Five Foolproof Steps for Making Friends After 50

UPDATE:  Though I wrote this post almost 7 years go, wonderful people keep commenting and reaching out for ideas about how to form new friendships in midlife and beyond.  Though the post is old, the issues are timeless.  And as you can see from a follow up post, I’ve learned from my readers that there is really no foolproof way to find friends at any stage of life.  That said, the ideas in this post work for many of us.  But the most helpful aspect of the post comes from everyone who has left comments.  So please keep telling your stories, sharing your ideas, and reaching out for support.  The original post:

I just moved to Colorado a few months ago. I was excited about the change, but worried about how I would adjust, since I didn’t know anyone here (apart from my daughter, son-in-law, and baby granddaughter.) The last time I moved, from Boston to Florida, I didn’t make much of an effort to form new connections. Instead, I maxed out my cell phone plan calling up my old Boston friends. I spent too much quality time with Ben & Jerry’s. I was lonely, but I didn’t want to admit it, and figured that my town just wasn’t a good place to meet people my age. Then I was introduced to a friend of a friend who had moved to my town in Florida only three months earlier. She is a widow in her mid 60s with some health problems. But she is vibrant and happy. And she rapidly made a bunch of new friends who keep her very busy. I felt a little embarrassed that she had pulled off something in a few months that I hadn’t managed in well over a year. I realized that I had fallen for a self-fulfilling prophecy: That you can’t make friends over 50 because everybody in that age group already has enough friends. But I’m learning that’s just a myth. There are lots of people out there who need or want friends: Their lives may have been jolted by geographic moves, divorce, or loss of a spouse or partner. Some people simply wake up and realize that some of the friends they have no longer offer the support that makes their friendships worthwhile. I know someone who has been going out to dinner with a friend once a week for the last 20 years. They have absolutely nothing in common except for their weekly dinner ritual.

So when I arrived in Colorado, I made a resolution to actively seek out friendships. Here are the steps I used to keep me out of solitary confinement:

1. Admit that you are lonely

Self-awareness is the first step. Last year, I got so used to a limited social life and a lack of local confidantes, that I stopped noticing how lonely I was. A trip back to New England—where old friends seemed very interested in spending time with me—reminded me of what I was missing. So pay attention to the signs of social disconnection: Are telemarketers the only people who call you in the evenings? Is watching Grey’s Anatomy or Project Runway the highlight of your week? Have you stopped cooking meals because it’s so much trouble for “only one?” Do you find excuses to strike up conversations with strangers in supermarket checkout lines? Whatever your loneliness red flags, recognize that loneliness is not a character flaw—it’s simply God’s way of telling you to GET A LIFE!

2. Decide what kind of friend you want to be

The most important ingredient you bring to a relationship is yourself. What kind of energy and commitment are you willing to put out there in your search for connections? Make a decision that you will show up in the world as someone who is worth having as a friend. That way your energy, honesty, and caring personality will draw people to you when you meet.

3. Reflect on the qualities you are looking for in a friend

Even though you don’t have enough (any?) friends right now, this is no time to lower your standards. In fact, the more conscious you are about what kind of friends you want to have, the more likely you’ll find people who meet your needs. Are you looking for someone who:
Enjoys some of the same activities you do?
Shares your political or religious beliefs?
Has something in common that you can both talk about?
Doesn’t complain excessively about physical symptoms or family problems?
Has a similar standard of living?
Likes to listen as much as she talks?

Once you have identified your criteria, keep them on your radar as you implement step 4.

4. Become a joiner

This is a tough one, because so many of us are shy about joining groups. My Florida friend adopted the strategy of saying yes to any invitation she received to get involved. She joined a scrabble club, a singing group, and a meditation group, all at the invitation of her new neighbors. She is already so wired into the local community, you’d never know she’s only been living here for only a few months. On the other hand, I have a friend who recently retired, who has thought about joining some environmental organizations, but who resists, saying “I don’t do groups.” Accept your discomfort about groups and join some anyway. It’s really the only efficient way to meet kindred spirits. View it as a necessary evil. And choose only those groups devoted to activities or causes that you are passionate about. Focus on how you can contribute to a worthy cause, and you’ll lose your self-consciousness about being the new kid on the block.

5. Invite people to dinner

Many of us are intimidated by the prospect of having people to our homes, especially people we don’t know all that well. So challenge yourself to dust off that old recipe book, and host a dinner party for a few people you hardly know. It will give you a night off from eating Lean Cuisine, and there is nothing like home-cooked food to help people feel welcome and connected. By inviting a small number of new acquaintances, you won’t have to worry about keeping the conversation going all by yourself—your other guests can help you. If the thought of food preparation makes you want to jump off a bridge, plan a pot luck dinner, or even a group dinner at a modestly priced restaurant. The important thing is to break out of your social shell and take those first steps to forming new friendships.
Thanks to www.meetup.com, a great online resource for connecting with people based on common interests, I am actually enjoying the process of meeting new people. I joined a local writing group and an alternative healing group. I really clicked with Annie, another member of my writing group. So now I’m fortunate to have my first Colorado buddy, who coincidentally lives right in my neighborhood. Gotta stop blogging so I can meet Annie for breakfast.
Meanwhile I hope you’ll use the comments section to share your experiences and ideas about making new friends—at any age!

