Your 50s and 60s are a time of transition.

If you have kids, they might have left home recently, leaving you with newfound freedom. It’s also around when you might be retiring from work and looking for more activities to fill your time.

Many people experience social isolation during this phase. Loneliness affects about a third of people ages 45 and older, and social isolation affects nearly a quarter of those 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Regardless of what’s happening for you during this time in your life, an active social life is crucial to your well-being.

Health benefits of socializing

Socializing may also help you stay healthy.

One long-term study of over 10,000 people looked at the relationship between social habits and incidences of dementia in people ages 50, 60, and 70. It found that those who reported having frequent social contact, especially with friends, were less likely to get dementia at each age.

Socializing with others may also help reduce your risk of several health issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.

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Here’s how to expand your social network in older adulthood.

Infographic 12 ways to expand your social life after 50Share on Pinterest
Infographic by Bailey Mariner and Alexis Lira

People don’t talk about the social benefits of exercise quite as much as the physical and cognitive benefits — but they should.

So many different forms of exercise that involve other people — including dance, team sports, and solo sports you do alongside others — have been shown to help people feel a sense of belonging and encourage social bonding.

There’s a strong connection between lifelong learning and well-being. For example, one 2020 review of seven studies found that learning a foreign language helped older adults maintain their cognitive abilities.

It also helped them form social connections and feel integrated into society.

Not to mention, it’s fun! If you have more free time these days, it’s a great time to enjoy learning something new. You might even meet a few new friends.

You can quickly start to feel socially isolated if you live alone or don’t have much time to socialize with others. If you’re in this situation, try making a conscious effort to schedule social dates with others.

If you can’t get out of the house for whatever reason, or don’t feel like it, consider checking in daily with friends and family by phone.

Calling a loved one, having coffee with a friend, or going to the dog park to chat with other dog lovers all offer healthy social time.

When you think of something you want to share with someone in your life, you don’t have to wait until you see them next. If you have a cell phone, you can text them.

It’s a great way to stay connected and share information with your loved ones in real-time — even just to say hello.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can also help you stay in touch with the people you care about.

A 2015 report found that 35% of people 65 and up used social media — a major increase from 2% in 2005.

Always ensure you understand your social accounts’ privacy settings and policy before you sign up or share personal information through them. And if you want to learn more about using social media, consider signing up for a class at your local library or community center.

Having transportation planned can help you gather the motivation to go out and socialize — especially if you don’t use a car.

It can help to research your transportation options so you can easily get to where you want to go. Senior Services of America suggests a few options that may be useful whether or not you’re a senior:

  • public transportation
  • para-transit services — free with a reservation through some public transport companies for people who can’t easily access public transportation services
  • private ride services — like taxis specialized for older people and those with mobility needs
  • taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber

Helping out a cause you care about might allow you to connect with others who share your values and can help you gain a sense of purpose. It’s a win-win.

Volunteering outside your home at a set time per week can also help you maintain your social schedule.

Getting to know many different kinds of folks with varied interests can expose you to a broader range of activities, people, and resources than you might experience were you only part of one social group.

Try branching out by trying things you’ve always wanted to do but never had a chance to do before.

This could be through volunteering, trying a new sport or hobby, joining a book club, and many more social activities. The important thing is that you’re broadening your horizons and staying curious.

If your everyday habits include a lot of isolation, you might want to consider inviting people to join you sometimes. Ask yourself:

  • Could you carpool with someone instead of commuting alone?
  • Could you chat with a friend on the phone while you cook?
  • Could you invite someone new to join your exercise regimen?
  • Could you invite a friend to join you for movie night?

It’s very easy to fall into a routine of coming home from work or other daytime activities, curling up on the couch alone to watch TV, and then going to bed without much social interaction.

If you don’t get enough social time during a regular week, try swapping a solo evening on the couch for hanging out with a friend.

Research shows that caring for a pet can reduce stress and increase well-being. It’s not the same as socializing with other humans, but it can provide a great deal of comfort.

Having a pet may even help you create more connections with human beings since you’ll have more chances to meet other pet lovers.

Remember that getting a pet is a big commitment, so make sure you’re ready and in it for the long haul before diving in.

Connect with community centers in your area to discover a wide array of workshops, social events, sports, and arts activities.

Many centers have events or classes going on every day of the week. It’s just a matter of choosing what you want to do, signing up, and showing up.

You shouldn’t have to deal with loneliness, stress, and social isolation alone. Speak with a healthcare professional if you’re not sure how to get out of a loneliness rut. You can start by talking with a doctor or contacting a therapist.

They can help assess the issue and help connect you with resources in your community.

Getting social on a daily basis is crucial for people of all ages and has many health benefits.

If you’re in a transition period, such as retirement or adult kids leaving home, then now is a great time to start forming new habits and expanding your social circle.

Maintaining strong social connections will help you live a long and happy life.