A new study suggests loneliness is a significant factor in our overall health and well-being. According to a recently published report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, loneliness after age 60 is linked to physical decline, Alzheimer’s Disease, depression and even death, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco.
How do you make friends when you are post 55 and all the channels toward friendship seem to have evaporated? Making friends is easy when you are in school. Everyone is the same age, lives in the same place, and the fishing pond is filled with people with whom you share interests and values.
What comes next is a hodge-podge: You collect friends from the different parts of your life. You become friends with the people at work — again, a pool of people with common interests if not common ages. And you become friends with neighbors — people who generally match your age and socio-economic community: If you rent in a building with single professionals, that’s who you meet; if you buy in the suburbs where all the young families live, you will find other young families. When you become a parent, friendships are formed with the other parents. You meet them on your kids’ sports teams, at school, and enrichment classes you sign your kid up for like karate and ballet.
But, then the kids grow up and much of what you had in common with many of your friends — your children — disappears from your social life. Or, maybe you have moved to a new area to live closer to your adult children or to retire. What do you do to make friends when you are post 55? Mind you, we’re not talking about dating here — online or otherwise. Where do you find men and women to hang out with when your own old friends are scattered to the wind? E-mail, Skype and Facebook can keep you in contact with long-distance old friends, but they aren’t around to grab a cup of coffee with or go hiking with on Sunday morning.
Making friends at this transitional point in our lives is critical to our overall happiness. Barbra Streisand sang it correctly: People who need people are the luckiest people, and I don’t think she was talking about virtual friends. We need people around us –friends to go out to dinner with, catch a movie with, laugh with.
Here are a few suggestions of how to make friends after 55:
- Follow Your Interests: Like to play tennis? Find a tennis group in your area. Interested in bike riding? Join a bicycle group and enter a race. Enjoy attending the theater? Join a group that offers theater outings. No one ever met anyone from watching TV on the couch!
- Stay Local- Join a group or activity that is in your area. You will be more inclined to go, if you don’t have to drive an hour to get there.
- Become A Joiner- Even if you have not always been one to join groups or be a part of a club- now is the time to change that. Get yourself out there.
- Make The Effort- If you meet someone at an event or activity, don’t be shy about asking for an email or phone number. You can then get together again. It may feel a bit awkward, but you never know unless you try. “Hey, I really enjoyed talking to you. Would you maybe want to get together for coffee or a drink?” The worst they can say is no.
- Be Open To Differences- Not everyone is going to be exactly like you or have the same background or life choices. Be open to those who are diverse and bring something special to the table.
- Invest In Your Happiness- You may have to spend a little money to join a group or sign up for a class. Look at it as an investment in your health and happiness. The benefits can be worth so much more and outweigh any cost.
- Sign-up, Show Up! There may be times that you don’t feel like making the effort to go out and meet new people. Friends will not find you – you have to be out there to make it happen! If you join a membership or activity group, you will not have something in common with everyone, but chances are you will find people who you will click with. Once you go ahead and make yourself go, you will be so glad you did! Who knows what great friends are out there…..just waiting to meet you!
Article Contributor A. Brenoff
Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections provides numerous socializing opportunities through events and travel, personal service, quality members and connections for age 55+ (mostly Boomers!) active and single adults.