How to Build a Circle of Friends in Assisted Living

If you have recently moved into an assisted living community, if you are planning such a transition, or if you are the adult child of a parent on a track or now actually residing in this type of long-term care facility, making friends is a consideration. In other words, with this new course in life, you understandably may wonder how to go about making friends in assisted living.

One of the primary benefits of living in assisted living is socializing and building friendships with others. For many new assisted living community residents, years have been spent at the same residence and with close access to the same circle of friends. Of course, you certainly can – and should – maintain those social connections once you begin living in assisted living. And you should also endeavor to make new friends among your assisted living community neighbors.

There are six points to bear in mind when it comes to building a circle of friends in assisted living, which we discuss with you in this article:

  • Draw on your past experiences
  • Take advantage of resources in the assisted living community
  • Get involved in the assisted living community
  • Focus on making one friend initially
  • Eat with others
  • We all make friends at different paces

Draw On Your Past Experiences

Moving into an assisted living community is not all that different from moving to a new neighborhood, which you likely did at least one – if not more – times during your adult life. In the grand scheme of things, you move into a new neighborhood when you enter an assisted living community. Yes, you have access to an array of benefits you didn’t have previously. But you still have neighbors to meet.

Think about the past. Consider how you got to know your neighbors. For example, consider knocking on the doors of those closest to you in the assisted living community. Introduce yourself to them. This is a great way to build a circle of friends in an assisted living community.

Take Advantage of Resources in the Assisted Living Community

Another strategy you can employ to make friends when you are new to an assisted living community is to take advantage of resources that are available to residents. There are a variety of resources that can be of assistance in building your circle of friends.

These resources include the staff in a community. You can be candid with staff and let them know if you feel a little awkward when it comes to meeting new people. (You are not alone in that regard, by the way.)

Staff members will be acquainted with other residents of the community. They will likely be able to identify other residents with whom you have a good deal in common.

When it comes to resources, consider the activities, programs, and events that are offered in your new assisted living community. Attend events and programs. Participate in activities. Taking this step will provide you with avenues through which you can meet other community residents and form friendships.

Get Involved in the Assisted Living Community

Building on resources available to you, don’t just be transient when it comes to participation in programs, activities, and events in an assisted living community. Stay involved. For example, don’t just pop in and out of a fitness class. Continue to attend. By doing so, you definitely will enjoy the health benefits. Moreover, you will get to know the other regulars in the program.

A typical assisted living community will have activities that involve smaller and larger numbers of residents. As part of getting to know other residents, make sure you get involved in one or two activities involving a smaller number of people. You can get to know people better when part of a smaller group. In addition, you will be in a group with people who likely have a shared interest, or they would not be involved in that particular program or activity in the first place.

Focus On Making One Friend Initially

Don’t become overwhelmed by the idea of making a group of friends. Start small. Making one connection can be a doorway to more.

“That first new friend can open many new doors. They may have intriguing interests that you’ve never considered before,” Richardson says. “It may be that you never care much about reading, but this new friend insisted that you join the book club. Now you are enjoying new experiences with new friends, and that’s the start of what we call engagement! It usually starts with just one friend.”

Eat With Others

No surprise, lots of bonds form in the dining room. Dining room seating policies can vary depending on the community. When you move in, find out what the situation is, and then make a plan. If it’s open seating, look for a table of friendly faces, take a deep breath and introduce yourself. If you have to reserve a table, ask the staff if they know anyone who might want a dining companion. 

And don’t forget about the lobby, where many residents come and go. Say hello or ask for recommendations for fun things to do. “Casual interactions are important, and they can lead to amazing friendships,” Richardson says.

We All Make Friends at Different Paces

It’s easy to say, but it’s worth repeating: Be patient and gentle with yourself, and most importantly, be yourself. If you are struggling, don’t hesitate to ask an associate for help. Most communities have at least one resident passionate about welcoming new ones.