319 Responses to “Five Foolproof Steps for Making Friends After 50”

  1. Kathy 28. Apr, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

    Hi Sue–I removed your last name from a previous comment :-)

  2. Carolyn 25. May, 2017 at 10:58 am #

    Thank you for re-posting this article.
    I am really struggling with loneliness. I remarried 2 years ago after my own 2 children left the nest, and inherited 2 new full-time teenage daughters. My husband and I are in our late 50’s. I moved to his community. He still works full time. I left my job when I moved. We joined a church and I started volunteering with a local garden consortium but I’m still having a hard time making new friends. The kind that reciprocate. People are so overly busy and booked. At my age, many women are spending time with their grandkids (my kids don’t live nearby) and I don’t fit in with the younger moms who are doing cross fit and going to the tanning salon.
    For me, sense of belonging is so very important for healthy hope-filled living. I’m a little down today. I’m glad I found your post. I’ll take your encouragement and try again.
    Thanks.

  3. Donna Hogan 30. May, 2017 at 10:42 pm #

    Hi Carolyn I too am lonely and find it hard to make friends I love theater restaurants jazz,the shore , email me maybe we can get together for coffee ? Thanks Donna

  4. Nicki 15. Jun, 2017 at 10:48 am #

    Great suggestions esp about groups as a necessary evil Realizing I’ve gone from a social person to not at all and need to expand!

  5. Susan 15. Jul, 2017 at 1:39 am #

    Wow! I was shocked when I realized that I am going through empty nest syndrome. I appreciate your article and the comments shared because it made me aware of why I’ve been feeling so blue and that I’m not alone. I’ve always been very social, active with my three children, worked, and I thought I couldn’t wait for these years to come! Now that I have the time I always thought I wanted, I’m feeling very lost. I’m married and although we do have more time to do things, I am missing having a friend to shop with or have a cup of coffee, etc. Sadly most of my friends have moved out of Illinois, or are still busy with their kids. Also we don’t drink anymore and that has reduced our invitations to parties. So I’ve redone all the bedrooms, done art projects, joined yoga, read all the books I’ve had on hold, I even joined a book club. I’m still working as a teacher but everyone around me is getting younger having babies, and I don’t feel connected. Even though I’m only 52, I keep getting asked if I’m retiring. Yikes! That makes me feel even older. So I’m still adjusting and struggling, but at least now I know I’m not alone. Thanks for republishing your article. It gave me comfort.

  6. Martha 20. Jul, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

    So, I’m not the only one with these feelings. I feel a little better knowing there are possibilities out there to find friends or companion. I will continue trying. Thank you everyone for sharing your stories.

  7. Kathy 20. Jul, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

    You are certainly not the only one!

  8. Andrea 01. Aug, 2017 at 3:35 am #

    Hi Kathy and everyone,

    I am grateful for this web site! I currently reside in south east Denver and if anyone wants to get together please e-mail me at : andream1963@yahoo.com Ive been very lonely since my economic situation has changed but I always have my own money to participate in movies, dining and get togethers. I love WDW, Taste of Colorado and just hanging out. I would leave SE Denver to be with like minded women and it really only takes 1 friend to make a day worth living.

  9. ROSE RICHARDS 02. Aug, 2017 at 12:05 am #

    I will be 60 in December and have been trying to
    make some friends, since I divorced,13 years ago.
    Everyone already has their “friends” & aren’t eager
    to let others enter their tight group. I think that I am
    a social person and need human contact. It would
    be nice to have a core group (around 6) of close
    friends, but I can’t even make one. I’m lonely, at
    a loss and really miserable. I don’t know what to
    do. I feel like such a loser. I love want more than
    FaceBook friends, I want someone to call me up
    and say, let’s go to Starbucks, or a movie, or dinner.
    Turning 60 will not be a celebration of friends for me!
    Signed
    Sad & Alone Rose

  10. Kathy 02. Aug, 2017 at 8:29 am #

    Hi Rose, You absolutely deserve what you want, so please don’t give up hope! Have you read any comments or replies with suggestions about finding friends? For me, volunteer projects which involve teamwork with like-minded people has been the best way to make new friends. It’s a no-lose proposition–even if I don’t meet my BFF, I have the satisfaction of contributing to a cause that I find personally meaningful. You might also consider re-imagining your upcoming birthday. For my 60th, I traveled solo to Spain. I had a great time planning the trip, did exactly what I wanted to do when I got there, and because I was alone, I met both tourists and locals who were very welcoming. Best wishers-kathy

