International Day of Friendship was yesterday, July 30th. This day encourages forging friends near and far. Core to developing strong friendships worldwide is the hope of a growing spirit of human solidarity.
Friendships are important for everyone’s health and well being, especially for older adults and seniors.
The day encourages making friends and building relationships with people outside of your own culture, country, or background. Through these relationships, a culture of peaceful and mutual understanding develops.
Making new friends as a senior may require a little extra effort. Unfortunately, as you get older, common life changes such as the loss of a spouse, loss of hearing or vision, retirement, health issues, and mobility can take their toll on your social life and,by extension, your well-being. Loneliness has been linked to a higher risk of cognitive decline, dementia and depression. It also has been linked to heart disease, stroke and blood pressure. In fact, one 2015 study famously concluded that a lack of social connections was as damaging to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.Bottom line? Friends are essential.
Just as loneliness can hurt our health, friendships can actually improve it in multiple ways. Studies have shown that socializing can strengthen the immune system. It can also help us recover more quickly from illness, lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, sharpen memory and even help us get a better night’s sleep. Socializing can also improve our odds of living longer! According to one study, people with strong connections to family and friends have a 50% greater chance of outliving those with fewer social ties.
In honor of International Friendship Day, take some time to reach out to friends that you may have lost touch with. Or, find a community through new hobbies or social organizations to meet new friends!