Just about any article you read on senior wellness says to stay connected and maintain social ties. As an “Army Brat,” I moved around a lot, so I was used to making friends quickly. As an adult, I have continued to move frequently, due to corporate relocations and job changes. From personal experience, I would say making lasting friends is definitely different and more difficult as I get older. After all, I don’t want to take years to build a new group of friends where I live. I am not alone in this experience, either.
Psychologists believe making friends, good ones, is possible and can even be fairly quick. Dr. Arthur Aron, of Stony Brook University and his researchers tested “Fast Friends,” a method of forming friendships where both participants gradually share personal information. Participants in the study ask, in order, a series of scripted questions of each other, beginning with slightly personal (When did you last sing to yourself, to someone else?), move on to more personal (What is your greatest dream?), and conclude with very personal (When did you last cry in front of another person?). These questions, in three groups of 12, also incorporate directions to support the growing relationship between participants, such as: “I really like your sense of humor (or other personal element).”
Dr. Aron cautions against over-sharing, which can make the listener uncomfortable. If you notice body language, such as loss of eye contact, lack of response to your comments, or squirmy behaviors, you’ve told too much, too soon.
I found this research especially interesting within the context of retiring seniors. Often, people consider moving far away from their friends and family when they retire. I think choosing a retirement spot should include considering the nature of the population. Is it static or are people open to making new friends? Settling in a community with a some influx of people of a variety of ages would certainly make for an easier transition than choosing one where the population was set, with few new arrivals or departures. Since relationships enrich our lives, considering how and where to form new ones is an important part of happy longevity for newly transplanted seniors.