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"Dear Jayne: I need advice to help my mom rebuild her circle of friends”

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Dear Jayne:

My mother retired from the nursing profession about three years ago. Several of her closest friends from the hospital retired at the same time. While it seemed like she was settling in to retirement quite nicely at first, things have started to change over the past year. Many members of her circle of friends have started moving away.

I’ve tried to encourage my mom to get out there and meet new people, but I know it’s tough for her. My dad was the gregarious one in the family, and she’s always been a little bit shy. I sense that she is getting to be a little depressed and that she is spending too much time alone in front of the television.

I know there has to be a way for her to connect with other seniors that find themselves in her situation. Do you have any suggestions for how she can find them?

Sincerely,

Stephanie


Making New Friends after Retirement

Dear Stephanie:

Friends play an important role at every stage in life. They are our confidantes when we feel stressed and worried, our partners in exploring new adventures, and a steady influence in daily life. 

Newer research also shows that strong social connections help older adults lead healthier lives. Studies show that having close friends lowers the risk of heart attack, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Seniors who lack those ties experience higher incidences of depression, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The good news is that there are a variety of activities and organizations older adults can participate in that will help them connect with fellow retirees who are also looking to rebuild their social networks.

Here are a few ways your mom can find them:

  • Hobbies and Interests: What hobbies and pastimes does your mother enjoy or want to learn more about? Has she always wanted to learn how to knit? Play the piano? Paint with watercolor? Help her locate classes in her community that allow her to pursue those interests and meet new people. Retirees often make up a larger portion of these learning opportunities simply because they usually have more leisure time than younger adults who are raising families and working. 
  • Join a Senior Group: Another avenue to explore is joining a senior group. It might be a local senior center, a senior group at her church or synagogue or even a retired nurses organization. While it might take a little more courage to attend the first meeting or two on her own, she will likely find others members who are looking for opportunities to make new friends too. Many host monthly gatherings, as well as sponsor excursions to sporting events and other regional destinations.
  • Volunteer for a Charity: Your mom might find purpose and friendship through volunteer work. If she’s always enjoyed spending time with children, for example, an agency that advocates for kids or a non-profit day care might be in need of volunteers. Her local United Way likely has a list of local organizations that are looking for help.
  • Join a Fitness Club: Many YMCA branches and other fitness clubs offer special programs (and prices!) for seniors. They typically range from Chair Yoga to Water Aerobics. You might want to check with your mother’s health insurance provider to see if they offer free or discounted memberships for enrollees through an organization like Silver Sneakers.  However, before commencing any exercise regimens be sure to check with her physician if it is appropriate to do so. 
  • Pet Pride: Pets can help improve a senior’s quality of life in many ways. They make fiercely loyal companions. And pets, especially dogs, also encourage older adults to be more social. If your mother is interested and her budget permits, consider helping her find a dog to adopt. A furry friend that she walks each day and maybe takes to the park each week can help keep her from feeling lonely.

I hope these tips are helpful Stephanie! Thanks for writing to me for advice.

Until next time,

Jayne

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Jayne Sallerson is a warm, enthusiastic and compassionate executive with a heart for working with seniors. Jayne has been in senior care for more than 20 years and she says, “I still love what I do.” At Benchmark Senior Living, Jayne now serves as Executive Vice President. A native of New England, Jayne loves to travel, meet new people, and hang out with her favorite pug, Henry.
Jayne started this blog as a way to share the many questions she and her team get every day with other people looking for answers.