It is important for seniors to make new friends

OJ and Oscar cuddle together on the couch. Courtesy|Charlotte Foust

When my dog Oscar was a puppy, he was raised around six cats. Count them — six! For whatever reasons, the cats found new homes and Oscar was all alone for about five years. Oscar has many cat-like habits, and we always say he thinks he’s a cat, not a dog. He’s never really been around other dogs. So he wouldn’t really know anything other than cat behavior. This 8-year-old beagle never seemed lonely without all those cats but was home by himself during the day, and we thought he’d like a new pal for company. Enter OJ, a 4-year old white and orange cat who is the most chill cat I’ve ever known. We adopted him a few months ago, and although it was a tough start, Oscar and OJ have become fast friends and are usually found snuggling together on the sofa.

It made me think of seniors making new friends and how challenging that can be. Friendships always change and evolve and even end throughout life. As people age, many of their friends pass away and they are left alone, becoming isolated. The socialization of our seniors is so important, and making new friends is vital to staying active and social, which prevents other issues such as depression and decreased mobility. There is so much information on the internet about making new friends as a senior. I found some tips that may help you, if you’re in the market for new friends — and everyone should be, in my opinion.

First of all, what qualities and traits do you look for in friends? Outgoing? Adventurous? Compassionate? Goofy? Create a list and really think about the kind of people you’d like to have in your life. It’s important to not settle in this department.

Second, follow your interests and hobbies and join a group, class or activity that meets often so you can congregate with like-minded people. If you share a hobby, that goes a long way to creating a good foundation for a friendship.

Third, use technology to connect, such as Facebook, Skype and email. It doesn’t take much to send a message or email just to say hello to an old friend or join one of the many online groups to make a connection. It may be awkward at first, but be patient and keep with it. It will take a little work but will pay off in the end.

The senior centers in the area are great places to meet people. With all the activities and classes at each one, I bet you can find a great group of friends to have fun with. Many seniors are in the same boat of losing friends, so you won’t be the only person looking for a new friend or three. Don’t give yourself an age limit, though. People of all ages have all kinds of different life experiences to share and commiserate on.

I’m not saying you’ll be snuggling on the couch like Oscar and OJ, but the friendships you develop now can combat any loneliness and sadness you may be experiencing. Give it some time, and these new friendships will flourish and enrich your life.

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