Older adults have only 4 friends they can count on, survey shows

New poll shows that a fifth of people over 55 experience feelings of loneliness most of the time.

NEW YORK — Over the age of 55? Odds are you only have four friends you can count on. That’s the sobering finding from a poll of 2,000 Americans in this age group that sheds light on loneliness and social inactivity among older adults.

In fact, the survey finds that one in five feel lonely more than half the week (19%). Three in four admit that their social circle has shrunk as they’ve gotten older (77%), with nearly half of respondents (48%) sharing that they’ve stopped being friends with at least three people in the last two years alone.

However, the survey, conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by Life Time, also finds that 83 percent feel it’s never too late in life to create fulfilling relationships. In their later years, people want to focus on spending their time with friends and family (52%), traveling (40%), and improving their overall health (39%).

What do people look for in a new friend?

It’s no surprise then that 70 percent say they’re interested in making new friends, saying that it’s important to find someone who likes the same things (55%), can carry a great conversation (50%), has had similar life experiences (49%), and wants to remain active together (40%).

More than half wish there was a community of people their age to spend time with near them (53%), and 64 percent claim they would be more physically active if they had someone to do things with. To that point, 46 percent shared that they’ve made a new friend while being active.

While six in 10 are already trying to be more active at this age than ever before (62%), 37 percent admit they can get lonely by themselves. Sixty percent of Americans over 55 say they’d try out a new activity if they had someone to do it with, hoping to make a friend through walking or hiking (48%), swimming (32%), or strength and conditioning classes (31%).

“It may seem intimidating to try something new, like pickleball, yoga or dance classes,” says Renee Main, senior vice president of healthy aging at Life Time, in a statement. “But actually it’s a great way to make new friends – while improving your health and overall well-being – especially when you’re supported by a coach who’s been trained to assist older adults.”

Living life to the fullest means living healthy

Similarly, 63 percent admit that they’ve put off certain aspects of taking care of their health like exercising regularly (54%), eating well (37%), and drinking enough water (37%). Despite this, 86 percent of respondents agree that if you want to make the most of your “golden years,” it’s important to be as healthy and active as you can.

Most respondents agreed that one of their goals at this age is to live each of their days to the fullest (79%). Two in three want to live a healthier life to play with their grandchildren instead of just watching them play.

Sixty-five percent also recognize that their health has had a significant impact on the activities and lifestyle they enjoy – but there’s still hope, according to the 83 percent think it’s never too late to get healthy. In fact, 73 percent say they’re happier when they’re active and a similar percentage plan on investing more time in their health to help them live a fulfilling life (74%).

“Whether you’re nine years old or 90, people tend to be happier and healthier when they regularly participate in activities with friends,” Main says. “If you want to experience a long and joyful life, then get out there, make new friends, and have fun trying new things together.”

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