As a child in school or youth in college, we generally make friends quickly. Making friends is also not as difficult as a parent of growing children. However, as a senior without a partner, we may find it even more challenging to make new friends.
As we grow old, many of us may find it a little difficult to develop new acquaintances when we are lonely. Not only that, you may have fewer opportunities to meet new people, but also you may become more hesitant to form new relationships.
Through this article, let us try to understand what are the things that seniors without a partner can do.
All our lives are unique in many senses. But one thing that is common to all of us: a need for social interactions. As a young child, we start our social businesses within the family, and then we make friends, go to college and make more friends. After a few years, a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, or wife becomes our lifelong companion.
However, this companionship may not remain lifelong because not all of us live until the same day. Moreover, sometimes, instead of a partner’s death, some other life events may make us lonely.
While living as a senior without a partner can be challenging; not having a social network can be detrimental to our psychological and physiological health. I recently heard that living alone without social connections is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. I couldn’t agree with this more.
In few cases, not having adequate social interactions can also increase the chances of getting high blood pressure, heart disease, cognitive decline, dementia, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
Conversely, our social connection not only helps us survive but also thrive. Seniors who have opportunities to engage with others in meaningful, productive activities remain happy and tend to live longer with a sense of purpose.f
Besides relying on our family network in the absence of a partner, seniors can do many other things for their mental and physical well-being. The list includes
- participating in various activities,
- finding a new part-time job,
- reactivating old connections,
- pursuing an old interest,
- conducting or participating in games alone or with other seniors in the community,
- writing a book,
- interacting on Social Media,
- start or become part of Meetup groups, and
- senior dating
Let’s try to get a little deeper into each of these topics:
Participation in various activities
While social interactions are vital to our health, self-esteem, and longevity, other activities can help maintain our well-being and improve our cognitive abilities. You can see a few activities listed below:
· Adult Education
If you inquire about the adult education programs at your local community college, you may find classes that allow seniors to audit regular classes for free. Also, some of these programs are designed specifically for seniors.
Enrolling in an educational program helps one learn newer things and is a great way to meet others of similar age groups and interests.
· Fitness / Yoga Class
Join a gym, but don’t just spend time on the machines. Join a yoga class, aqua aerobics, or senior Zumba class, so you see the same people every week. Many gyms in your community may offer activities specifically for seniors.
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· Faith-based Activities
Many temples, churches, mosques, and synagogues make it a point to welcome seniors. They also help seniors in a community form groups and organize activities, social events, and day outings.
Moreover, spending some time in spiritual places may help seniors resolve many mental conflicts, leading to better psychological health.
As we grow, besides age, another thing we get is experience. Seniors possess a wealth of life experience, which is not a commodity. While there are several opportunities for seniors to volunteer, a few of the easiest ones are listed below.
|Habitat for humanity||Active and handy individuals can volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.|
|Food banks||Most of the large cities have food banks. They are always in need of volunteers to help them pack food items for community distribution.|
|Local Library||Seniors with mobility issues can conveniently volunteer at the local library or museums.|
|NGOs||There are also many NGOs or social organizations created for a specific purpose. For example, depending on your interest, you may connect with an organization that works for children or works for climate change.|
|Other Community Services||Contributing to the upkeep of a local park or a recreational area is also a great way to give back to the community. To your surprise, you may find that the local churches, animal shelters, and schools are always looking for people to help.|
· A trip with other seniors
If you’re fit and active, this is one thing I recommend all seniors to explore – having a trip with others in the same age group. Signing up for trips is an excellent way to meet others.
Many organizations organize active outings and adventures for seniors. However, if it is beyond your budget, taste, or comfort, you can manage simpler ones like walking tour or hiking on a nearby trail.
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Getting a Part-Time Job
Joining corporate boards or providing high-end consulting is an excellent way for senior executives to spend their time sharing their expertise with the younger lot.
However, in addition to well-educated seniors, other retired seniors can also explore opportunities for paid work. Even though it is for a few hours per week, it will reconnect you with the people in your work field.
Reactivate Old Connections
While finding new friends in old age may be difficult, reactivating old connections may be a little more comfortable. Reconnecting with high-school or college friends from high can be great fun.
