Active Adult Communities

8/11/2020 | By Annie Tobey

Friendships give meaning to life: from our earliest playmates and school chums to those adult relationships that bring us laughter, joy, and support. The benefits of friendship reach beyond simply spicing up our lives, but they can fade as we age. We retire and lose touch with our coworkers; friends move away as they retire or to be closer to grown children; we or our friends become physically disabled or ill; and yes, some friends even pass on. Fortunately, senior living communities provide opportunities to forge new relationships and enjoy the benefits of friendships.

Friendships Stave Off the Ill Effects of Loneliness

Close relationships fill us with positive feelings – and without such relationships, loneliness can infiltrate our lives and lead to negative health consequences.

People who struggle with loneliness have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, sleep issues, anxiety, depression, addiction, and suicide. It can adversely affect the immune system. Lonely people may even live shorter lives. In fact, social isolation can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and have a greater impact on mortality than obesity, excess alcohol consumption, or sedentary living.

Friendships Help Us Through Rough Times

In his years as a physician and surgeon general of the United States, Vivek Murthy noticed that people who are able to recover from problems such as addiction to opioids, alcohol, and other substances have one thing in common. Nearly all had a “trusted relationship or a trusted group of close family or friends,” he said in his book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.

The Human Resources and Services Administration noted another example of how relationships help: “Friendships … can speed recovery in those who fall ill.”

Ironically, said Murthy, loneliness fuels more loneliness. “This is one of the conundrums of loneliness, one of the paradoxes which leads people to spiral deeper and deeper into a well of loneliness as they withdraw further and further in shame because they’re lonely and end up moving further away from the human connections that they need,” Murthy said on NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast.

Relationships Contribute to Long, Healthy Lives

Writer Dan Buettner highlighted five parts of the world where people live the longest. Buettner discovered that people in these communities, across the globe, share nine habits. Three of these habits include relationships. Healthy, long-living people belong to a faith-based community, make their loved ones a priority, and belong to social circles that support healthy behaviors.

Senior Living Communities Fill These Friendship Needs

Making new friends after retirement can prove challenging. This is where a quality senior living community comes to the rescue. These communities don’t merely provide for physical health and sustenance, they are tuned in to the emotional needs of their residents, too. Senior living communities provide:

Ready Access

Remember school days – especially college – when your friends lived nearby, where you could easily meet up at mealtime, for shared activities, or just to shoot the breeze? At senior living communities, residents have ready access to people in the same stage of life. Everyday activities are easy and fulfilling; these include dining together, strolling up the hall to a friends’ room, or gathering for a card game.

Social Directors

Communities employ staff to plan activities for residents – like Julie on the ’70s to ’80s sitcom, The Love Boat.

Activities, Outings, Groups, and Clubs

In a given week, a community might offer art classes, woodworking, lectures, yoga, wellness classes, concerts, plays, shopping, and so much more. Many of these activities are on site, easy to get to. Others are off campus, with transportation provided. All are accessible – including with accommodations for people with disabilities. And all are with other people, who share interests and help meet the need for connection and friendship.

Volunteer Opportunities

Besides being so very fulfilling, volunteering of time and talents can help build personal connections.

Gathering Places

When residents pursue their hobbies at community gathering places, they have the chance to meet people who share their interests. Think walking trails, fitness centers, pickleball courts, game rooms, libraries, art studios, and music rooms.

Two pairs of friends illustrate the benefits of life in senior communities. Katie and Reba met while traversing the walking path at Glen Eddy independent living community in Niskayuna, New York. Now they’re close friends as well as regular walking buddies. Ray and John met when Ray was asked to welcome John to The Glen at Hiland Meadows in Queensbury. The two men share a love of sports. Together, they have played poker and pool, and they’ve worked jointly on jigsaw puzzles at the senior living community where they both live.

“Just as hunger and thirst are our body’s ways of telling us we need to eat and drink, loneliness is the natural signal that reminds us when we need to connect with other people,” wrote Murthy in Together. Senior living communities can help satisfy that need.

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey