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Cultivating Friendships a Key to Good Health

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from Abilities Magazine, Winter, 2000.

A friend is a very important person! He or she is one of the keys to good health. With a friend you can laugh, cry, share ideas, dreams or frustrations, relax and just be yourself! A friend will stick with you in good and bad times.

Recently a health survey asked the question: "At present, how many close friends do you have?" Of 319 young Ontarians with disabilities aged 11 to 16 years, 3 percent checked none, 15 percent responded with one, and the remaining 82 percent ticked more than one close friend.

The same question was asked to 280 Ontarian adults with disabilities. Do you think the adult group would have more friends? The answer is no. Eleven percent ticked none, 18 percent responded with one, and 71 per cent reported having more than one close friend. Adults with disabilities have significantly fewer friends than youth with disabilities.

This finding is noteworthy, but may not be surprising. Most adults no longer attend school, a central place of socialization for youth with disabilities.

Thus, they may lose old school friendships. They may be unable to find work and have fewer possibilities to interact with others. Or they may have a job but, because of extra time and effort to do the work, they may have less time to socialize.

Are there ways that these adults can have more friends? They could: contact old school friends; become volunteers; go to activities at community centres such as the "Y"; attend libraries, churches or synagogues; get involved with organizations for people with disabilities; join chat groups on the internet;

join groups that share their interests (e.g., music, fitness, acting, painting, writing); create a group that meets at a place and time appropriate for them; go out for a meal or a walk/wheel with another person; and be interested in others and open to new ideas.

As an old rhyme says, "Make new friends but keep the old/these are silver, those are gold." Adults with disabilities should try to live by these words.

If you have ideas on friendship, call Catherine Steele at Bloorview MacMillan Centre, (416) 424-3855 or 1-800-363-2440, ext. 3642; email: csteele@bloorviewmacmillan.on.ca