“Make new friends and keep the old.”
Many former Girl Scouts will recognize that phrase from their days as a troop member or adult volunteer. This phrase also applies to senior living. Residents will look forward to receiving visits from their long-time friends, but it’s also important for them to make new friends so they can enjoy their day-to-day life in their new home.
Many seniors may be out of practice when it comes to making new friends. They may feel a little shy when they first move into senior living—sort of like the “new kid” at school. They are coming into an environment where everybody else already knows one another. Since they are new, they may feel awkward trying to insert themselves into already formed social circles.
If this is happening with your parent, remind them: Every single resident in the senior living community was once in the same position—the “new kid” who didn’t know anyone. They all got through that period of social awkwardness, and your parent can too!
Here are seven tips to share with your parents that can help them make friends with other residents in senior living.
1. Be active in group activities.
Most senior living communities have plenty of activities to choose from, including bingo, morning stretch activities, crafts, happy hours, ice cream socials, or off-site field trips. Even if you’re not certain you’ll like all these activities, give them a try. The socialization is more important than what you’re actually doing. Eventually, as you make friends, you’ll be more likely to see them in settings outside of these activities.
2. Look for those with similar interests.
If you like to read, join the book club. If there isn’t a book club, talk to the activities director about getting one started. This is a way to spend time with others who also like to read. As you bond over your favorite literary treats, you may just find a friendship forming.
3. Ask family to tag along.
If you feel awkward going to group activities, ask your son or daughter to tag along the first few times. This will give you someone to talk to, and your family member can help you start a conversation with other people in the room. Once the ice is broken, you may ease into conversations more naturally. Eventually you’ll feel comfortable enough to go to these activities without bringing your family as a social support.
4. Make dining a social time.
Even if residents have the option of having meals in their room or apartment, venturing into the dining room is the perfect time to meet people. Many senior living communities will assign residents to specific tables to ensure that no one sits alone. As they talk and dine together, residents may find they have a lot in common—enough to form the basis of a wonderful friendship.
5. Get out and about.
Take a walk down the hall. Sit in the lounge area to read a book or work on a jigsaw puzzle. Ask someone to play cards or a board game. These are pleasant ways to pass the time and interact with others.
6. Take a new resident under your wing.
In your senior living community, you won’t be the newest resident for long. Additional residents will move in within days or weeks of your arrival. You can bond over your “newness” to the community, offering each other tips for how to acclimate to your new surroundings. Make a point to sit with these people during group activities, which is a way to ensure that neither of you feels out of place.
7. Be patient.
Don’t be concerned if it takes a while to make new friends. You’re under no timetable. It takes time to adjust to senior living. Always greet people with a smile. Be willing to stop and chat, and pretty soon those chats may turn into longer conversations. People will begin to like you, and you’ll begin to like them. And before you know it, you’ll have made friends and feel more at ease in your new community.
CHIME IN: What tips do you have for making friends in senior living?