friendsIn a 2013 survey from the National Council on Aging, UnitedHealthcare, and USA TODAY, when asked the most important factor in maintaining their quality of life, 40 percent of seniors chose connections to family and friends, as compared to 30 percent who named financial means. Apparently the old adage, “money can’t buy you happiness” becomes truer and truer as you age.

So why are meaningful relationships so important? In addition to the fun you have sharing time with people you like, social engagement and connection can also have important physical and emotional benefits for you.

Achieve your goals. Maybe your goal is to exercise three times a week, learn to dance the tango or see Italy. Friends can motivate you by sharing your goals—and going with you to the gym or on trips—or simply by keeping your dreams top of mind for you.

Decreases grief. When you lose someone you love, having friends and family around to listen, offer encouragement and offer a hand with day-to-day life can help you work through your grief and get to the other side. Conversely, when you have no one to support you, it often becomes harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Perks you up. You can’t choose your family; however, you can choose your friends. And if you choose happy ones, you could be a whole lot more content yourself. The Framingham Heart Study showed that people tend to congregate in happy or unhappy groups, and both happiness and unhappiness can spread through—and even beyond—these groups.

Strengthens your immune system.Health experts say that having friends and being socially engaged creates more positive emotions, which in turn may actually boost your body’s immune system and relieve stress.

It’s important to have friends, but it’s equally important to be a good friend in return. Providing an ear, volunteering your support and being there to share a laugh (or a cry) will make your friends feel good and you in the process!

How have your friends and family supported you over the years?  Let us know in the comments!