My father passed away about six months ago, and my mother seems to be struggling with loneliness. My parents always did everything together, from cooking meals to weekly yard work. Now that my dad is gone, my mom isn’t adjusting to single life as well as I’d hoped.
I know she’s still grieving for my dad, and that she misses him a lot. We all do. But I hate to see her spending more time in front of the TV, and less time out doing fun things that would make her happy. I’ve tried suggest that she get out and make new friends, but I don’t want to be pushy.
Do you have any suggestions for things I could try? I would love to get mom back into the social swing of things.
Kimberly in Lansing, Michigan
Thank you for your question. This is a dilemma that many older adults face when they lose a spouse or life partner. For many it feels like they’re starting their social lives over, which can be very daunting. Thankfully, there are lots of options available for jump starting a social life again.
Here are a few things you can suggest that may help your mother.
Helping a Parent Rebuild Their Social Circle
Reconnect with Old Friends
The internet offers wonderful opportunities for reconnecting with childhood friends and staying in town with loved ones near and far. There are several social media sites that would provide your mother with an easy way to find people she may have lost touch with years ago. Facebook is an especially popular social media channel for older adults to connect (and reconnect!) with friends and loved ones.
AARP notes that for adults who didn’t grow up in the ‘digital age,” technology can sometimes be frustrating. For aging loved ones who are hesitant to embrace the digital world, reconnecting with long-lost friends may be a great incentive to get started. If your mother seems reluctant, it may be that she’s not comfortable with her computer. Spending a little time showing her the ropes —including Facebook’s security and privacy settings — could help her get started.
Follow your Passions
Finding others who enjoy the same interests and hobbies is a great way to make new friends. You mentioned that your parents used to cook and do yard work together. Perhaps finding a local gardening club or a baking group would give her a chance to meet others with similar interests.
Ask your Mom if there’s something she’s always wanted to try, like wine tasting, photography or ceramics. Finding new things to try will provide opportunities to meet new people. Sometimes all a new friendship needs to blossom is a shared hobby.
Fitness with Friends
Exercise is critical to staying healthy, particularly as we age. The Mayo Clinic says that we naturally lose both muscle and strength as we age, which is why regular exercise is so important. But exercise is always more fun when you do it with friends!
If your mom doesn’t already have a regular exercise routine, you could suggest that she join a gym. If a gym membership isn’t in the budget, look into local walking clubs or classes offered at your local community center. Many offer a variety of inexpensive exercise classes, like:
- Water aerobics
- Tai Chi
- Gentle yoga
This would offer your mother the double benefit of both regular exercise, and a chance to meet new people.
Keep Other Needs in Mind
Be aware that your mom may still be coping with grief or even depression that can require more than just new friendships to move forward. Losing a beloved spouse is tough, and some seniors need more than just time to heal. If your mom is really struggling to find happiness in daily life, encourage her to talk to her doctor.
Also, daily home maintenance gets harder as we age. With the recent loss of your dad, your mom may be facing new challenges around the house. This could mean more work for her, and less time to socialize. I know it can be a very hard subject to discuss, but if your mom is having a hard time managing alone, it may be time to talk about senior living options in Michigan.
I wish you the best, and hope your mom is able to find fulfilling ways to meet people and make new friends.