“You’ve got a friend”, but just 1 in 5 Brits aged 55+ would turn to a friend about their mental health
This International Friendship Day, new research conducted by the UK’s leading developer and manager of retirement communities, McCarthy Stone, has revealed that just a fifth of older people (55+) would speak to a friend about their mental health.
Older generations are aware of the potential benefits of friendships; 1 in 2 over 55s agree that you depend more on friendships as you mature, and positive mental health benefits are key: 60% said their friends made them feel less lonely and 48% that friends reduced their feelings of anxiety.
Yet despite this awareness, 4 in 5 over 55s remain unwilling to turn to friends over their family for mental health support. This compares starkly with 43% of 18-55s who would speak to friends over family.
Gloria Hunniford said: “I think the Covid-19 lockdown has shown us all just how much we have missed our family and friends. Friendships are so important and especially vital as we age, whether you’ve known them your whole life, or you met them in later years. When you live as part of a community you develop close bonds with people, some of my closest friends live near me in Sevenoaks and I only met them in later life.
“I think it’s important that we’re all talking more openly about our friendships and mental health. This is especially true of older people, because as you get older it’s easy to become more isolated and loneliness can be a huge issue. Having human interaction and face-to-face conversation is really powerful, and I think we should make a great effort to be more open about life health issues with our friends. There are many studies that suggest that socialisation is one of the keys to living a longer more fulfilled life.”
It’s clear that all age groups value their friendships and are aware of the mental health benefits. In fact, no matter the age, we’re all open to making new close friendships: 2 in 5 over 55s (41%) and 3 in 5 (58%) 18-55s feel this way. Yet just 15% of over 75s have made a close friend in the last year, which suggests they may lack the opportunities to do so.
Retirement living offers many opportunities to develop friendships. Living in retirement communities, many McCarthy Stone homeowners enjoy having the best of both worlds: independence with the opportunity for relaxed socialising when they feel like it.
David Searle, Managing Director – Services at McCarthy Stone said: “We’re all aware of the importance of looking after our mental health. The first thing is to be more open with each other. Homeowners in our communities often form firm friendships, and we hope that these bonds are one of many ways that our homeowners feel supported.
“We’re always looking at ways that we can better support our homeowners, whether it’s with fitness classes, book clubs or film nights. Our developments give you access to a warm, fun and caring community.”
Beryl Rossidies, and Janet Denston, have been friends for over 50 years and have shared many memories. The pair are now closer than ever since they both secured apartments at McCarthy Stone’s Algar Court Retirement Living development in Penn.
Beryl said, “Janet and I have been friends for a very long time – our husbands were close friends and, when we were both widowed, we became even closer. We go to church together every Sunday and catch up during the coffee mornings at Algar Court. Our friendship has grown immensely since moving to Algar Court, and it can only get better.
“My family have lived in Wolverhampton for a very long time, my children and grandchildren are so pleased that I’m still nearby and we can all spend quality time together. Moving to Algar Court has allowed me to make new friendships and improve older ones, as well as relaxing at last!”
McCarthy Stone are involved in a variety of wellness initiatives that support everyone from homeowners to the local communities surrounding developments. This includes ‘Sing Your Heart Out’ events to help raise money for the Royal Voluntary Service and raise awareness of how singing can bring benefits to the mental and physical wellbeing of older people, as well as the introduction of a new fitness scheme to help enrich its resident’s retirements.