- Socialization is one of the biggest contributors to good health as we age
- The increase in aging at home has led to many seeing fewer people
- When used safely, the internet has great tools for connection, including Facebook Groups
- Senior centers and religious institutions are also good places to explore
The Risks of Loneliness
Socialization is one of the biggest contributors to good health as we age, and its impact can’t be overstated: Social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. One of the most powerful tools for aging well is simply not doing it alone.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Our increasing preference for aging at home means that many of us naturally see fewer people in our day-to-day lives. Here are tips for increasing socialization and boosting your health.
The Internet Is an Amazing Tool for Connection
Assuming you’re well versed on the potential pitfalls surrounding internet safety, it’s one of the best tools for connecting. Between social media, forums, interest groups, and more — not to mention novel technologies like VR that can transport you to faraway places from your living room — the internet makes it easier than ever to engage on topics that you care about. Here are some of the sites we recommend to connect with new people.
You can find Facebook groups for anything, from your favorite hobby to a local community. If you’re looking to connect with older adults more generally, groups like Best Life for Seniors and Seniors Only are active. If you’re an older adult living alone, you might find value in groups like Aging Alone or Elder Orphans. If you’re an active traveler, Traveling Seniors 60+ might be a good fit for you. Many of the best groups form around specific interests you may have, be it a particular music genre, religion, cuisine, or more.
Stitch is an online community for adults 50+ with over 150,000 members. There are virtual and in-person events, discussions, and interest groups. The standard version is free; the premium version is $7/month and gives you access to things like member-only events, groups, chats, messages, and rewards.
Big & Mini is a virtual volunteering platform that connects older adults and younger adults to connect and share wisdom. The service is free, and has more than 6,000 Bigs and Minis across the world. There are only a few steps to getting started — you create an account, complete training, and then get matched based on your interests.
Eldera connects children with vetted older mentors for storytime, activities, and more. Mentors are 60 or older, while children are between the ages of 5 and 18. There is no mandatory or minimum time commitment; most mentors spend between 30 and 90 minutes per week on the platform. And while most mentors meet with the same individual weekly, Eldera also provides the option to meet with many different new mentees as well.
Cirkel is a paid, members-only community that connects professionals across ages and career stages for mutual growth and two-way mentorship. It costs $22/month if you pay annually, or $55/month if you opt to pay monthly (with 50% off the first month). On the first day of each quarter (January, April, July, October), members receive a personalized introduction to another member. Each introduction is based on shared interests and backgrounds, as well as complementary skills and expertise.
Finding In-Person Meetups
In addition to channels for online connection, these digital platforms can help you find meaningful in-person events with people that share your interests:
- Hank: Hank is a community for adults 55+ that facilitates in-person and online meetups. They have dozens of groups centered around different interests, from tennis matches to library tours to coffee chats.
- Meetup: Meetup is another way to find groups and events in your neighborhood. While they’re not specifically geared towards older adults, they have a broad network of people and activities to choose from.
- VolunteerMatch: Volunteering can be an exceptional way to get out and support your local community, and sites like VolunteerMatch can help you find organizations in need near you.
Exploring Your Local Aging Agency
Most communities have a state-supported aging agency that serves older adults in their community. The services offered vary, but can be very robust: everything from helping with meal preparation and delivery to at-home support to community programming.
It’s always worth reaching out to your local agency to get an understanding of what they offer. Eldercare Locator has a zip code search where you can find agencies in your area.
While Stigmatized, Senior Centers Offer Great Support
Senior centers are one of the most widely used services in the U.S. Similar to aging agencies, they’re often state-run or non-profit entities that exist in nearly every community and provide services, activities, and socialization for older adults.
While some feel reluctant to engage with a senior center, many are surprised to find that they offer fantastic services, including meals, transportation support, and volunteer and fitness opportunities. Seniorcenter.us has a list of senior centers by state.
Religious Centers Are Also a Good Place to Look
No matter what type of relationship with religion you have, centers of worship — churches, synagogues, and beyond — are excellent places to meet friends as an older adult. Consider reaching out to a local religious center that feels right to you and learning about what types of programming and groups they have for older adults.
Combining Socialization and Exercise
Combining exercise and socialization is great for cognitive and physical health, so a group fitness class or walk with a friend is optimal across the board. For group fitness classes geared towards older adults, search for a SilverSneakers class near you, or ask your local gym which classes might be good for your individual needs.
- If you’re looking to increase socialization, first think about what types of activities would fit your skill level: Would you enjoy an outdoor walking event, or something less mobile? Does meeting with a group in-person appeal to you? What interests would you like to explore more and bond with others over? Do you have a preference between online and “real-life” interaction?
- Based on your answer to those questions, start to explore available resources. If you’re interested in in-person activities, contacting your local aging agency is a good place to begin. Check out Eldercare Locator to find a list of agencies in your area.
- Explore what senior centers near you offer. Check out Seniorcenter.us to find a list of senior centers by state.
- If you’re hesitant, it can help to start with just one new activity, like an exercise class or meet-up group, or joining an online forum. Once you’ve gotten comfortable, you can continue to add new activities.