Friendship in old age |© diego cervo – stock.adobe.com
What children and young adults can do with ease seems to be much more difficult for older people: making new contacts and friendships. Friends are becoming more and more important for our well-being, especially in old age. We give you tips on how to make interesting acquaintances even with a more reserved temperament, from which – who knows – real friendships may develop.
It is one of the major problems of aging and the cause of many mental and even physical ailments: Loneliness. Many people have outlived partners and also friends, their own family has lost importance or lives too far away. Certainly, any necessary care is usually well organized, but the emotional exchange, the social closeness and the shared experience of beautiful moments are missing.
Happiness is only real when it is shared
In the meantime, scientific research has also proven what many already suspected. A study from Australia’s Flinders University in Adelaidehas shown that friendships significantly improve emotional and mental health. According to this, contact with friends is said to increase life expectancy by up to 22 percent. Regular meetings, stimulating conversations, and open and trusting interactions help to reduce stress, strengthen personal perceived security, and thus also the immune system.
But contrary to what one might think, regular contact with relatives does not prolong life. Probably because family – unlike friends – are rarely elective relatives. According to health psychologists, it is also not about the number of friends, but solely about the quality of a relationship.
Too high expectations as a friendship killer
There are, of course, very different types of friendship and very different expectations. And it goes without saying: No friendship should be based on the hope of a longer life expectancy. Nevertheless, it is precisely these different expectations that make it difficult to meet new friends. Unlike children, adults are no longer impartial. They carry life, all their experiences, into each new relationship – even at the risk of overburdening it.
The art of this is to withdraw oneself and one’s expectations, to openly engage with others and to take the time so that more can develop from an encounter. The more pressure we put on ourselves and a relationship, the less room there is for development. Above all, one thing is important: get rid of negative thoughts and an overly critical view of yourself. A convincing appearance by no means leads to convincing friendships.
Where to find new friends
There are a variety of ways to make new friends. What they all have in common is the fact that you have to become active yourself:
- revive old friendships
- Use existing circle of friends
- Expanding social networks
In the course of a lifetime we get to know and love a wide variety of people, but unfortunately lose many friends and interesting acquaintances again over the many thousands of everyday problems and hardships. Especially in the rush hour of life, after vocational training to midlife including starting a family, due to a large number of moves and too little time.
Why not reconnect with old ties, track down your schoolmate or an old colleague and contact them by phone or email? If you have been in good contact before, trust gives you a solid foundation to build on and try a continuation of old friendship.
In the same way you can use your existing circle of friends to make new acquaintances. Who says that you can’t even meet someone independently of a common friend? There is a good chance that you will tick similarly and find common topics and interests.
And common ground is what it’s all about. If you have similar interests or hobbies, the first contact is much easier. Therefore, also check your leisure activities and get involved in new social networks. This can be the sports club, a language course, but also voluntary work. Or go on a day trip with a regional bus company. By regular or longer meetings and the occupation with a common topic, a certain proximity places itself over the time of completely alone.
Do not be afraid of the first step
It is important to approach other people with openness and curiosity. This is not always easy for lonely people. For an equal cooperation, one’s own opinion has to be put aside once in a while or a rejection must not be taken personally right away. Above all, it takes a fair amount of courage. Courage to step out of yourself, to overcome your own fear, to see yourself through the eyes of others.