Social Activities for Meeting New People
By Maryann B. Hunsberger
How can someone with MS get out and meet new people? In many cases, they can accomplish this in the same way that people without MS meet people – by participating in activities that focus on things they enjoy. It’s easier to find things to talk about with people who share the same interests. People who enjoy reading can discuss their favorite books at a book club. Gardening enthusiasts can get new tips and make new friends at a gardening club. Additionally, book stores may offer occasional book signings, while large garden/home improvement centers often hold various instructional classes.
Taking – or teaching – adult evening classes at local high schools and community centers can be a great way to find like-minded people. Whether teaching techniques of painting or learning more about playing Bridge, these classes provide an outlet for encountering others who enjoy the same hobbies. Community colleges also have many classes available, from noncredit floral arranging classes to for-credit international language classes. Can you really meet new people in your local college’s French class? Mais oui! (Roughly translated… “Of course!”)
Volunteering is another way to find friends. Rather than stewing about the abused animals you care about – donate your time at an animal shelter, feeding and showing love to neglected animals. You’ll meet people who love animals in the process. If you’re concerned about homeless people, take time to serve meals at the nearest homeless shelter. Reading to individuals who are visually impaired is another important and rewarding volunteer opportunity. You’ll meet other volunteers while providing help, no matter which cause you choose.
And if thinking about volunteering… you can combine your desire to volunteer with your need for exercise and social activity, all while raising money to help individuals with MS! MSAA’s Swim for MS program allows participants to have an individual or group swim event – anywhere and anytime – to help raise funds for the programs at MSAA. Please visit mymsaa.org/swimforms for more information.
People with MS who use wheelchairs sometimes find it hard to meet others when so much of the world is inaccessible. Some individuals who meet others during social activities at accessible houses of worship find that newer worship buildings are generally more wheelchair-friendly. The community living section at Wheelchairnet (wheelchairnet.org) has links regarding accessible worship.
Some people meet friends at exercise classes for people with disabilities. The Arthritis Foundation (arthritis.org) stresses that their adapted exercise classes are held in an environment that encourages social interaction.
Centers for Independent Living in every state provide support groups for people with disabilities where friendships can form. Find your local center at ilru.org. These centers also provide information and referral to other disability-related organizations with opportunities for socialization.
Travel agencies specializing in wheelchair-accessible vacations can allow wheelchair users to see the world while making friends, both on cruises and on land tours.
According to Accessible Journeys (disabilitytravel.com), some important accommodations to seek from accessible travel agencies are meet-and-greet services at airports and train stations, accessible van rentals, and fully accessible hotels. The book, 101 Accessible Vacations: Travel Ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers by Candy B. Harrington, can be an ideal starting point for those seeking accessible vacations.
Many people with disabilities choose to meet other disabled individuals through online groups and message boards. These can provide socialization to people who have difficulty getting out of the house.