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Forging and fostering friendships

Feb. 11, 2016

Tips for forging new relationships and for fostering existing ones when living with Young Onset Parkinson's.

Living with Parkinson’s can present challenges for both establishing new friendships and existing ones. This is especially the case for Young Onset Parkinson’s, as the changes it brings can be quite different to what our peers are going through.

Relationships can be demanding and we may not have the time, energy or mobility to participate in them fully. We might be wary of seeking out new relationships for fear of how people will respond to Parkinson’s - and some relationships may change or even end. But, living with Parkinson’s doesn’t have to mean the end of meaningful friendships. In some cases it might even be that our relationships develop to be more meaningful than they otherwise would have been.


Here are some tips for fostering existing friendships:

  • Remember your worth. Keep in mind that even if there are changes in your relationships and the way you interact with friends, you still have lots to offer. We each bring different things to a relationship - personality, experience, interests and skills. The challenge is to find different ways to contribute. 
  • Recognise that It’s not just you. Sometimes when we go through big life changes we can lose some of the people we counted as friends. This can be hard, but don’t feel that it is just about you. It may say more about the other person – their fears, values or limitations. Or maybe that friendship has run its course. There’s a saying that “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”. Perhaps the reason, or season, for this friendship has simply come to an end. 
  • Help others be good friends. People may respond in different ways to a friend’s diagnosis with a chronic illness. Some people may appear to back-off. Don’t assume that this means they don’t want to be friends any longer – they may simply be unsure how to act around you. Reinforce to friends that while you have a Parkinson’s diagnosis, you are still the same person. Let those around you know how they can continue to be good friends. 


You’re never too old to make new friends! Look for opportunities to meet and connect. You could:

  • Take part in an exercise group. Activities like tai chi or yoga can have great physical benefits for people with Parkinson’s, and help you make new friends with similar interests.
  • Join Young at Park or another Parkinson’s Peer Support Groups. Socialising with others living with Parkinson’s means you don’t have to explain your symptoms, and you’ll meet a group of understanding individuals.
  • Connect with others online. Forums where you can connect with others can provide a good alternative if you can’t commit to face-to-face catch ups.
  • Look within your existing networks. The parents of children’s’ friends, the lady with the same dog breed as you at the park, the friend of a friend… These may all be potential new friendships just waiting for you to initiate the first move.


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