Community – social interaction
Community – social interaction
I’ve already touched on the importance of social interaction for positive ageing within the community intro and well as in my Words of Wisdom article. Age UK also reports this in their recent wellbeing research. In this article, I’m going to look at some of the different types of interaction, how much is enough and also some ideas on how to increase it.
Friends and family
The most obvious interactions are with family members and existing friends. Depending on the size of your family and where they live in relation to you, you could already have a lot of interaction or limited and periodic only. For those not located nearby, phone calls, emails, Facebook, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp etc. are all great ways of keeping in touch.
My own family is both small and geographically dispersed across the UK. We see each other face to face a few times a year, and usually only in small groups, but we try to keep in touch fairly regularly by phone and email. My husband’s family is similar but dispersed across the world, so face to face interaction is even less frequent.
Some people still have friends dating back from their schooldays, but they can also come from college, university, various workplaces, hobbies and interests etc. Some friends spend regular time together, sometimes almost living in each other’s pockets. Others don’t, but are often able to pick things up where they left off.
“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” Elbert Hubbard
I’ve been fortunate enough to ‘collect’ friends and acquaintances as I’ve moved along through life. I never know quite which people I’ll end up becoming good friends with and often this turns out to be a lovely surprise!
Many people meet others through mutual interests. This is a great starting point as you already have something in common from the outset and may find other similarities as you interact more.
Many of the WOW interviewees mentioned getting their social interactions through their interests. These include book clubs, bridge, church, yoga, bowling, memory café, knit and natter, choir and Scottish country dancing. Some of them have engaged in these things for a while and the interaction has built over time. Others have joined groups more recently, partly in order to meet new people, as well as trying something new.
How much is enough?
This depends on the individual. Some people are more extrovert in nature and derive their energy from others, rather than introverts who get their energy from being alone. Extroverts will naturally need more interaction than introverts, and so will more actively seek it.
Some of my WOW interviewees had limited interaction compared to others, but they considered this to be sufficient for their needs and by their own choice.
For some, a few key connections maybe more important than many, which can sometimes be more superficial.
Ways to increase your social interaction
Here are a few ideas I have to increase your level of social interaction at any age:
Choose something that you are genuinely interested in so you are more likely to meet like-minded people. Think about what you enjoy today, or things that you enjoyed when you were younger.
Be prepared to have to make some effort e.g. going out when you feel like staying in.
It can be daunting going somewhere new for the first time. Perhaps contact the organiser beforehand to let them know that you’ll be coming and it’s your first time.
Look out for other people looking lonely or awkward and befriend them – they will often be grateful!
Be open to trying something new – a new skill or game or just something you’ve not tried before.
Be curious and show a genuine interest in others.
Be polite and respectful.
Online dating – I love this Saga article on the best dating sites for the over 50s
Look for mutually beneficial solutions:
- Volunteering can be very rewarding and is a great way to: meet new people
- Time banking is a way for people to come together to help others and help themselves at the same time. In a Timebank you earn time credits by giving practical help and support to others.
Whilst there are many opportunities out there, you may need to stretch or push yourself a little to find them.
No idea where to start? One of the best ideas is to speak to friends and family for ideas. They may already participate themselves, know others who do or have seen or heard of things that may interest you.
I have discovered all manner of things, just by spending 10 mins on a few google searches. These are a few of the searches I tried, but I’m sure that you get the idea and tweak them to your own needs:
- social activities for older adults near me
- social activities for over 50s near me / social activities for over 60s near me
- groups for over 50s / 60s in your home town
As you get older, you may not be as mobile as you once were. Fortunately, there are schemes that can help in many geographical areas. These can assist in you getting to appointments and potentially to social groups as well. These are a few national ones, I have also seen locally run schemes:
- Elderly People Transport Scheme | Royal Voluntary Service
- Transport support | British Red Cross
- Volunteer Car Scheme | Voluntary Impact
- volunteer – Drive a Senior
- How it works – Contact the Elderly
- RSVP Driving Schemes – Volunteering Matters
- Transport services for people with mobility problems – Housing Care
Additional ideas for Age Life Balance
Since I started on my own Age Life Balance journey, I’ve been much more attuned to opportunities for older people. In my immediate area alone, I have already identified the following groups:
- University of the 3rd Age (u3A)
- Health walks
- Befriending – Age UK or other
- Local church cafe – regular social group for the over 50s
- Sawtry CARESCO
I’m sure that if you start tuning into this too, you may find that there are opportunities all around you. This may be too early for some of us, but I believe it’s comforting to know they are out there.
Whatever your age and life stage, I challenge you go and find some rewarding social interaction today, using some of the same principles above.
Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.