Why it helps to have friends

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - FACING THE TOUGH STUFF -

As well as fi­nan­cial wor­ries, one of the big is­sues fac­ing peo­ple as they age is so­cial iso­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the

Of­fice for Se­niors, which is part of the

Min­istry of So­cial

De­vel­op­ment, older peo­ple are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to so­cial iso­la­tion or lone­li­ness due to los­ing in­come, health and mo­bil­ity, and fam­ily and friends. Liv­ing alone and be­ing un­able to get out and about due to fi­nan­cial con­straints or med­i­cal con­di­tions can have a huge im­pact on some peo­ple – re­search shows that not hav­ing so­cial con­nec­tions can be as dam­ag­ing to our health as smok­ing 15 cig­a­rettes a day.

Erica Whyte, who has been re­tired for 17 years, says one of the best things she has done is to main­tain friend­ships.

“I still know peo­ple I went to kin­der­garten and board­ing school with, and to­day they are some of my best friends,” says Erica (71), whose hus­band Don died six years after they re­tired.

“Hav­ing good friend­ships is so im­por­tant. Your chil­dren are busy in their own lives with their jobs and their fam­i­lies, so often it is your own peer group that gives you sup­port, be­cause they are shar­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence. You don’t have to ex­plain things to them, they know what it is like.”

Did you know? Re­search sug­gests that about half of older Ki­wis ex­pe­ri­ence some level of lone­li­ness, and eight to nine per cent say they feel lonely all or most of the time.

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