As caregivers and family members of seniors, we often focus on maintaining family ties.

But let’s not overlook another crucial aspect of their social life: their pals, their buddies, their partners in crime. The emotional support and sense of belonging we get from friends and peers remains just as important as we age.

This blog explores the significance of these relationships and shares practical ways to support your senior loved ones to maintain them, especially through the more isolating winter months.

The Value of Social Capital for Seniors

Research consistently shows the importance of social connections for seniors. Social isolation and loneliness can lead to serious health risks, including cognitive decline and depression.

But maintaining peer connections is about more than that. It’s also about the laughter, shared stories, and the occasional eye roll that only a friend can truly appreciate.

Research has shown that social capital, the ties that build trust and participation, is essential for seniors. As we age, our health and social networks naturally decline due to retirement, loss of friends and family, and reduced social contact, which directly impacts mental and physical health​.


More Mobility, Healthier Behaviors

One study involving nearly 14,000 adults in Southeastern Pennsylvania found that seniors living in neighborhoods with greater social capital had significantly higher physical mobility scores​​.

Another study showed that neighborhoods with higher levels of social capital saw adults more likely to engage in health-seeking behaviors, like getting recommended cancer screenings​.


Reducing Cognitive Decline

Perhaps most significantly, a 12-year study of over 1,100 seniors (who did not have dementia when they began the research) showed that those with frequent social contact had a 70 percent lower rate of cognitive decline compared to those with low social activity​​.

70 percent! That’s huge.

This highlights the importance of maintaining social connections. They’re crucial not only for emotional well-being but for cognitive health as well.


Challenges of Maintaining Friendships In Winter

It’s clear that social capital matters for seniors. But winter can make maintaining these connections more difficult. Between cold weather and shorter days, it can be harder for your senior loved ones to engage in the social activities they need to thrive.

Let’s look at some creative ways to support your senior loved ones to keep their peer connections strong through the winter season.


Winter Strategies for Maintaining Peer Connections

Virtual Gatherings

Encourage your senior loved ones to stay connected through video calls, social media, or online community groups. Even if they don’t rely on this kind of technology as much the rest of the year, regular virtual meetups can be a lifeline during cold months. 

Indoor Social Activities

Organize small indoor gatherings that include your senior loved one, or encourage them to seek out events at their local senior center. Activities like book clubs, craft circles, or board game afternoons can be the perfect winter antidote.

Winter Walks

If health permits, support your loved one to meet friends in the neighborhood for walks. Even brief outdoor interactions can have a positive impact on mood and overall well-being.

Letter Writing

Who doesn’t love to get mail? Encourage your senior loved one to initiate letter-writing exchanges with old friends. There are also programs like Love for Our Elders or Pen Pal for Life that will connect your senior loved one with a volunteer letter writer!

Transportation Support

Offer help with transportation – not just to the necessary spots like doctor’s appointments, but also to social events. This can be crucial in enabling seniors to maintain their social connections.


Encouraging Independence and Initiative

Empower Decision-Making

Encourage your senior loved one to take the lead in planning social activities with their friends, whether it’s a phone call schedule or a weekly card game.

Provide Resources

Help make sure they have access to the necessary technology to connect socially, like a tablet, computer, or smartphone,  and assist them in learning how to use it.

Addressing Safety Concerns

Health Precautions

Be mindful of health safety, especially during flu season and ongoing COVID-19 concerns. Encourage vaccinations and safe social practices.

Weather Preparedness

Make sure that your senior loved ones are equipped with appropriate clothing and gear for winter conditions.


Help Your Senior Loved Ones Maintain Their Peer Connections During Winter

By getting our senior loved ones the extra support they might need during winter to maintain their peer relationships, we can help support their emotional and cognitive well-being – plus just infuse a little more joy into their lives during the coldest months.

Next Steps

If you could use any support to navigate understanding whether your senior loved one might be experiencing social isolation – and how you can help them – we’d love to help.

You can always get compassionate, tailored support from us in one of these three easy ways — all completely free.

  1. Visit our support page to request your complimentary Caregiver Workbook.
  2. Call our Caregiver Hotline for free custom support at 855-461-2552. All questions welcome.
  3. Send us a message describing how we can support you. Choose whether you’d like us to reach out: text, email, or snail mail.

There is no charge for these services. They’re simply an extension of our mission to help every family who calls.