A number of studies have been done on the beneficial aspects of friendships as you age. Researchers have shown how close friendships can help us to age well and live longer. Engaging in conversations with family members and friends can improve our cognitive function and help to keep us from developing dementia. Friendships and social connections work in different ways, depending on the closeness of the connection and the effort that is put into them.
In which different ways can connections with others affect us?
- In our later years, the most important connections can be with other family members. They offer support and a link to your earliest years in life. Families tend to provide more support in tangible ways such as helping with housekeeping or transportation.
- When we are seniors, friendships are our source of socializing and enjoying others. They offer companionship and ways to integrate socially with our communities.
- Relationships with family or friends can have different effects. Friendships are voluntary and are usually based on similar interests. Because they are voluntary they often require more work.
- On average, informal social contact typically decreases with age. For many this can be because of physical decline or illness. For others, it’s because they lack the material resources that are necessary to see their friends as often as they once did. Differences in income can mean less time spent with those you were once close to.
- In most research, overall, seniors tended to spend less time in social activities with their friends or counterparts. For many, this was because they found most social activities too demanding. Time spent with their families tends to be more leisurely.
Throughout our lives connections with others have been found to be important. In middle age our social connections can be very important to us but as we grow older, we tend to draw closer to our families. Positive relationships with either of these groups has been shown to improve our moods and lower our stress levels, both of which are part of aging well.