by Ellen Blake
Making new friends at any age can be challenging, but it seems harder as we get older. That’s not great news for those of us who need people in our lives. And that’s most of us, isn’t it? Humans are social creatures and too much alone time is not good for anyone. Connections with others help us to thrive as we age and provide a support system.
Making New Friends Can Be a Challenge
There are lots of reasons why some of us find ourselves feeling lonely and isolated as we get older. Divorce can change our friend groups. The death of a spouse affects our relationships. Retirement alters our interactions with former colleagues. New family responsibilities, health issues, and/or physical limitations can make socializing difficult. A move to a new geographic location might not cause a friendship to disintegrate, but it certainly takes more effort to maintain the relationship. And sometimes, we simply grow apart from our long-term friends because we find we have less in common than we did when younger. Simply put, life just gets in the way.
Research shows that social interaction offers many benefits as we age. For that reason, it’s important to make an effort to develop new friendships, though it may require more effort and patience at this point in your life. We all need a support system.
Are People My Age Open to New Friendships?
I feel lucky to have some very dear long-term friendships, however, that doesn’t mean these friends live nearby or have time for me even if they do. While those relationships are important to me, I’d love to develop relationships with new people now who live locally and with whom I really connect. But the reality is that making new friends is easier said than done in this phase of life. We don’t have as many natural social opportunities to meet and interact with people as we did in our younger years. And do other people my age even want new friends? Sometimes it seems like everyone else has their established social circles and is not open to expanding them. Am I the only one who feels alone?
I don’t know about you, but I am rusty. It’s been a long time since I actively sought out new friends. I often feel anxious and self-conscious about meeting new people now and it’s harder to take risks and put myself out there. I don’t like rejection. Who does?
Tips on How to Make New Friendships After 50
Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start when trying to figure out how to make new friendships after 50. Here are seven suggestions that might be helpful.
Make the first move.
When you meet someone you enjoy, invite them to get together another time. This may sound obvious, but is not always easy, especially if you, like me, tend to have social anxiety. Don’t expect the other person to take the initiative. They may like you as much as you like them but are uncomfortable extending themselves. So make the first move. What have you got to lose?
Organize your neighbors.
Lots of us don’t even know our neighbors these days. Or maybe we know and like them, but don’t make time to visit them. Perhaps we mean to, but the days go by quickly and we just don’t.
I live in a development where many of us live in the same homes we moved to 25 years ago. We spent a lot of time together when we all had small kids, arranging playdates and carpooling to activities. But then life got busy, the kids got busy doing their separate activities and we sort of drifted apart. A new couple about our age moved in recently who wanted to meet the neighbors. They didn’t have phone numbers for us, so they taped invitations to all our front doors inviting us to a gathering. Not only did we meet this fantastic new couple, but it was a pleasure to reconnect with our neighbors. We all appreciated this effort to get everyone together and look forward to the next event already in the planning phase. I greatly admired this couple for taking the initiative.
Invite a long-lost friend over for dinner.
Do you have friends you truly enjoyed but lost touch with because your lives went off in different directions? With the internet, social media, email, etc, it’s easy to reconnect these days. If they still live nearby, why not reach out and invite them over? Sometimes people change, but sometimes you will find you remember why you were close earlier on in your lives and that the friendship is easily revived. The worst that can happen is you find you no longer have anything in common, and that’s ok, life goes on. You may find that the connection is still strong and it’s easy to rekindle the friendship.
Volunteering is a wonderful way to meet new people and make new friends. Find an organization you want to support and find out what you can do to help. There are many amazing volunteer opportunities in which to participate.
Do you love live theatre? Check with your local venues to see if they need help in customer service, checking tickets, or helping with the sets. Enjoy art and educating others? Why not train to be a docent at a local museum? Passionate about helping seniors? There is an abundance of organizations available where you can deliver meals, help with finances if you have the expertise, visit residents in communities and so much more. Is fundraising for a specific cause more your thing? Check out your local non-profit agencies. Volunteering is a great way to find your purpose while at the same time providing the opportunity to interact with like-minded people and the possibilities are endless.
Take a class or participate in an activity.
