Friends make life easier and more fun, but what many people don’t realize is that friendship has benefits that go far beyond entertainment and convenience. Caring, supportive friends can actually help someone live a healthier, longer life by directly reducing the effects of stress. Emotional stress makes life miserable, and it also contributes to the risk of major illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Sharing experiences, feelings and company with friends helps lessen emotional and mental burdens; this counteracts the chemical effects of stress that lead to disease. Friends encourage each other to make positive life changes. They can prevent medical disasters by pointing out physical symptoms or signs that escaped notice. When people do get sick, friends help them maintain a positive outlook and cope with the emotional ups and downs of treatment and recovery. A Harvard study revealed that breast cancer patients who don’t have friends are four times more likely to die of their disease.

Friendships Blossom in Assisted Living

Seniors often lose the emotional, physical and practical benefits of companionship when friends die and family members move away. Loneliness adds to the stress of declining physical abilities and reduced involvement in former activities. With no friends to empathize with them, older adults may become depressed. Illness and cognitive decline may follow. Assisted living communities can prevent this unfortunate outcome. They allow seniors to meet and form bonds with people who can relate to their concerns, challenges and interests. For those who are reluctant or have trouble communicating, scheduled social events, meetings and activities that encourage participation can be a lifesaving link to others and a way to sharpen or restore deteriorating mental and social skills. Organized events and outings also help encourage physical activity, which further improves mental and physical health and increases longevity.

Making Friends in a New Environment

Although it is ultimately a positive move, transitioning to an assisted living environment can be difficult for many seniors. They must adjust to new schedules, an unfamiliar terrain and separation from family members. A brief grieving period is normal. Making new friends at the facility gives seniors the opportunity to talk with people who have been in the same circumstances and understand their feelings. Besides gaining priceless emotional support, seniors new to the facility benefit from the experience of veteran residents who know all the routines and can show them the ropes. When family members and old friends are busy and don’t visit as often, new friends take up the slack and provide desperately needed companionship and support that boosts health and makes the Golden Years happy and vibrant.