You may think that your old friends with whom you have not spoken for decades may have forgotten you. For all you know, they might be as nervous to call you as you are. You may get a surprise when you hear the same excitement on the other side. Sometimes an old friend comes back with even stronger emotions.
People almost always like to stay connected – and you never know where a new contact will take you.
Pursue Long-Standing Interest
In our childhood or youth, we have many things to do, but time is limited. Things reverse in old age, particularly after retirement, when we have a lot of time but very few things to do.
Here, you may pick up an old hobby or interest and pursue it as much as you can. It can be anything like gardening, knitting, music, chess, tennis, golf, culinary, painting, or reading. You may also go to concerts, attend lectures, learn tai chi, or conduct cooking classes – things which you couldn’t do when you were young and had full-time responsibilities.
Here as well, while you are pursuing old or new interests, connect with others, not only from your age group but also from other age groups.
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Participating in Games
While it is always fun to play team games with others, there are also a few games that seniors can play alone:
- Cards – easy and fun
- Crosswords – they keep the brain buzzing with word puzzles.
- Sudoku to keep our find forever young
- Jigsaw and Logic puzzles that make you think out-of-the-box
- Online games such as Solitaire, Minesweeper, etc.
Nowadays, most of the games that require two people to play can also be played by one person as the computer simulates the other person.
Writing a book
You may have read many books in your life and gained a lot of knowledge and experience. Did you have felt an urge to put all your learning, knowledge, and experiences on paper and share it with others?
If yes, this may be the time to do that. You may start writing your thoughts in a diary. If you find it challenging to sit for a long time and write, there are other tools you can use. You may use a Dictaphone or a simple voice recorder to record your thoughts and then use a voice to text transcriber to put that in written words. It can be a way to long-term engagement, leading to great accomplishment once you complete the book.
Engaging with Social Media
When social media started a decade ago, none of us knew that it would turn out to be so useful in all ways of our lives. After a decade of young users, no social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter attract many seniors. As it did to the younger generation, it is making connecting with other seniors much more comfortable than it was before.
However, don’t let all kinds of unverified information on social media affect your psychological well-being. Publishing content on the internet is as easy as writing your diary, without any verification by anybody.
So, remember you are there to connect with people, not gain knowledge. To learn something new or gain knowledge about a specific topic, you should use verified sources on the internet.
Also, while connecting in a virtual world is great, it is not replacing developing in-person connections. So use social media judiciously, don’t let yourself become a social media addict.
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Meet New People through Meetup Groups for Seniors
While also a type of social media platform, Meetup.com differs from others because its purpose is to promote in-person meetings between participants. It helps connect individuals with mutual interests or goals. For example, here, you can find other seniors who also love to read books as you do or follows some other passion like technology or photography.
Once you have signed up on Meetup.com, you may search for groups based on location and interests. You can then filter the search by specifying in your search string “senior”.
Your age shouldn’t restrict you from connecting with other age groups because understanding their perspective on any topic will be a learning experience for you
Also, when you attend a meetup event, you will be in the company of strangers. In any social event, you may think that you are the only one that is nervous to talk to others. It is not correct. So, don’t be afraid to connect with strangers. Anyway, the worst that can happen is you may not talk to the other person again, which is the default case if you don’t initiate the conversation.
Ready to Mingle? Try Senior Dating
You may have been single for a long time OR became recently. It would help if you didn’t ignore this option. Many dating sites cater to the needs of seniors.
After losing a partner because of any reason, many seniors may not be interested in beginning a new relationship. However, they should still explore opportunities to meet others online before committing to meeting them in real life.
On the other hand, if you find somebody interesting, initiate a conversation. What’s the worst that can happen – you may not meet that person again in life, which is the case anyway if you don’t talk to the person. Whether looking for a romantic partner, or just a friend, dating sites can be a source of great fun.
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All said and done, to do anything mentioned above, you will have to prepare yourself to take a step. It is also not limited to seniors but all the age groups that we start believing that everybody around us has all the friends they need. As a senior, you may need to make a few changes in your outlook towards others.
Be open to new conversations and accept invitations or meetings or parties. Also, when you meet someone you like, invite them to meet again.
Meet Your Neighbors
Do you even know your neighbors? Probably not. You may also invite a few of your neighbors over a coffee or dinner.