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Social connection

Staying connected to people in your family, friendship groups and community is good for your health and wellbeing.

As you get older it can be hard to maintain and build new relationships. But there are many things you can do to stay socially connected.

Learn more about the health benefits of social connections, changes that affect your social life, and helpful tips and resources.

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Health benefits

Research suggests that the effects of social isolation and loneliness can be more harmful to your health than other well-known risk factors such as smoking and being a heavier weight.

When you connect with others, it can:

  • protect you from depression and anxiety
  • lower your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • promote physical activity
  • help protect your cognitive health and reduce your risk of dementia
  • improve your ability to cope with stress
  • improve your sleep, wellbeing and overall quality of life.

Cultural connection

Cultural connection and participation in cultural activities are an important part of health and wellbeing for many people, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

You can learn more about staying connected to culture as you age at community centres, local Aboriginal health services and services such as My Aged Care.

Changes that affect your social connection

As you get older, changes in your life can make it harder to maintain social connections.


You may drift away from friends as life takes you in different directions. Over time, some friends may even pass away, leaving a space that’s hard to fill.

How you feel

You may develop health conditions that make it hard to catch up with people in your life. If you are in pain, you may not feel motivated to socialise.

If you are shy, have low self-confidence or social anxiety, it can be difficult to interact with other people, especially if you’re trying new things on your own.

Where you live

You may downsize your home and move to a new suburb. It can take time to get to know your community and connect with new social groups.

If you live in remote or rural locations, it can be hard to get around and meet new people.

What you can do

There are lots of ways to build social connections as you get older. For example, you can:

  • walk your dog (or someone else’s)
  • pop in to see someone you know
  • learn a new sport (e.g. golf, tennis, cycling, bowls)
  • join walking or bushwalking groups
  • enrol in a short course
  • start a new hobby (e.g. singing, craft, gardening, art, yoga).

You can also:

  • invite people over for regular catch-ups (e.g. card games)
  • travel with a group
  • visit your local community centre
  • volunteer in your local community (e.g. homeless support, community visits, library book deliveries, Meals on Wheels, mentoring)
  • join a local cultural or religious group.

If limited mobility stops you from staying socially connected, a mobility aid such as a walking frame or stick might help. Talk to your doctor, an occupational therapist or My Aged Care about supports available.

Tips to make new social connections

  • Introduce yourself to different people at social events.
  • Keep going to regular activities, such as classes or catch-ups, so people get to know you.
  • Be willing to talk about yourself – and listen to others.
  • Swap contact information with people you like.
  • Ask to catch up again if you liked meeting someone.

Apps and social platforms

You can connect with people via apps and social platforms. For example:

  • Amintro connects you to people aged over 50 with similar interests.
  • Stitch helps people aged over 50 to connect and make friends.
  • Meetup has a list of events you can join in your local area.

Local community groups

Find a local community group that has activities you like to do. For example, visit:

Other resources

Volunteering can be enjoyable and rewarding. It’s also a great way to make new friends. Visit the Volunteering Australia website for volunteering opportunities.

The Friendline service keeps older people connected via free, friendly phone calls with volunteers.

Visit the Australian government positive ageing website for information about how to live and age well.

You can also read or download our social connection fact sheet.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

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Schram MT, Assendelft WJJ, van Tilburg TG, Dukers-Muijrers NHTM. Social networks and type 2 diabetes: a narrative review. Diabetologia. 2021;64(9):1905-1916. doi:10.1007/s00125-021-05496-2
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Gardener H, Levin B, DeRosa J, et al. Social Connectivity is Related to Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia. J Alzheimers Dis. 2021;84(4):1811-1820. doi:10.3233/JAD-210519
Peen NF, Duque-Wilckens N, Trainor BC. Convergent neuroendocrine mechanisms of social buffering and stress contagion. Horm Behav. 2021;129:104933. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2021.104933
Kent de Grey RG, Uchino BN, Trettevik R, Cronan S, Hogan JN. Social support and sleep: A meta-analysis. Health Psychol. 2018;37(8):787-798. doi:10.1037/hea0000628
Last updated: 
18 June 2024
Last reviewed: 
02 February 2024

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