The Oswestry Oddfellows, a friendly society which provides opportunities for older adults in the area to make new local friendships, is inviting people to assess their social circles to see if they could benefit from making new connections.
The invitation is part of the society’s Friendship Month celebrations this September, where its members are hosting special taster events in Oswestry to help people plug any friendship gaps and experience the benefits of joining a community-based social group.
Vivienne Osborne, Branch Secretary of the Oswestry Branch, said: “Your friendship needs and circle of friends can alter dramatically in later life. We often talk about the dangers of loneliness on our health, but you don’t have to be lonely to need new friends. In fact, it’s important to your social wellbeing to have a well-rounded friendship group – which includes new friends, pals with shared hobbies and interests and friends who challenge and support you.
“We’ve a wonderful range of personalities and people here in Oswestry and September’s the perfect time to try us out. We’ve some great Friendship Month events lined up and have even arranged a special get-together to coincide with the next Farmers Market (Weds 20 September) as we know people love to attend that,” added Vivienne.
“We’ll be enjoying homemade coffee and cake in the Memorial Hall from 10am until midday so you can do your shopping and then pop in and say hello!”
Val Curtis, 91, from Oswestry, joined the group just over six months ago and urges anyone looking to make some new connections to do the same. She said: “I am really enjoying the Oddfellows. I enjoy the company and the friendship – it’s a really nice crowd of people and they have made me feel very welcome.”
Globe-trotting Val, who lived in Canada for more than 20 years, particularly enjoys the events organised by the group. She said: “It’s been a great way to get to know people. The coffee mornings are always fun to go to and I look forward to the trips. We had a marvellous trip along the Llangollen Canal which was lovely. I’m looking forward to doing more things like that.”
Val, who is a great-grandmother of six added: “I would highly recommend it, especially if you would like to meet new people.”
In addition to the coffee and cake for Friendship Month, which takes place in the Memorial Hall on Festival Square at 10am on Wednesday 20 September, the Oswestry Oddfellows also enjoys a regular lunch on the second Thursday of each month at 12.45pm, a monthly coffee morning on the last Monday of each month at 11am, a seated exercise class on Mondays at 2pm, as well as regular theatre and coach trips. A Brass Band concert is also planned for the end of October.
Psychologist, author and friend of the Oddfellows, Dr Denise Taylor, echoes the importance of checking in on how you feel about your friendships, especially as you get older and circumstances change.
She said: “Friendships are vital to our social wellbeing and can have a direct effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. As we journey through life, we can go through many stages of transition – retirement, relocation, losing loved ones, which mean that some friendships may slip away. Our opportunities to maintain a supportive social circle often reduces and the friendships we do have can take more work.
“I advise taking stock of your friendship network at regular stages in your life, look at your own social wellbeing and identify what needs to change to ensure you feel fulfilled and supported by those around you.”
Dr Denise has provided her top tips on how to assess your friendships and identify if there are any areas for improvement.
Shared interests: Hobbies are a fantastic way to keep you motivated, and sharing them with a friend makes it much more enjoyable. If you don’t have someone to do the things you enjoy with, perhaps now is the time to find someone to share your passions with.
Emotional support: A problem shared is a problem halved. Do you have a confidante in your social circle you can reach out to? It’s not uncommon to find that friendships decline as we age, often due to changes in circumstances and lifestyle. The good news is, it’s never too late to expand your social circle and develop new, valuable friendships.
Joy in friendship: Whether it’s a casual acquaintance or a life-long friend, one friendship we should all have is one that simply brings joy. If you’ve identified there’s room for more friends, then take action. There are plenty of groups you can connect with, or, if that feels a little daunting, perhaps you could start by simply smiling at someone in the street. Even the smallest connections can bring joy.
Sense of purpose: We are sociable beings and being socially connected is crucial to our health and wellbeing. We need to feel like we matter. As we get older and our life goes through transitions, we can often feel like the connections we used to have are no longer there. Perhaps now is the time to put some effort in reigniting friendships or finding new ones?
Diversity: There’s a lot to be said about making new friends. Not only do they reinvigorate you, they also present new opportunities and perspectives. Whether you haven’t had time to make new friends, or you don’t know where to start, you won’t regret putting some effort into finding new friends.
Dr Denise added: “It’s not one-size-fits-all when it comes to an ideal mix of friends. It’s about identifying what you value, and doing something about it.”
To register an interest in attending an Oswestry Oddfellows Friendship Month event, or to request a free local events pack, contact Vivienne on 07706 036305 or email Vivienne.Osborne@oddfellows.co.uk. Further details can also be found at friendshipmonth.com.