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6 Ways to Build Better Community and Heighten Your Golden Years’ Glory

By Susanna Barton May 05, 2024 Lifestyle

Finding and establishing a key role in a network of dependable people is the cornerstone of a successful second half. In addition to cultivating social connections, provision and a sense of purpose and belonging, living in community with others is good for our long-term health and happiness.

A recent study from the National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine indicates lack of community can be detrimental to older Americans’ aging experience. And it’s affecting more than one-quarter of Americans aged 65 or older.

To cite directly:

“People who are 50 years of age or older are more likely to experience many of the risk factors that can cause or exacerbate social isolation or loneliness, such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and sensory impairments. Over a life course, social isolation and loneliness may be episodic or chronic, depending upon an individual’s circumstances and perceptions. A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that social isolation presents a major risk for premature mortality, comparable to other risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, or obesity. As older adults are particularly high-volume and high-frequency users of the health care system, there is an opportunity for health care professionals to identify, prevent, and mitigate the adverse health impacts of social isolation and loneliness in older adults.”

Biggest Risks of Social Isolation

Loneliness and isolation are not only bad for our minds, but they are also ruinous for our bodies! The Center for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the biggest risks to social isolation in older adults:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia.
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) were associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

6 Ways to Build a Better Community After 60

Living in community with others is the answer to this epidemic. Someone who is “on the scene” is noticed, missed, needed and accounted for – very helpful qualities for battling loneliness and experiencing good care. All it takes is some dedication to and awareness of the process. Here are a few ways to discover or build a dependable network of support during our Golden Years:

Find a Faith Community with Which You Feel Comfortable Connecting and Make Use of Its Activities, Resources and Offerings

Places of worship are all about building community. No matter your faith experience or interest, you will find a place for yourself in studies, trips, volunteer opportunities and services. And because these institutions practice routine and dedication to mission, there is ample opportunity to get on a schedule and be known by like-minded individuals. Ask your friends and neighbors about area faith communities and where you might fit.

Join a Fitness, Social or Special Interest Club and Attend Classes or Events Regularly

Club communities of all kinds are active all around you! These spaces provide social interaction, education, health and wellness activities and networking opportunities, and more! Some clubs may require membership fees, but they are well worth the investment. In addition to meeting others who share similar interests, you can sharpen any skills or participate in activities that benefit your mental and physical health.

Walk, Enjoy or Engage with Others in Your Neighborhood Often, If Not on a Daily Basis

This activity is free! And it requires very little effort on your part. To better connect with people living near you, the only requirement is to open your front door and go outside. Being seen and known by your closest neighbors is valuable for aging in place.

Volunteer with an Organization That Is Important to You and Maintain a Routine or Service

The world needs more volunteers! Aligning your activities with a nonprofit organization or mission-based group will not only connect you with similarly passionate folks, it changes lives and helps you become more others-focused in your second half! And there’s no membership fee required.

Patronize Restaurants, Stores and Businesses Near You with Frequency and Enthusiasm

Get to know the folks who work there, be a person on the scene. Go often enough that you’re noticed if you aren’t there!

If you want your community to flourish, it is imperative to support the local retail enterprises near your home. This commitment also is a benefit for older adults. The more seniors are seen and known by others in the community, the more aware others are of potential problems or concerns. Buying local is a win-win for everyone.

Design a Role for Yourself Within Your Family or Close Friend Circles

Before you go looking far and wide for your place in the wider community, take a good hard look at the family and friends who already brighten your life. You could have a very important role to play in these spaces.

Younger family members, for example, may be struggling with childcare or transportation. Maybe you have a few extra hours to babysit or drive a carpool each week. Perhaps a friend or older adult in your family needs a little help with meal preparation or getting to appointments. There are plenty of folks who would gain from your special strength, availability or attention. Investment of your time and energy in these spaces pays dividends when you need a little extra help or attention down the road.

The saying, “It takes a village,” rings true as we approach the senior stroll. Without a connected support group, we can open ourselves up to loneliness and poor quality of life. Looking beyond ourselves and out into the community is the best way to thrive during our Golden Years.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How have you discovered support and community in the second half? What are some other ways folks over 60 can build a reliable network?

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Karen Chambre

Such an important article. Sometimes it seems to come up fast. Also, people are working remotely. It is a very difficult time that can be made so much richer,


A great article. Some of us Midlifers don’t have the luxury of being close to our family members and a lot of them are estranged hence this can add to the feeling of being alone and those family members no longer serve you.

The Author

Susanna Barton, a longtime writer in Jacksonville FL, is the founder of the Grand Plans online community, podcast, newsletter and blog. Her book Grand Plans: How to Mitigate Geri-Drama in 20 Easy Steps and its accompanying workbook, the Grand Planner, are available in local stores and on Amazon. For more information visit

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