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The blessings of friendship

Linden Ponds fosters strong bonds

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July 31st, 2017
Dick Bauer says it’s easy for genuine friendships to form at Linden Ponds. Pictured here are (from left) Phil Matthews, Hank Barone, Bill Greene and Ed McCormack, all retired educators who often get together for dinner.

Dick Bauer says it’s easy for genuine friendships to form at Linden Ponds. Pictured here are (from left) Phil Matthews, Hank Barone, Bill Greene and Ed McCormack, all retired educators who often get together for dinner.

To maintain good health, you know you need to exercise, eat a balanced diet, and stay on top of preventive screenings. But did you know the time you spend playing cards with friends or going out for dinner with other couples could also contribute to your health and longevity?

It’s true. In fact, a ten-year study in Australia of 1,477 people age 70 and older found that people with large circles of friends were 22% less likely to die during the study period than people with fewer pals. 

Another study conducted in Sweden found that lack of social support was as important a risk factor for heart attack and fatal heart disease as smoking. 

And in 2008, Harvard researchers said that friendship even supports brain health as we get older.

Keys to successful aging

Terri Hoitt, a senior social work manager at Linden Ponds in Hingham, Mass., says that part of the reason friendship improves health and increases lifespan is because connections to other people decrease a sense of loneliness, depression, stress, or isolation. And because we tend to do things with our friends—be it a round of golf, a weekly volunteer commitment, or a morning cup of coffee—our social lives keep us physically, socially, and mentally active, which Hoitt says contributes to successful aging.

“There is also a reciprocal benefit to friendships—we feel good when we can both give and receive caring and kindness,” she says. “Friendship increases our sense of belonging and boosts happiness.”

The importance of strong social ties is well understood by the people who live and work at Linden Ponds, an Erickson Living community. Among the many ways that living at the community supports good health—nutritious meals served at the on-site restaurants, easy access to a well-equipped fitness center, and a full-service medical center, to name a few—making friends is also easier for Linden Ponds community members.

“Whenever a resident opens their door or goes to a public area, they may encounter a neighbor who may become a friend,” says Hoitt. “The entire design of the community—both physically and socially—facilitates the development of friendships.”

Forming friendships in retirement

In addition to informal interactions like chatting over dinner, Hoitt says many organized activities provide community members opportunities to form friendships. Dozens of clubs and committees bring people together based on their hobbies, whether they’re into opera, knitting, computers, bocce, or yoga.  Other groups and social activities, specifically geared for new residents, help them get acclimated to the community.

“Living within a community like Linden Ponds allows residents to form relationships at their own pace and without pressure,” Hoitt says. “People often comment about the friendly nature of our community.”

Dick Bauer and his wife Ginny moved to Linden Ponds almost eight years ago. Dick says living among hundreds of like-minded peers does, indeed, make it easier to form and maintain friendships than living in a single-family home.

“You have the opportunity for informal access to people that you don’t have in your usual two-acre lot in suburbia, particularly when you retire,” Dick says. “Here, I can’t go down the hall without stopping to talk to somebody about what is happening in their life and their world. I find that a blessing.”

Shortly after moving to Linden Ponds, Dick started the Linden Ponderers, a discussion group that gets together to talk about issues such as economics, politics, inequality, and religion. 

A retired pastor and chaplain, Dick has taught some classes through Linden Ponds’ lifelong learning program. He is also a regular writer for the resident newsletter LIFE at Linden Ponds, and he entertains his neighbors by playing piano in the community’s clubhouses. 

“Living at a place like Linden Ponds has given me opportunities to do things I never would have been able to do before and connect with people who are just absolutely fascinating,” he says.

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