One of the many benefits of a senior living community is the friendly atmosphere and variety of opportunities to connect with others through social activities, common areas, and conversation.
This is important because socializing keeps seniors healthy! Significant research has been done on the importance of socialization to improve the mental and emotional health of seniors.
- A scientific study published in The Journals of Gerontology found that successful senior communities can maximize socialization, happiness, and quality of life.
- According to Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, seniors with high levels of social activity have 43% less disability than those with low levels of social activity, and about half the rate of cognitive decline.
- Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health did a study that concluded strong social ties and consistent interaction with other people helps reduce the risk of depression and dementia in older adults.
- Regular socializing can also have additional health benefits including reduced physical pain, lower blood pressure, and a boosted immune system.
- As we age, we often lose social connections along the way (also known as ‘social capital’) which can hurt our mental and physical health. Fortunately, seniors can improve this by prioritizing friendships and regular socialization.
Senior communities provide great opportunities for socializing. However the move to senior living is often a difficult transition. Even those who are happy with the decision can get overwhelmed and initially withdraw into their own space instead of exploring their new surroundings and meeting fellow residents. It can take time to adjust but we have some good advice to encourage you or your family member to stay social during this new transition to senior living.
Here are some tips for socializing in a new senior living community:
Break the ice by approaching people and exchanging introductions. Shake their hand, tell them your name, and ask theirs. You can tell them when you moved in, where you came from, and remember to ask the other person about themselves too.
If it’s easier, make these introductions on move-in day when your family is there with you. Having the support of loved ones can help us feel more outgoing and talkative with strangers.
Introducing yourself when first settling into your new senior living community will help to facilitate friendships and other daily social interactions. It’s likely that you’ll discover things in common just from these brief conversations and pretty soon, you’ll know everyone by name and they’ll know you too.
Spend more time in common areas, rather than your room or apartment!
Common areas may include the dining area, garden, library, recreation/fitness center, or television room. It’s in these types of areas that you’re likely to encounter more people on a daily basis. Common areas allow you to socialize while doing a regular routine activity like watching tv or eating. Food brings people together so don’t be nervous to sit with new people or join groups in the dining room.
Spending time outside your room gives the opportunity for social interaction. Perhaps spend time in a common area doing an activity you enjoy like reading, a jigsaw puzzle, knitting or other crafts. You can strike up conversation with those around you or simply relax and someone might talk to you.
Remember you can socialize with large groups in these common areas or enjoy time there by yourself or in the company of one other person.
Having conversations with other residents will begin to build friendships and boost your self-esteem in your new community.
Remember that there are different communication styles so be patient with others. Take it easy and slow. Small talk is a wonderful and casual way to get to know others.
Some topics of conversation may include: current events, family, previous field of work, entertainment, travel, or just interesting stories that have happened to you in life.
Be open to trying new activities and expanding your interests.
Pay attention to how other residents are spending their time, and if something interests you then speak up and share your interest or ask if you can join in.
Don’t be afraid to approach new people! Talk to other residents you have not thought to socialize with. Be as welcoming as you can be to your neighbors. Saying “hello” with a wave can make someone’s day and even be the start of a friendship!
Teaming up can help make socializing and participating in group activities easier.
A teammate can be your spouse, your first friend, or a fellow newcomer to the senior community.
Find Groups and Clubs to Join
A great way to interact with other residents is by joining clubs or groups. These can provide regular weekly or monthly scheduled times for social interactions and fun.
Being part of a club or group can help seniors meet new people outside of their existing network and help them feel motivated to go out and engage with one another.
Some groups to join or start may include:
- Walking groups.
- Book clubs.
- Birdwatching groups.
- Gardening groups.
- Movie night clubs.
- Choir or singing/music groups.
Try New Hobbies
A new hobby can be a great way to meet new people. Learning a new skill can also boost brain health and cognitive thinking. Perhaps learning new DIY crafts with others, learning a new language, or new games such as card games or board games.
Get creative and take a look at your community’s activity schedule or list of clubs.
Be Patient and Keep Trying
The transition to senior living may take longer for some than others. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find your new best friends right away. Remember every new person is the chance for a new connection!
The process to find friends and adjust may take a little while. Over time you will get acquainted with other residents and feel more comfortable approaching those you don’t know. Keep in mind that every social interaction won’t be perfect. If someone doesn’t reciprocate your friendliness, move on and be proud of yourself for your efforts to socialize.
Remember to still make yourself a priority by relaxing and enjoy some alone time in your private room or apartment. If you’re feeling isolated despite your attempts, call a family member or friend to catch up.
If you need assistance finding the best senior living community for you or your elderly loved one, Helping Hands for Seniors would love to talk to you.
Please feel free to contact us directly: