Home Social gathering The impact of third places for solo seniors

The impact of third places for solo seniors

0

Community centers, cafes, bookstores – these are just some of the places lonely seniors can connect with others and improve their support systems.

The role that a strong and age-diverse support system plays for a single senior (an adult aged 55 or older, single or in a relationship, who does not have the support of adult children or close family members) is essential.

Third places are places where we exchange ideas, where we have a good time and where we build relationships. They are comfortable spaces accessible to all | Credit: Getty

Connecting with others is extremely important as one navigates one’s own health, the complexities of the health care system as a whole, and residential, financial, and legal decisions. For single seniors, identifying personal contacts and qualified professionals to fill these key roles that are “traditionally” filled by adult children/parents requires careful and intentional planning.

It is equally important to be intentional about their social support and relationships. Where you live and access to community services and supports are important considerations. It’s not always on people’s checklists when researching the topic of community and housing as you age, but it should be.

Connecting with others helps improve our self-esteem, feel loved, reduce stress, and increase our resilience.

Being part of and being connected to a community has a major impact on our health and personal satisfaction. Connecting with others helps improve our self-esteem, feel loved, reduce stress, and increase our resilience.

While Oldenburg’s research has focused on physical places, it has become clear throughout our navigation of the pandemic that “virtual” places can play a role in our connection to others and to the community at large. .

As you get older, meeting new people becomes more difficult. After retirement, there is no longer the ease of forming new relationships through a work environment, and for single seniors, there are no additional connections available through children’s or grandchildren’s friends. . Yet social support is essential to all aspects of our lives.

In my work with solo seniors, I’m often asked, “How can I make new connections?” and “Where can I meet new people?”

While it can be difficult to meet new people as we age, we often overlook the impact of our connection to “third places,” which can provide new opportunities to expand and improve our support systems. .

What are third places?

“Third places” is a term coined by urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg and refers to places where people spend time between home (the “first” place) and work (the “second” place). They are places where we exchange ideas, have fun and build relationships. They are comfortable spaces that are accessible to everyone.

Third places are part of our daily lives and our community and we connect with them in various ways. Some are free or low-cost – parks, libraries, community and senior centers, faith-based communities, adult and other education classes, and voluntary organizations. Others are commercial establishments like restaurants, cafes and bookstores. They can also be places offering personal services such as hair salons, hair salons and gyms.

These connections and opportunities are not only a useful adaptation in the wake of the pandemic, but provide greater access and connection to those who cannot travel for mobility or other reasons. The ability to attend a lecture, meeting, book club, class, or social gathering via video chat strengthens our connection with others.

How to make new connections

Being socially connected to others provides a greater sense of purpose. It also reduces cardiovascular risks, including lowering blood pressure, motivates you to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and encourages adherence to medications and treatment.

To explore where there might be opportunities to build new relationships, consider:

  • Do I have a daily routine? Where am I going and who am I meeting? Who do I see/talk to every day?
  • Do I have a weekly routine? Who do I see/talk to once a week?
  • Do I have a monthly routine? Who do I see/talk to monthly?
  • Am I a member of one or more “in person” groups?
    • Book club, maps, Mah Jongg, news, meditation, knitting, photography, walking, lessons, bird watching
  • Am I a member of an online community or a group/groups?
    • Book club, news, courses, faith community, professional

Stop by a local bookstore and review the lectures and programs they offer. Meet a friend for coffee in a new place.

Once you’ve thought about what might be available to you, explore your interests. (Assuming it’s healthy to do so.) Stop by a local bookstore and review the lectures and programs they offer. Meet a friend for coffee in a new place.

Make a list of things you’d like to try and find ways to make it happen. Enroll in a course at a local university or college or in your community adult education program. Take an art or writing class. Volunteer and meet other like-minded people. Join a book or photography club.

In my experience as a board-certified independent patient advocate and solo aging advocate and educator, worry about a limited support system often weighs on the minds of solo seniors.

Approaching the spaces and “third places” you connect with daily, weekly and monthly in a different way and with a new perspective can provide new opportunities and improve your social network.

Ailene Gerhardt