Senior art class - Making social connections

As you read these words it is likely that, thanks to The Beatles, you cannot help but make connections and sing along to the tune:

There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

The seasons of life carry us all along on our journeys. Some seasons are easier than others; some are endings while others are beginnings. The tougher seasons often have themes of loss and finality. They can make you feel untethered and uncertain. One of the ultimate conundrums of life is that the longer you live, the more change you face; the more years you have under your belt, the more you have had to learn to grow and adapt, even when you are well past the years in your life when this is something you are comfortable doing. In order to experience great love and satisfaction in life; you have to risk experiencing great loss. It can feel like a painful price to pay for having lived well. It can leave you lonely and isolated, unsure, and unhappy. Change is hard when it is something you choose; it is downright scary and uncomfortable when you find your choices feel limited by your circumstances.

You are probably reading this because it relates to a loved one in a time of transition, or maybe you are reading it because you yourself are facing a new beginning. Perhaps you have recently lost your spouse of more than 50 years and you are now facing moving into assisted living care, a nursing home, or even memory care. Perhaps you are no longer driving or feeling any sense of independence. All of these represent changes you likely would not have chosen if given the opportunity, but all of these also represent exactly that – opportunity. This is an opportunity to make a fresh start, make connections, and to build a future that fulfills your needs emotionally, socially, intellectually, and physically.

Finding new zest for life and making social connections in senior living

While it may be easy to drift into feelings of sadness and despair, the alternative of embracing a new, fresh start in a senior living community (or on your own) allows you to love living and love the years you have ahead. A new zest for life can be found through the creation or strengthening of social connections. The concept of social connection is about feeling close to or linked with other people. It can come from feeling loved, valued, or cared for by those in your life. Social connection is essential, at all ages, to maintain health and well-being.

Social connections can be built in many ways. Some ideas you may use to begin building your new (or renewed) social and emotional support system include joining an exercise group, which would also have benefits for healthy senior living, or attending a class or support group, which would provide emotional and intellectual stimulation in addition to social connection. Perhaps you could begin to volunteer in some capacity, contributing to the greater good of your community. You may also find satisfaction in learning a new hobby or gaining some “tech” skills. Either of these could broaden a social network and provide for interaction in a novel way. Even taking the step to introduce yourself to a new neighbor or mixing up your daily routine could bring new opportunities for friendship and discovery into a changing life. Connections are also beneficial when they are with animals, nature, or a belief in a higher purpose.

Connecting with your future can also come from reinventing your past. The skills and talents you have developed and honed over a lifetime might be useful in a new environment. Maybe a part-time job could utilize established skills, while also providing a small amount of income. Even involvement in the arts could be a natural way to use former public speaking skills either on stage or as a docent at a local art museum.

Group of senior men making connections

Benefits of making social connections

The benefits of broadening social connections mean that daily living takes on a new structure. You will find that your mind stays active and you are better able to maintain physical health. You will learn more about your community and discover a new and ongoing purpose.

Seniors who live on their own may find that maintaining social connection is challenging. If living alone, you have to be deliberate about going into environments that provide for interaction on a meaningful level. This is likely more than just grocery shopping or running errands. It means putting yourself out there and taking a risk that a connection can and will happen. Those who reside in senior living communities should have many opportunities within their community for mingling with others – from the staff who assist in daily life to fellow community members at meals and activities. These fellow residents are likely feeling the same need to develop purposeful passion to make future years and crossroads exciting, fulfilling, fun, and rewarding. The reminder that you are not the only one striving for fresh meaning may be motivational.

Anne Frank, while facing the extreme horrors of her reality said, “What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet.” A perfect suggestion of all that can still be purposeful, regardless of your season in life.

Sources: Senior Navigator | National Institutes of Health

If you, a family member or friends are in need of support for healthy aging, contact us, we are here to guide you in navigating your roadmap to aging well.

Cindy Koch

Cindy Koch, MA

Certified Placement & Referral Specialist (CPRS) | Owner

Aging at 5280 is here to help elders and their families navigate through the healthcare system and customize a plan to meet their needs.