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Circle of friends

Healthy friendships support your own health as you get older

Created date

August 25th, 2017
Since moving to Riderwood, Pam Silverwood (right) says she’s made many new friends, including neighbor Kyoko Okamoto.

Since moving to Riderwood, Pam Silverwood (right) says she’s made many new friends, including neighbor Kyoko Okamoto. 


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 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.

The importance of strong social ties is well understood by the people who live and work at Riderwood, an Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md. 

Friendly living

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 dedicated on-site medical center, to name a few—making friends is also easier for Riderwood community members.

Evelyn Gehres says Riderwood is a “fabulous place to make new and interesting friends.” She says the people she’s connected with have traveled to interesting places and had extraordinary careers.

“The friends I have made here have enriched my life and shown profound care and concern for me and my family,” Evelyn says. “These people and the friendships are what make Riderwood so special.”  

In addition to informal interactions like chatting over dinner, many organized activities provide residents with opportunities to form friendships. Dozens of clubs and committees bring people together based on their hobbies, whether it’s singing, photography, gardening, woodworking, golf, or many other activities. 

Several groups and social activities help new neighbors acclimate to the community.

Built-in support group

Since moving to Riderwood with her husband David Hack, Pam Silverwood says she’s made many new friends. She volunteers as a resident ambassador to introduce prospective residents to the community. She also started a listserv called “Chatterwood” for her neighbors to connect and chat online, and it now has 200 members. 

“I find myself telling lots of people that I’m busier now than when I was working full time,” Pam says. “Only now, it’s by choice.”

Pam’s active social life at Riderwood certainly fills her days with fun activities and interesting people, which she believes benefits both her physical and mental health. But living at Riderwood also contributes to her emotional well-being by giving her a profound sense of peace of mind as well.

“I’ve made several close friends since moving to Riderwood,” she says. “My life is different because now I have the confidence that if [ever] I’m alone here at Riderwood, I will have a support group of friends who will help me get through the tough times and I will be able to help them as well.”