As we get older our friends begin to have a bigger impact on our health and well-being, even more so than family, according to a new study.
Researchers led by William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, reviewed two surveys of approximately 280,000 people. They were questioned about relationships, happiness and health.
In the first study of 271,053 adults, having close, valued friendships related to better functioning mental and physical health, particularly among older adults. In the second study of 7,481 older adults, strain from friendships predicted increased chronic illnesses over a six-year period.
The study reports that older participants identified only their friendships as reliably strong predictors of how happy and healthy they felt. We recently interviewed some of the best of friends from The Springs at Tanasbourne community, to learn more about their long-lasting friendship and how it led them both to The Springs Living after their husbands had each passed away.
“We met in college,” remembers Marcia Norton. “We were going to Oregon State and both of us were in the School of Education. And then we went to California together. Sue had a car at that point and I didn’t, so I rode with her all the way to California. She had a convertible!”
“It was a 1957 black Chevrolet convertible with a red interior,” continues Suzanne Allen. “And it was so much fun in Southern California.”
The ladies share a laugh as they remember driving with the top down on their road trip all those years ago. Now living at The Springs at Tanasbourne, they say there are so many reasons they enjoy living in a community.
“It’s not only meeting people,” says Suzanne. “It’s all of the activities, and the freedom it gives us. Yet we also have the feeling of security and the feeling of safety. People can live here and still have so many opportunities for outings, experiences, shopping, and eating out that are very close by.”
Marcia adds, “to be honest, one of the major reasons that made me decide that this was the time to come to The Springs Living was an evening that I was sitting home alone in my condo, and suddenly I said to myself 'I’m lonesome.' I had never said that to myself before and it was almost like it bubbled up from inside. It came from somewhere that I didn’t know was there. So, I thought that it was time to come.”
Suzanne says it helps that her best friend, Marcia, decided to move into the same community. “Marcia and I are still very good friends,” she says as she smiles warmly at Marcia.
The power of friendship on physical and mental health, as reported by AARP, often is ignored when researchers study older people and happiness, because familial relationships are frequently deemed more important for this age group. But family members typically become caregivers for the elderly, and that role can create a sense of obligation. While the relationships are still vital, they may not provide as much joy in an elderly person's life as long-term friends. At the end of the day, friends are family you choose. And here at The Springs Living, love and friendship go hand in hand.