Enjoy hiking or want to start? Interested in a cooking class? Love to sing in a choir? Enjoy educational classes at the local senior center or community colleges? Your passions, interests and hobbies can lead you to meet people who are curious about similar things. Putting yourself in a position to explore shared interests with others is a great place to start when seeking to make new friends.
Travel with a group.
Don’t have someone to join you on a vacation but love to travel? How about taking a trip with a group? Travel is a wonderful way to bond with others and make lasting friendships. And while you may sign up alone for solo travel, you will not actually be alone. Road Scholar, an organization that has amazing trips all over the world, has trips that cater to solo travelers.
Be a good friend.
If you want good friends, you need to be a good friend. Would you want to be friends with you? Are you a supportive person and a good listener? Do you truly care about others and make yourself available to help out when needed (and when possible)? Most of us are drawn to people who are authentic and kind; it makes sense that if that is who you are, people will be drawn to you.
The Benefits of Friendship
Friendship is not only a fundamental aspect of human social life, but it also plays a crucial role in our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. The proof is in the pudding. Here are statistics that illustrate the various ways in which friendship positively impacts our lives.
Mental Health Benefits
People with strong social connections are 50% less likely to experience depression and anxiety. (Harvard Health Publishing)
Having a close network of friends can boost self-esteem and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. (American Psychological Association)
Spending time with friends and engaging in social activities can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. (University of California, Berkeley)
Having supportive friendships can buffer the negative effects of stress and help individuals cope better with life challenges. (Psychology Today)
A study published in the journal “Personal Relationships” found that having a strong social network can increase life expectancy by up to 50%. (Personal Relationships)
Social support from friends has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. (Mayo Clinic).
Strong social connections have been linked to a boosted immune system, leading to better resistance against illnesses. (Psychological Science)
Happiness and Life Satisfaction
Quality friendships contribute significantly to overall happiness and life satisfaction. (Journal of Happiness Studies)
People with close friendships report a higher sense of meaning and purpose in life. (International Journal of Wellbeing)
Coping with Challenges
Friends often provide a valuable support system during difficult times, helping individuals cope with loss, trauma, and adversity. (Psychological Science)
Improved Cognitive Function
Engaging in social activities and conversations with friends can enhance cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults. (Harvard Health Publishing)
So, Can You Make New Friends After 50?
The answer to the question, “Can I make new friends at age 50Plus”, is yes, absolutely! Put yourself out there and see what happens. And if it doesn’t work, move on. If someone is not interested, don’t assume it has something to do with you. It might mean it’s not a good fit or simply that there are other things going on in their life right now. They may not be in a place where they can engage in a new relationship.
We know it’s not always easy to make new friends after 50. However, with persistence and a willingness to take risks, older adults can make new connections and form meaningful friendships. It’s never too late and you may be surprised at the wonderful relationships you can form later in life. Did you know studies show these social connections can lead to a more positive outlook on life, better health, and improved longevity?
In a recent interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Jane Fonda talked about the importance of making friends. She said you need to seek out those you enjoy being around. “You have to pursue people that you want to be friends with,” she said, “and you have to say, ‘I’m intentionally wanting to be your friend.’ And it works. People hear that and then they stick around, and you develop new friendships.”
Quotes From Jane Fonda on Friendship
“The most important thing in making friends is to be yourself, genuine and authentic. People are drawn to honesty and sincerity.”
“True friendship is built on trust, empathy, and understanding. It’s about being there for each other through thick and thin.”
“In making friends, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, the most rewarding connections come from unexpected places.”
“Being a good listener is crucial in making meaningful connections. It’s not just about talking; it’s about truly hearing and understanding others.”
“Don’t judge a book by its cover. Take the time to get to know people on a deeper level, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the friendships that blossom.”
“Friendship is a two-way street. It requires effort and investment from both sides to nurture and maintain a strong bond.”
“Celebrate diversity in friendships. Embrace people with different backgrounds, interests, and perspectives. It enriches your life and broadens your horizons.”
“Friendships can be a source of joy, support, and growth. Treasure the connections you have and cherish the memories you create together.”
Cultivating and nurturing strong friendships can lead to greater happiness, improved health, and a more fulfilling existence. Have you found yourself in a place where you wanted more friends and made the effort to make some? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.