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Extend Your Life with Your Friends

Question: I’m retired and living by myself. In fact, I like being by myself and really couldn’t care less if anyone came to see me. My daughter says this isn’t healthy. What do you think?

Answer: Your daughter maybe on to something. Research shows that having a variety of friends really improves our lives. Loneliness is a silent killer. Not only can having great friends help boost our mood and elevate our happiness, but they can also help us live longer.

High-quality friendships are an important part of every age and stage of life, but they are invaluable for seniors who are susceptible to physical and mental illnesses as they age. 

One of the biggest risks to the geriatric population is depression. Feeling isolated and lonely while aging isn’t a great combination. Elderly men and women run higher risks for developing illnesses, both physical and mental, when they aren’t being socially active. Having friends can mitigate the negative effects of aging and keep life more fun and interesting. Here’s how-

Friends are your confidants- Your close friends tend to be the people you trust with bigger issues in your life. Aging, and the associated pitfalls, may be hard for your family to understand since they aren’t in that phase of life just yet. Friends who are going through similar stages of life understand. Being able to have someone to confide in can help reduce anxiety, relieve stress, and give you a healthy outlet to share your worries. 

Friends are your cheerleaders- Friends have the potential to keep us healthy. Having friends who make good choices encourages us to do the same. As we age, it’s important to stay active, eat right, and be social. Our friends can influence our positive behavior and keep us active. Being older doesn’t mean you can’t be active and enjoy a healthy social life. Our friends cheer us on and keep us motivated to stay healthy and fit. 

Friends are your playmates- Who says you’re too old for play? Doing fun activities and having friends to do them with can extend your life. Having activities to look forward to can help you stay active and keep your mind strong. Play can be recreational or formalized. Getting out into the fresh air for a mild hike or playing a sport together. There’s no age limit on doing the activities that help you feel good and have fun.  

Friends are your intellectual equals- Deep conversations are important. Having thought-provoking discussions keeps the mind healthy and stimulated. From debating your point, to exploring a new concept, there are plenty of ways to stimulate your mind and keep it active. This helps stave off dementia and gives you something meaningful to discuss with your friends. Having friends who engage in intellectual conversations helps the mind stay alert and can sometimes reverse early signs of dementia. 

Lifelong friends who experience decades of time together can be an asset when it comes to aging, but making new friends can be just as valuable. The key is to find people who have the same interests and enjoy being active. In the end, having a few great friends can lead to living a longer, happier, and healthier life.  

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