How to Make Friends in a Senior Living Community
Senior living communities offer not only a simplified and more relaxed lifestyle but also offer seniors a way of enjoying a quality of life no longer possible in their current living situations. Many seniors must pack up a lifetime of memories and valuables and start over in a place that is unfamiliar, and in some instances is removed from their home state. One of the key reasons seniors move into a senior living community is the desire to find others their own age and to forge the types of friendships that have made their previous years rich and fulfilling.
One of the chief complaints of those first moving into a senior living community is that it is difficult to get “plugged in” to the community. Often others have created friendships with others and the newcomer may feel intimidated to approach a group. Seniors often have many additional hours to pursue their interests but not a lot of friends with which to enjoy them. This is a chief benefit of living in a senior living community. They key is to take part and use the following tips to make those first introductions less awkward.
Participation is Key
One of the first things you must promise to yourself is that you will participate in some activity offered. Activities lend themselves to conversation with others and before you know it you will have discovered others who have the same interests. Often staff are trained to identify and partner residents with each other based on shared backgrounds or common interests. If someone on staff asks if he or she can introduce you to someone, take them up on it. It is much easier to approach a group when you have someone beside you.
Make Meals a Social Activity
Very often there are shared meals offered in an onsite dining room. Make a point to meet someone you have struck up a conversation with through an activity. Sitting and eating a meal together gives others opportunity to come over and introduce themselves in a relaxed manner. If no one seems likely just yet, invite a family member or a member of clergy to visit and have dinner with you in the dining room. Often it is this different element that makes others curious enough to introduce themselves to you.
The chances are very good that you are not the only new kid on the block. Often staff will introduce new residents to each other. This is beneficial because you can both engage with the community in similar fashion. It is good to have an ally who is going through similar adjustment angst. Many communities offer orientation classes designed to specifically assist new members to the community take part in activities and make their way around the apartment complex. Some senior living communities have welcome committees who are comprised of veterans. They act as your guides to engaging with the larger community.
Get out of Your Apartment
Your first inclination may be to hole up in your apartment the first few weeks after your move. However, the smartest thing you can do is to spend time in the common areas of the community or taking part in some activity or event right away. Often there are game areas where you can play checkers, card games or do a jigsaw puzzle. Observe what others are doing with their leisure time and if it seems like something you would also enjoy, ask them about it.
Field trips are excellent ways to strike up new friendships. This is because traveling to a new place places you both on neutral territory. Some of the easiest topics to discuss with someone new include current events, where they have lived before, family, line of work before retirement, and other interesting places you have traveled. Most communities offer a transportation option. Sign up to go into town shopping with others and enjoy spending the day with others who may be more familiar with the area.
Cut Yourself some Slack
Those first few months in a new living situation are very reminiscent of freshmen year in high school. There are rules of engagement you have not be apprised of and you know you need to learn them, but are not quite sure how. The best rule of thumb is to simply continue to take part in different activities, even those you are not familiar with. You may discover something new to enjoy and often you will meet someone you may never have encountered otherwise.