My partner Ron, a 66 year old journalist who works from home, has been a lot happier lately. In spite of the snow and cold, he has a spring in his step and great energy, which comes in handy for removing that snow. I firmly believe that his new-found happiness is the result of his faithful attendance at his weekly coffee outing with other men his age.He has shared that the friendships he has developed with this group of men has made him feel more connected, and therefore more supported as he navigates life’s challenges.Staying connected to others is key to aging well. A large body of scientific research shows that social interaction — having strong, happy relationships with family, friends and community members — is an important factor in good health and longevity.

Harvard Medical School professor and researcher Robert J. Waldinger reported the findings from an ongoing study over a 75 year period on the significance of friendships as we age. “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier and they live longer than people who are less well connected. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic.”

Why are close friends so good for us? Because they can give us the emotional support that helps us cope with stress. They can be a positive influence, helping us create healthy habits (for example, if your friends don’t smoke, you probably don’t either.) Studies show friendships give us higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others and make us more trusting and cooperative. And perhaps most important: as we age, our friends and family give us a sense of purpose and a reason to keep getting up in the morning.

But as we get older, and especially for people who work from home or are retired, it is challenging to make new friends where we can build a circle of trust. Men in particular must take the initiative to reach out if they want to establish these special friendships with other men.

Starting this month, men will have the opportunity to gather at Community Thread for a men’s group. Coffee and Conversation is aimed at men who enjoy getting together to socialize on a regular basis. Active men aged 50+ who have diverse ideas and experiences are invited to join. The group will be facilitated by volunteer John Woolley, who observes “men don’t join groups unless it is centered around a sport or activity. I am hoping this group will enjoy each other’s company, be open to discussing a variety of topics, and evolve as we get to know each other”.

Coffee and Conversation will be offered the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month from 10:30 – 11:30 am at Community Thread, 2300 Orleans St. West in Stillwater. There is no cost to attend. Please call 651-439-7434 and let us know if you plan to attend. Come check it out and develop some connections with other men. Your health will be better for it.

By: Sally Anderson