One of the best things about living in a senior community is that you are surrounded by a network of peers. Many seniors make the decision to move to a senior community in part because it has become harder to maintain their social networks when living independently. In a senior living community, activities and programming provide opportunities to meet new people, and close proximity makes it easier to maintain friendships once they form.
With National Friendship Day coming up on August 6th, we thought we would share a few tips for meeting people and making friends when you first move into a new senior living community.
We have six tips to share with you, but they all boil down to one thing: Embrace opportunities.
1. Leave your apartment.
Even if there aren’t any activities scheduled, we recommend spending your free time relaxing in common areas rather than your apartment when you first move into your new community. You won’t meet new people in the privacy of your apartment! When you’re new to a community, it can be easy to feel isolated in your room. Take a book or something to do with your hands (like a knitting project) to a common area, and you might be surprised at who strikes up a conversation.
2. Stretch your legs.
Another good way to get out and about is to go for a walk around the community or its gardens. Not only will it help you cross paths with other residents, but walking lifts the spirits and is a great antidote for loneliness. Say hello when you pass familiar faces.
3. Join new groups at mealtimes.
If you’re going to the dining room for meals, challenge yourself to sit with a new group of people at each meal for the first week or two that you’re in the community. Don’t just assume that other people will reach out to you (or that they’re unfriendly if they don’t!). We’re creatures of habit and we tend to stick to what’s familiar.
Walk up to a new table, introduce yourself, and ask if you can join them for the meal. They will always say yes, and it will be a great way for you to meet a large number of new people quickly. Plus, mealtimes are one of the best settings for conversation because there’s always something to talk about—the food.
4. Attend community activities.
Senior communities always have busy schedules of social events and activities for residents to enjoy. Find a copy of the week’s calendar and pick at least one activity each day that interests you. You can also reach out to the community’s Activity Coordinator if you’d rather sit down and talk about the different activities available in your community.
There’s no better way to find likeminded people than by attending activities that bring you joy. If both of you enjoy the same activity, that’s already something you have in common! Sharing an activity together is a natural way to get the conversation flowing.
5. Invite potential friends to your apartment.
When you feel like you’ve met a few people who have friend potential, invite them to your apartment for an afternoon chat, a cup of coffee, or card games. Just like when you were a kid inviting a new friend to your house for the first time, hosting new acquaintances in your apartment is a great way to signal your interest in deepening the friendship. Sharing time together in your private space away from the hustle and bustle of the community will help bring you closer.
6. Be patient.
Most importantly, give yourself time to adjust. Great friendships don’t form overnight, and it’s normal for it to take some time for you to truly feel at home in your new community. Be patient with yourself, continue to put yourself out there, and give yourself an afternoon or evening off if what sounds better is quiet time in your apartment.
And if you’re feeling lonely, call a friend or family member to catch up. It’s amazing how hearing a familiar voice can change your outlook!