  11. Brenda 07. Aug, 2017 at 8:53 am #

    Glad to know I’m not alone. I too am a recent empty nester. I feel lost, trying to remember who I was before being someone’s Mom. I’m married, but we live like strangers sharing a house. In Florida, it seems like everything is geared for retired people or young families. I am still working but older. I will try these ideas and see if it helps. Thank you

  12. sue silva 15. Aug, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

    This made me feel better. Loneliness is tough; some days more than others. It’s good to know I’m not alone. Brenda, we have very similar situations.

  13. Julie 22. Aug, 2017 at 8:32 pm #

    Hi everyone. I am in the same boat. I turn 56 this year, my kids are grown and gone, my husband is a freelance photographer who works odd hours and I’m still working full time. I’m eager to socialize with no prospects except my 30 year old daughter who often times has her own plans that don’t involve her old mom – haha. I don’t really know what happened, I know I had friends at some point in my life. I’m in the Indianapolis, Indiana area, so I might try joining a meet-up or two to see how those pan out.

  14. Kat 31. Aug, 2017 at 8:29 am #

    I can mirror the comments of Julie almost to a T, and many others’ above. I don’t know who I am without actively being a mom though I’m proud and thrilled that my daughter has done exactly what I wanted for her, which was to grow up to be independent and happy. I was always kind of a loner and more than fulfilled with family and the friends that family brought around all the time. Now all my family is a cross-country flight away. I’m lucky to have made one good friend and some acquaintances with whom I hope to build friendships, but it’s a long, slow road because people are so busy. I’m literally the only single, 50-plus woman I know, and no one else has absolutely no family nearby to occupy them. I’ll keep trying because the alternative is too sad to think about. I just have to get through eight more years before I can retire and stalk — I mean, move closer to my daughter. haha And by then I’ll have learned how to make friends, thanks partly to this post, so thank you, all! :)

  15. Rebecca 03. Sep, 2017 at 10:46 pm #

    Hello, many of us are in the same situation. Who ever knew?! I do miss the busy days and many friends.
    I have a son in college who is doing great; and closest other relative is a couple states away. And at that, we never get toghther as our lives arw in such different directions. So I understand what it is like being alone after age 50. No grandchildren; and all my connections work or are busy with their own families. I have no family nearby and friends are thinned out. I have volunteered so much that I’ve gotten very tired of it and feel very unappreciated for what I do. Everyone is pretty nice but it just goes no place. It’d be great to get paid for my work. Even volunteers go their own way and most that I have run into are not interested in friendship.

    Perhaps we should form a special sisterhood?!
    We do need support, and I am interested in sharing and supporting others to get the most out of the great years in life I have left.
    Please, I wish for every one to have good friends!
    My best always, Rebecca

  16. Dory 09. Sep, 2017 at 5:26 pm #

    You know what? I so empathize with so much that has been said here. Im 55 and suddenly an wmpty nester. My job has always taken up so much energy and time and my kids the rest. Now i have more time but lack a large enough circle of friegnds. Answer: this needs a faceboook page! Then ppl coul actually connect, lament, share tips and encouragement!! How about it?
    Can we start one? Suggestions???!
    Thanks

  17. Annette 10. Sep, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    I too am over 50 and have lived in Colorado Springs for the last 5 years. My child lives out of state now and has their own life and tons of friends, which is great! Me, however, am single and been divorced for too many years to count. I have not met a single person in Colorado Springs that I can hang out with or call up to get a cup of coffee or have lunch with outside of work, or do things that friends do. ROSE R, I would enjoy calling you for coffee or lunch so you we have someone to talk to. I got so busy having a career to build a life for my daughter, then spending my weekends catching up on things I needed to get done that can’t be done on the weekdays. As my years over 50 go by, I enjoy a simple life but the feelings of loneliness hit me. I have joined several Meetup groups, but most of them involve going to a bar downtown or there just aren’t many activities happening in the Meetup groups here in the Springs. Are all or most of you on this page in the Denver/Colorado Springs area? I like your idea Rebecca!

  18. Frances 18. Sep, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

    It’s not just having a warm body around. It’s having a deep connection with another person. The older we get, the harder it seems to become.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why Men Fail at Friendship | Psychologist and coach, Corporate consultant, Writer and editor, Mind-body practitioner | Dr. Kathy Jordan - 21. Jul, 2014

    […] have been a lot of responses to my old post “Five Foolproof Steps to Making Friends After 50.”  Only one man has ever commented about the challenges of male friendships, though a few women have […]

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