Research out of Michigan State University showed that while both family and friend relationships were linked to better health and happiness at all ages, as people get older friendships became a stronger predictor of health and happiness than relationships with family members.
Couple this with research showing that friendships are positively associated with improved cognitive functioning in people over 80 and you’ve got a pretty convincing case for cultivating friendships in later life.
Tam and Dorothy from Seasons Mango Hill are an example of the positive effect of friendship in the senior years. Nine years ago, as the first residents were moving into Seasons Mango Hill, the two women connected over the lunch table – and have been best friends ever since.
“I was sitting at the table and I saw Tam come in and she looked as worried as I was when I moved in the week before, as it was her first day. So, I just beckoned her over and said, ‘there’s a seat here if you want’ and we just clicked, and we’ve been friends ever since,” says Dorothy.
Before moving to Seasons, both women had been living alone after their husbands had passed away and Dorothy says that her close friendship with Tam means she has a trusted confidant, which has helped to fill the gap in her life that she felt after she lost her husband.
“It’s great to have a good friend. I have lots of friends here but not best friends – a friend you can talk with about anything and it goes no further. It’s great to have a friend like that, especially when we’ve both lost our husbands,” says Dorothy.
“You feel very alone when you’ve lost your husband after many years and we were both married for a long time. You need someone you can trust the way you trusted your partner and that’s how we’ve become.”
Tam and Dorothy’s closeness is evident in how they finish each other’s sentences and discuss what’s important to them.
“We just laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. Our families get on well too,” says Tam.
“Yes, we have good families and they interact well. We talk about our families. Tam’s got three daughters and I have three sons and we talk about the differences in what they are and what they do. It’s a happy situation,” adds Dorothy.
Tam and Dorothy’s story shows the positive effect of residing in a community of other seniors in forging strong connections and friendships and the difference it can make to quality of life.