SAN ANTONIO - A Harvard University study found that loneliness can be as deadly as smoking, and a group of women in South Texas believe they have found their own cure.
NextTribe is a social networking group for women over the age of 45.
Debbie Clarke is a single mother who has grown children. When she discovered the group, she knew it was going to be something special.
"It has reawakened that — ‘Wait a minute, I like to go out and be with people'" feeling, Clarke said.
The goal of NextTribe is to promote friendships and connections for women over 45.
The group started as an online magazine. Last year, it expanded to bring events and outings to Austin. This summer, it has taken off in San Antonio with about 250 members.
Clarke is the community manager for the San Antonio chapter and helps plan events such as book clubs, movie screenings and exercise classes.
"At our age, maybe we've lost touch with previous friends or, for whatever reason, we don't have as active as a social life as we want," said Trudy, a NextTribe member.
Trudy turned 60 this year. She is semi-retired, and her daughter is grown up. She believes that being part of NextTribe has helped her mentally and with her physical health.
"It makes you feel more vital and that you are part of something," she said.
The NextTribe founder started the group to combat loneliness in older women and there are studies to back up the fact that this is a real issue.
A Harvard University study says to lower your risk of heart disease or stroke, you need to get out and meet people. And a Swedish study found that people with broad networks of friends were the lowest risk group for dementia.
The founders of NextTribe also use the example of an Ohio State University study, which showed that cancer patients who were surrounded by a support group were 56% less likely to die.
"We will not be quiet little grannies sitting in a corner," Clarke said.
The group has several events planned each month. Trudy said since June, she has already made six or seven good friends thanks to NextTribe.
"It's given me a lot of hope and just excitement," she said.
There are no member fees to join NextTribe. You must, however, be a woman who is at least 45 years old, and you can request to join the closed Facebook group in San Antonio.
Once you are accepted, you can find all the group's upcoming events on the site.
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