painting to healthy cooking. Signing up for one will provide you with an opportunity to take on a new challenge and to develop new friendships.
2. Join your local senior center or the older adults group associated with your church or synagogue. Most have activities scheduled at least once a week for you to enjoy. Classes range from computer education to dancing and chair yoga. These activities will give you the opportunity to make new connections and to improve your mental and physical health. Dancing, for example, has been shown to be the best form of physical exercise for decreasing the risk of dementia.
3. Volunteer for a cause you believe in. This will provide you with the mental health benefits derived from helping others while giving you the chance to expand your social network. If you aren’t sure how and where to get started, VolunteerMatch.org can help. They match volunteers with charitable organizations in their community. You can use your zip code to search for projects near you.
4. Find a book club to join. Many bookstores host them, as do local libraries. You can use several online organizations to search for a book club in your area. One is MeetUp and another is Reader’s Circle.
5. Become a mentor. There are a variety of organizations looking for retirees to share their skills. Boys and Girls Clubs and local schools often need help tutoring students after school. SCORE is another avenue to explore. They match retired businesspeople with new entrepreneurs who need help.
6. Get out and see the world. Traveling is a great way to make new acquaintances and learn new things. One of the best ways to do that is by joining a travel group such as Road Scholar. They have a variety of domestic and international trips to choose from including low and moderate activity levels, intergenerational trips, and budget-friendly programs.
7. Fitness organizations are another way to build your network. Most local YMCA branches offer a senior discount in addition to an older adult friendly calendar of events. Silver Sneakers is a fitness organization dedicated exclusively to older adults. They offer fitness activities that take place both indoors and outdoors. Many health plans also include a Silver Sneakers membership.
8. Red Hat Societies are popular among women over the age of 50. They offer members the chance to connect and enjoy activities ranging from monthly teas to trips to the theater and other community events.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this series. If you have anything to add that might help seniors who are looking for new ways to connect, please share them on our Facebook page.