Making friends and finding the groups where we fit in was so much easier in childhood. You just had to ask someone if they wanted to play, then off you went. As we age, it gets harder to find these friends and groups that help us feel grounded, connected, and loved. Sometimes it can feel impossible.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Support groups, social groups, interest groups, and meet-ups are great ways to keep your village growing throughout your lifetime. A willingness to try new things can lead to incredible success in finding the people who are right for you.
Social clubs can be fun, low-pressure ways for older adults to make friends and find like-minded peers. Finding and maintaining these groups can lead to a happier and more fulfilling life. Chances are that many of those who participate in these groups are looking for fun and friendship, too.
Find Your Group
Senior social groups and opportunities to connect are everywhere. Sometimes it just takes a little digging to uncover them. Here are some great options:
- Senior centers – These centers are in most communities and offer many activities for older adults, including exercise classes, art workshops, educational programs, potluck dinners, and field trips. These activities are often free or offered at a very low cost.
- Interest clubs – Clubs exist for just about any interest or activity, including gardening, photography, reading, playing bingo, and playing card games.
- Exercise classes – Sign up to get physical activity while having fun with others your age. Available classes often include water aerobics, yoga, and tai chi.
- Friendship clubs – These often can be found at houses of worship, libraries, and community centers, and offer activities like mahjong, pool, and bingo.
- Mall walker groups – Many shopping malls open their doors long before the retailers open, providing a safe way for groups of older adults to walk the mall together without worrying about weather, traffic, or lack of seating.
Virtual clubs also can be a great option for those who want to establish connections but prefer to do so online. Several organizations have developed websites to help foster these connections. If you’re open to online friendship, these sites are a great place to start.
- Virtual Senior Center: This well-established community helps older and homebound adults connect and engage with one another.
- Red Hat Society: This women’s group, known for its fun and feisty members, has a strong online community that translates the real-world club experience to the virtual world.
- Toastmasters: The organization offers online groups that provide a fun space to connect with like-minded people who are also working on their writing and delivering speeches.
In addition to finding friendship and camaraderie, social groups have big mental and physical benefits for their members. These can include:
- Less social isolation
- Fun times
- Building close friendships
- Intellectual stimulation
- Reduce stress and depression
- Helping to prevent dementia
- Better cognitive function
- Improved physical health
- Better longevity
- The opportunity to share your skills and talents
Some of the most beneficial groups older adults can join are support groups. These often are led by health care or other professionals and bring together people who have experienced similar challenges. These may include groups focused on people who have experienced cancer, a chronic medical condition, addiction, bereavement, or caregiving.
Support groups that are commonly embraced by older adults include support groups for those experiencing grief and loss, chronic disease, dementia, depression, and stroke survivors.
These groups offer attendees the opportunity to share their personal feelings and experiences. They can provide a cathartic outlet and connection, as well as additional emotional support. The nature of many of these challenges goes together with scenarios such as needing more support than their physician can provide, or a different type of support than their loved ones can offer, many who may not understand the effects of a disease or its treatment.
What It’s Like
The support group format can take many shapes. Many involve face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings, or online communities. The group members provide and receive support and encouragement. While many people may share their stories in the group, attendees are usually not required to speak unless they feel comfortable doing so.
To get the most out of a support group, members should attend regularly, participate in group discussions, be sensitive to other group members, and act if the support group doesn’t feel like the best fit.
Note, support groups are different from group therapy. While both involve groups of similarly experienced people, group therapy is a mental health treatment that takes place under the care of a licensed mental health practitioner.
How to Find Your Group
Support groups may be offered by places such as a hospital, clinics, community organizations, or nonprofit advocacy organizations. They also can be organized by independent groups and run by group members. Start by asking your doctor how you can connect with a support group that may be relevant to your condition. Many people also turn to Google for a quick search of support groups in their local community. Houses of worship also may have connections to their own or community-run support groups in your area. Finally, many support groups also take place online with virtual meetings and information sessions.
There are thousands of in-person and online support groups available for nearly every challenge and condition. All it takes is the desire to get started.
In addition to finding solidarity in the common experience you share with others, support groups have physical and mental health benefits. These can include:
- Finding a sense of empowerment and hope
- Reducing loneliness or isolation
- Lowering stress, depression, fatigue, or anxiety
- A safe place to talk about your feelings
- Focusing on self-care
- Learning new ways to cope
- Improving knowledge of the central challenge
- Growing through the shared experiences
- Finding the motivation to continue with treatment or disease management
- Hearing feedback from others who are going through the same thing
There are many options for older adults who are looking for friendship, connection, or a place to belong. With so many options available, individuals have more paths than ever to find the group that’s right for them.
If you or someone you love needs care at home, Intrepid USA is here to assist. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a Patient Advocate today.