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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

An illustrious past meets an exceptional future. We are committed to creating meaningful lives of purposeful engagement for every resident as well as those who serve them.

Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

Posted: Monday, December 23, 2019

Maintaining Social Connections as We Grow Older

Friends are such a blessing to one’s life but as we grow older we might find we have fewer. Our families may also be far away or busy with their own children and careers. Yet it is so important to be aware of the consequences of isolation, and not just if you live alone. 

The impact of a lonely lifestyle can be significant and in some cases even life-threatening.  Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation can have the same effect on your health as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And as we get older, the outcomes can grow more serious.

Key findings for lack of companionship

A 26% increase in the likelihood of mortality

A 29% increase in risk for coronary heart disease  

A 32% rise in stroke risk

Greater risk for depression and possible cognitive decline

Whether you live alone, lose a spouse or friend and as others move away to be closer to their families or are no longer able to stay in their homes, it can be very easy to find yourself isolated.

But there is good news.

There is much you can do to turn your situation around. Growing up and being surrounded by family and friends may have seemed like a natural occurrence but now a little more attention and effort might be required. Here are a few suggestions you may want to try:

1.  Make social connections a priority

Those that study aging and loneliness note that making friends and a place for them in your life often isn’t a priority for many. It’s easy to get in the habit of fitting friends in when there is available time, but with today’s busy calendars, it’s not surprising when that time doesn’t come. Try scheduling a lunch, coffee or taking a walk with your friends on a regular basis and treat it as the important appointment it is.

2.  Join in social activities

Is there a sport you enjoy or a game you like to play? Look for opportunities that require a team or at least one other person, such as playing chess or bridge. It can be easy to slide into isolation and even easier to stay there if you’re not careful. Make it a goal to get out more and to socialize with others every week if possible, but at least one day every month. One of the easier ways is to take part in activities that you enjoy as you’ll be meeting people there who already have similar interests.

3.  Be proactive

If you’re feeling lonely or have suffered losses that have left you without a strong social network, remind yourself not to wait for someone to arrive on your doorstep. Take the time to think through what you want and how you might make that happen. If you’re an introvert, it doesn’t mean your goal needs to be surrounding yourself with people, but try to have at least one or two friends you can really rely on and make social connections with others.

4.  Be a friend

If you find going out and meeting people to be a challenge or a little too far out of your comfort zone, one of the easiest solutions is to find volunteer opportunities. Not only do they provide a natural circumstance for meeting others, it also takes the focus off of you and any self-consciousness you may be feeling. And of course, while you are taking active steps to fight against loneliness, you are also accomplishing something worthwhile and helping someone else.

5.  Fight back against the stigma of loneliness

Being alone and being lonely are two separate things, but if you find yourself alone a majority of the time, be cautious of what may be happening. As humans, we actually need social connections. But people can feel as if something is wrong with them or embarrassed if they don’t have many friends. It’s important to realize that loneliness is actually a normal human response, according to Amy Yotopoulos at the Stanford Center on Longevity. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you but that there’s something you need to do.

6.  Get outside help if needed

For some people, getting older and the challenges it may present are too much to handle alone. Depression in seniors is real and should be taken seriously. If you feel that you haven’t or aren’t able to change your mood or situation, call your doctor or other medical professional to discuss your situation. There is help available.

7.  Consider retirement living

One comment almost everyone makes about 55+ or senior living communities is that it is an almost guaranteed way to make friends. The people there have been in the same place where you stand now. Everyone has a similar story and are facing similar challenges. During your working years, it was easier to form relationships with those you saw almost daily, but that can go away when you retire. The activities provided at these communities make meeting people natural. Without the awkwardness you may feel when trying to get to know someone, it’s so easy when you’re enjoying an activity together.

Westminster at Lake Ridge Can Help

We don’t just provide a place for you to live but one that inspires you to continue living your best life. Our focus is on engaged living. We make the opportunities available so that you can easily make soon-to-be-old new friends. Sharing your life is simple when you take part in the hobbies you loved but didn’t have the time for. And don’t underestimate the joy of just sitting back and relaxing with a good glass of wine and great conversation.

At Westminster we offer everything you need to embrace life to the fullest, including:

Bright and spacious apartments and cottages in varied sizes from one bedroom to 2 bedroom and den

Kitchens plus chef-prepared meals available for your preferences

Diverse social, spiritual, recreational and educational programs

Local scheduled transportation for shopping and religious services

Utilities included

On-site security 24/7

Emergency call systems with on-site nurse responses 24/7

Guest apartments available for visiting family and friends

We know the advantages and benefits of social and group activities that help keep both the mind and body active and healthy. At Westminster at Lake Ridge, we provide a full calendar of social, recreational, educational, cultural and spiritual programs in all of our communities. Making friends and staying engaged has never been easier.

You’ll find all the reasons to look forward to growing older here. Please call (703) 794-4631 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.

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