If you are moving into a retirement community in Seattle (or someone you love is), there’s more involved than just changing locations. One of the biggest challenges for seniors who move is making new friends. And yet, those relationships are what make a retirement community a real community.
Frankly, many of us find building relationships a little harder as we grow older. Senior isolation is unfortunately very common, especially for those who are shy and moving into a community where they don’t know anyone.
The good news is that living in a retirement community makes it much easier to build senior friendships. At Daystar, we provide many activities — both onsite and offsite — that help our residents interact with each other and build relationships. But there’s no denying that each resident needs to take initiative to build relationships and friendships, as well.
Here are 10 tips that can help you — or your loved one — build those friendships and relationships a little faster.
1. Make newcomers feel welcome
Keep an eye out for new residents moving in. Maybe you’ve only been here a while yourself, but you can make them feel welcome and you can help them find their way around. Helping them know where to go or whom to talk to for information will make their transition more enjoyable. Some people are introverted, and some don’t like to ask for help, but really appreciate it when someone offers it.
2. Get involved in shaping your community
Most retirement communities have resident committees that coordinate social events and deal with other community issues. Volunteer to serve on a committee or to join the Ambassador Program. It’s a great way to meet new people and understand how your community works.
3. Show up to events
A big part of life is simply just showing up and being available. That’s true in a retirement community as well. Be there for social events — even if the event isn’t “right up your alley”. You may discover something interesting, and you will probably meet someone interesting. Spontaneous events usually come up when you are just available in the common areas as well, so come on down and see what happens!
4. Take the initiative
Don’t wait for someone else to invite you to do something. Offer hospitality to someone else and invite him or her to share a meal or a cup of coffee. Or ask someone to join you on an outing. Don’t be afraid to let down your walls that may have been built over the years.
5. Be a “big wheel”
If you drive, offer to provide transportation for outings or appointments to someone who doesn’t drive or has an appointment at a time that cannot be accommodated by Daystar’s free bus. This can be a great way to make friends.
6. Introduce your grandchildren
If you’re fortunate enough to have grandchildren in the area, encourage them to engage with the other residents when they visit. Walk around the grounds with your grandkids, or sit in common areas with them. Kids tend to put others at ease — and they can be a topic of conversation with people you’re getting to know. If your grandkids live far away, you can still share about their lives in conversation, pictures, and videos.
7. Parade your pet
Daystar allows you to keep your pets when you move, so if your community allows pets, use them as a way to connect with others. People are often eager to talk about their pets and allow you to engage their pets. If you show interest in a fellow resident’s furry friend, you may find yourself on their good side very quickly.
8. Walk the walk
If you notice other residents walking along the garden trails, ask if you can join them. Maybe you’ll even want to organize a small group of walkers that meets at a regular time. Daystar already has a few senior walking groups like this. It’s easier to stay on a regular schedule if you know others are joining you. And it’s a perfect occasion for conversation.
Here are 5 fun questions to break the ice with a new walking buddy:
- Have you been told you look like someone famous? Who?
- If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
- What would the title of your autobiography be?
- What’s on your bucket list?
- What was your favorite decade for music? For movies?
Keep in mind: simple life questions like “Where are you from originally?” and “What did you do for a living?” are also surefire ways to get a good conversation started.
9. Be a correspondent
If you know anything about the “five love languages”, it is not surprising that 23% of people feel loved and appreciated when given words of affirmation. You can do this both verbally and on paper. Deliver holiday cards to your neighbors — either through the community mail service, or in person. It is a great way to introduce yourself to others and engage them in a thoughtful way.
10. Be quick to listen
Nothing builds friendships faster than listening to others and letting them be heard. People want to share their ideas and joys, their frustrations and concerns, and their interests with others, rather than be an invisible member of the community. People who gain a reputation as a good listener are never short of friends. (And being a good listener in the online social scene works just as well.)
Making senior friends in Seattle
Daystar is one of the best places for seniors to make friends in Seattle.