20 October, 2021 | 6 min read

How Friendships Affect Your Health as You Age

As human beings, we all need friendships. They let us connect with others, allow us to share our ideas and fill our lives with fun, laughter and joy. And, as it turns out, our relationships with friends and loved ones play a much larger role than we may have realized. In fact, studies have found that adults with strong friendships and social support also enjoy better health, including a reduced risk of depression, heart disease and high blood pressure.

How Friendships Affect Your Health

When we’re able to share our life experiences with friends and family, our joy is multiplied and the weight of difficult situations and challenges is shared. The less isolated a person is, the better equipped they are to handle the typical ups and downs of daily life. While there are many benefits to a healthy social life, here are five ways that friendships contribute to your overall health and quality of life.

1. Finding your happiness

Studies have shown those who spend less time alone tend to be the happiest, and their positive outlook on life often spreads to those around them. But being happy isn’t just a good feeling; there are also proven health effects of happiness, including:

  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better sleep
  • Improved diet and maintaining normal body weight
2. Reducing stress

The effects of stress can negatively impact your body, emotions and behaviors. It can also contribute to chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Having a good friend to rely on during difficult times can reduce your body’s stress response. And don’t forget the gift of laughter that friends often bring - another positive feature proven to lower stress and reduce its harmful influence on your well-being.

3. Supporting healthy habits

When your friends have healthy habits, you’re more likely to have them, as well. We tend to be influenced by a friend’s positive behaviors, especially when it comes to diet, exercise and other lifestyle habits.

If you’ve developed unhealthy behaviors over the years, good friends can often encourage and support you in changing those behaviors, such as stopping smoking or exercising more.

4. Improving your mental outlook

Friends are partners in our times of joy and happiness. More importantly, they are also by our side when life turns difficult and we’re faced with challenges.

Good friends can support your emotional health by letting you know you’re not alone, providing a shoulder to cry on, or just letting you know that things will get better. This kind of support is critical to maintaining a positive outlook on life, greatly influencing your well-being.

5. Supporting longevity

The possibility of adding a few years to your lifespan is a powerful advantage to having friends. Research has found that people with strong personal relationships tend to live longer than those who don’t have intimate social connections.

Even more telling is that those with close friendships, but who were not always engaged in a healthy lifestyle, still tended to live longer than those who practiced healthier living but lacked personal relationships.

Creating a Friend-Rich Life

Developing deep, meaningful friendships takes effort, but don’t give up if you’re struggling to make a connection. And remember, the quantity of friends you have in your life isn’t nearly as important as the quality. If you could use a few suggestions on how to make new friends or nurture the relationships you already have, consider the following:

Finding New Friends

  1. Go where people are: Take steps to join activities or events that also attract other people, opening the door to possible future friendships.
  2. Follow your interests: Join a club or take a class that focuses on something you love or are interested in learning about. Others that also attend will likely have similar interests, providing you the opportunity to meet like-minded people.
  3. Take the initiative: Don’t wait for others to make the first move towards friendship. Introduce yourself or call someone you recently met for lunch or a walk.  
  4. Cultivate friendships: Examine your current lifestyle for opportunities to get to know others, such as your neighborhood, your faith community or while volunteering. 
  5. Family as friends: Some of your closest friends can also be relatives. Reach out to loved ones and you may discover shared interests you might not have previously known about.

Nurturing Existing Friendships

  1. Prioritize time together: Friendships can often be neglected due to busy schedules and all the things life can throw at us. Show your friends how much you value them by planning and spending quality time together.
  2. Be a good friend: Friendships are a two-way street. You need to be a good friend to have one. Support and encourage each other, and be the kind of friend you’d like to have.
  3. Trust your friends: Strong and intimate friendships are developed over time by sharing the details of your life, both good and bad. Building trust is essential to creating strong, positive relationships.
  4. Reconnect with old friends: It’s not uncommon to lose touch with those we once considered to be good friends. Reach out to reconnect, and you might discover they’ve been missing you, too.
  5. Keep the good friends: Not all friendships are healthy. Nurture those who support and care about you, and recognize you may need to let others go if they bring negativity to your life.

How Senior Living Communities Support Healthy Friendships

Now you know how strong, trusting friendships can positively affect your overall health and well-being. If you’re feeling lonely or that you’re missing out on the types of relationships you would like to have, a senior living community could be the perfect solution.

Some of the greatest benefits of senior living are the countless opportunities to meet and make new friends. Knowing the significant impact of social connection, the best communities will encourage camaraderie with a vigorous range of amenities, activities, social events and dining options to help foster friendships between their residents. Older adults who are new to a community typically find that the programming and lifestyle allow them to meet others naturally, and many soon find others who have similar life stories and experiences to share.  

Life at Eskaton Communities

The word Eskaton means “dawn of a new day.” In our communities, we see each day as an opportunity to enhance the lives of our residents. We’ve been serving the Sacramento region and Northern California for over 50 years.

The Eskaton Difference starts with our life-enriching programs and collaborative partnerships. With a national reputation for innovation, we focus on creating communities that provide our residents everything they need for purposeful living. We invite you to visit one of our award-winning communities to discover some of the benefits we offer, such as: 

  • Private residences
  • Delicious and nutritious meals
  • Social opportunities to meet and make new friends
  • Creative activities and therapies
  • Fitness centers and exercise classes
  • Housekeeping services
  • Transportation services
  • 24-hour staffing
  • Pet-friendly
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • And much, much more! 

If you’re considering whether senior living could be the best choice for you or a loved one, we’re here to answer any questions you may have. We also invite you to download our complimentary information, Family Decision Toolkit: How to choose the right senior living community.

To schedule a personalized tour, call us at 1-866-ESKATON (or 1-866-375-2866) or visit eskaton.org.

Click here to download Eskaton's free guide: Family Decision Toolkit