The Caregiver's Journey: One Can Never Have Enough Friends

By Marsha Kay Seff

"The Caregivers' Journey" appears here monthly. Marsha Kay Seff wrote and edited the San Diego Eldercare Directory for 10 years. She knows first-hand about the ups and downs of caregiving, as she brought her aging parents to San Diego from Miami Beach in order to look after them. Her column will discuss the challenges faced by adults in caring for their aging parents. Direct email inquiries or responses to

My mom used to complain how difficult it was to make friends at her retirement home. Then one day, she stepped into the elevator and said hello to someone she had wanted to befriend.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” Mom told her. “It looks like you’ve put on some weight.”

The woman glared at her and left the elevator without even saying good-bye. I suggested that next time, she tell the woman how great she looked.

Recently, a student in my writing class also mentioned the difficulty of making friends. He complained that not a single person had invited him to do something in the two years he’d been at the center.

I asked how many people he had invited to coffee or anything else. “None,” he answered.

Close relationships are vital to our physical, mental and emotional health. Friends provide us with companionship, conversation and caring. Unfortunately, chances are that many of your parents’ long-time friends have moved or died or simply lost touch. And social skills can get rusty after you’ve counted on the same people for decades and haven’t had to create new relationships.

If your parents sit in front of the TV all day, it’s time you encouraged them to take action. The first step is connecting with old friends.To make new friends, your folks need to overcome the idea that everyone else their age already has enough friends. Nobody does.

Your parents need to go somewhere they can meet people: a senior center, retirement-facility activities and adult-education classes. If they’re up to it, a part-time or volunteer job can provide a great opportunity to meet others. Even taking the dog for a walk will put them in contact with others.
Your parents need to learn to ignore the junior-high-type cliques and graciously ask if they can join a group.

If someone invites your parents to do something, they need to say “yes,” even if they don’t think they’ll enjoy the activity. They might end up having fun and meeting others.

Once they meet people, they need to be prepared with a topic of conversation: “What’s the best trip you even took? What do you think of the way kids dress today?”

Remind your folks that it’s important not to talk exclusively about themselves or to complain.
Offering to help a new acquaintance who is sick is a great way to spark a friendship. A simple phone call might be enough.

Your parents also need to understand that building friendships requires time, effort and patience.
If you can help your parents make just one or two good friends, you will have improved their lives – and your own as well.

Sponsored by Right at Home, In-Home Care & Assistance,, (951) 506-9628, Contact Marsha Kay Seff at


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