With another new year ushered in, January offers a clean slate that gives young and old the opportunity to set new goals, re-establish priorities and work to create a better life. Numerous studies have shown that social interaction is vitally important to our overall health and well-being, especially in older age. But women over the age of 50 who have devoted their adult lives to raising children, taking care of aging parents or building a career, may discover they have let important friendships slide over the years.
But thanks to online groups like Finding Female Friends Past Fifty on Meetup, creating a tribe or friend group in older age is just a little bit easier and can have a significant impact on reducing loneliness and lowering the risk for developing depression. According to a recent New York Times report, finding female friends past middle age when relationships naturally unfold around work or children’s activities, can be difficult for women. But nurturing deeper relationships later in life is crucial for older adults, and women who have been single for many years or who may have recently lost a partner can find a sense of community in friendships with other women.
Not only do adult women friends provide a group to travel, dine or experience cultural events with, but they can also become an extended family that will be there to help should you become ill or injured. Ironically, many women in their 50s, 60s and 70s, who finally have time to do the things they have always wanted to do, now have no close friends with whom to share these experiences.
Although exercise, eating a healthy diet and not smoking may all contribute to longevity and good health, the importance of friendship has not been stressed enough, until recently. The good news is that in the era of social media and online communities, older adults don’t need to stay home alone, they can find a group to belong to even when they may not be inclined towards religious affiliations or volunteer organizations. By admitting to yourself that you are lonely, older adults can start making daily choices to join in life and participate in group activities even if they aren’t really “your thing”; the alternative is another night eating alone. Try inviting the neighborhood gals over for a glass of wine and appetizers, you can even create a Facebook group, and see what develops. Most likely there are many others in the same boat, just waiting for an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and connect. Remember that friendships that cause stress rather than happiness can be linked with chronic illness instead of wellbeing.
Learn more about close relationships and health, longevity and well-being by following this link to research findings by William J. Chopik from the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.