Vitality - Healthy Aging NewsletterFall 2011

Make New Friends and Give Yourself a Lift

Socializing with others is so vital to our health and well-being that a prescription from our doctor may read: "Make two friends and call me in the morning."

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"Creating healthy relationships is more important than any pill," says Chris Fordyce, MD, director for Group Health's Healthy Aging Program. "Research shows that social involvement increases mental clarity; improves emotional well-being and physical health; lowers the risk of getting heart disease or having functional decline such as dementia; and leads to a longer, healthier life."

Barbara De Anda, 74, recommends cultivating relationships in many places. "We keep in touch with people we've known for years, and have friends from church, Frye Museum art lectures, and summertime gatherings in our apartment courtyard. Getting to know your neighbors is a great way to make friends in later years."

Marjorie Schaller, 90, agrees. "When my husband and I moved to Snohomish, I joined a church and a book club, volunteered at a visitor center once a week, and joined a group of women who wanted to lose weight. I walked every day with one of those ladies for many years." She also joined The Mountaineers. "We formed our own hiking group, and 30 years later we're still friends. We just had a party last week."

How can you expand your circle of friends? Here are some ideas from Group Health seniors.

  • "Reading is a great passion of mine. I found a local book group that meets monthly, and also volunteer at the library."
  • "My husband and I never really knew our neighbors until we started walking around the block after my knee replacement. Now we meet one couple regularly for coffee and cards."
  • "After my husband died, I joined a square dancing class, and met a whole new group of people. Now I dance at least once a week, and love it!"
  • "I'm obsessed with gardening, and recently joined a gardening club that meets monthly. We share cuttings, tour gardens, and just went to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show."
  • "I recently found out that my next door neighbor is a quilter, and we both dug out piles of fabric we'd collected over the years. Now we get together to quilt and talk."
  • "I always wanted to make art and signed up for classes at my senior center. What fun! I met two women who wanted to experiment with different types of art as well, and we're still going strong."
  • "Woodworking has always been a hobby of mine, so I volunteered to help kids build birdhouses for their class project. It was very rewarding, and I'd like to continue volunteering."

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