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!

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

  1. Laura 13. Aug, 2016 at 8:52 pm #

    LIz – I’m from Northern NJ as well and find myself in a similar position after being married for 30 years. I have a few great friends but they are all married and have large families …. you know everyone is busy – would like to have a friend to meet for dinner or go shopping or just talk …

  2. Mia 18. Aug, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    Well now I’m truly alone. My last child just moved. I don’t have any friends, so my life is pretty much over. 49 years and nothing left to live for. I feel so sad and lonely.My life was built around my kids and now they are gone… I don’t know if I will end my life. Feels like the only way out for me… Cant stand being so lonely and sad :(…

  3. Natalie dill 19. Aug, 2016 at 10:01 pm #

    How does one contact a person here looking for friendship, ?

  4. Cheryl 20. Aug, 2016 at 2:42 am #

    Hi all – It’s 3:00 in the morning and here I am working toward going to bed. Again, I waste time at night googling my latest concerns and tonight I surprised myself by half mindedly, searching, “how to make friends over 50”. I came across your posts and I was so understanding of what everyone has said. This website has clicked a button for me and I just want to thank you so much!

    When I was in my 20’s, my friends were my life. I had friends that I grew up with, friends from work, friends that shared my horse hobby and the whole little town in Massachusetts knew me. I married a quiet and introverted wonderful man and moved away. We’ve moved around the US and with every move I found myself putting out less effort to keep friends. We moved to the Dallas area with 4 wonderful kids. 22 years later of school and college activities, they all married and live close by. They are my life. My best friend is my 92 year old Mom and I am her daily life management helper. I’ve spent 12 years taking care of my sickly mother-in-law who, at times, did not treat me nicely at all. But, family is family so, I loved her anyway. She has since passed on and now, it’s me, my still wonderful introverted husband, my Mom and wonderful family. After reading your posts, I realize that I am, and have been, missing girlfriends to share times together, help out, or lean on.

    I am my own best friend, really, and after reading your posts, I AM going to make an effort to find a book club, an art buddy, or just walk around the neighborhood and say hello to my neighbors. It’s a start, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Cheryl

  5. Kathy 20. Aug, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    Hi Cheryl–I’m so inspired by your attitude! And I think your positive spirit will attract new friends into your life. Starting small is a great approach. Saying hi to neighbors, setting your initial expectations low, and finding activities that give you joy without expecting that they’ll produce friends. When I got involved in an environmental project, it was because of the cause. I found friends but that was a bonus Indeed you are your own best friend–treat yourself lovingly. k

  6. Kathy 20. Aug, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    Hi Natalie–Obviously this blog is not meant to be a friendship or dating matching site. However, some people have noticed that other people commenting live near them, so they may reach out to connect. Some people say where live, and ask if anyone else lives nearby. If you want to let people on this blog know where you live and some general info about you, you’re welcome to do so. A caution that applies to any internet connection is if you do arrange a meeting, please be sure it’s in a public place, and that you avoid any private meetings or locations for quite some time. Good luck!

  7. Monica 24. Aug, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

    I am 51 and just out of a relationship. My boyfriend was my best friend and really the only person I did things with or spoke to. Now he’s gone and the loneliness is killing me. I’m too depressed to get out there and do anything just yet. I do need and want friends, it’s just that all of my friends are married, or single and only want to go to bars and drink, which I’m not into.
    I need to take baby steps as this is still very fresh and I still cry at the drop of the hat. I don’t think I would be impressive to any new people right now.

  8. Kathy 24. Aug, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    Hi Monica-so sorry you have to go through this very painful breakup. I think you are wise to realize you’re not quite ready to venture out to form new connections–even thought the loneliness is so painful. You need to recover, and I hope you’ll spend some time focusing on taking care of yourself. Step 1: Healthy eating, spending time in nature, adequate sleep. Step 2: reach out to a family member you might feel comfortable to call up or email, or Skype/Facetime with whom you can share your experiences and offer to support that person. Step 3: Find a volunteer activity that aligns with your interests, involves working with others, and sign up. That’s been my best way to form new friendships. After a few weeks, you can invite a fellow volunteer to have coffee. Even if you don’t find friends, you’ll have the emotional benefit of contributing to the world in a meaningful way. Please keep us posted. Everyone here knows it is not easy! Best-kathy

  9. DONNA 03. Sep, 2016 at 6:33 am #

    My name is Donna and I am in the DFW area. I am in my 50’s and married to a wonderful man Daniel in his 60’s. We have 2 beautiful children together and he has a daughter from a prior marriage. We have 10 grandchildren between the 3 children and they have became our life and basically the only people with associate with. It’s great having a close family but friends outside that, our own age would be wonderful and we really miss it. My husband and I are best friends however we both feel the need to have other friends and seem to be finding it difficult to meet people. I would love to find some people in the area to get know and if I could find some couples that my husband and I clicked with, it would be great. You can email me at nannydonna50@gmail.com

  10. Tommy 03. Sep, 2016 at 8:55 am #

    Hang their Monica. Time does heal all wounds.

  11. Janis 03. Sep, 2016 at 10:42 am #

    I find your post to be a loving affirmation and concur with your methods outlined.

    I do admit to finding myself very lonely, and I have joined local meet ups with an open mind to find that many end up meeting in bars mostly or are trying to create a ready-made clientele to purchase their products, services or the host is getting a big kick back for backdoor marketing.

    I have also asked people out to meet for coffee, a meal too and that is a super way to get to know people.

    Three years ago I quit a 20+ year commitment to a community that did not support me at a time when I needed it most in my life and that’s okay. We learn to let go of people, places and things when it is time to move on, but I find a big void that is difficult to fill. And I have experienced exponential growth spiritually. Thank you!

    Really, I have a lot of hope. I am not ready to lie down and give up yet. I am living in the middle of not trying too hard and not trying at all. Truth is I am a really good friend and I am sure I will meet someone soon if I keep putting myself out there in different places so different things can happen – like posting here for instance. Friends come in all different shapes, sizes and mediums.

  12. Carolyn 08. Oct, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

    I am so happy I read your post Kathy. In some ways I am scared because everything you mentioned is exactly what I have become. I desperately need to socialize with other people. I moved back to my home town in South Philadelphia yet for the past year I have not done anything to meet people. I am 51 single with 4 adult children who have their own lives yet I find myself longing to just want to spend time with them. My friends that I had are married and no longer want to spend time with me. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone. I have thought about joining the choir at church but I know I need more than that. I also have some health issues which hold me back from getting involved or thinking about possibly meeting a man to go places with me. I am a happy friendly fun loving person who is lost and scared in fear of rejection.

  13. Felicia 12. Oct, 2016 at 8:48 am #

    The advice you and others provide here is great but there is an element that is missing, I think. There are some of us out here who never married, never had kids, and are now retired and missing the career label. I am a recently retired teacher and most of my friends were associated with teaching. Some have also retired and some are still working but all have kids and grandkids. I find more often than not, they are not free even to talk on the phone for very long. I moved up to the country after retiring last year to fulfill a lifetime dream and while i still live on a street with neighbours, they too are all married with kids and families. I was invited to a party recently and I was the only single person there. It was a bit awkward and sure put my gift for “witty repartee” to the test. I have tried to make friends up here but frankly, there just isn’t much to do in cottage country. It is family country and there ARE no clubs to join. Now, I am considering relocating to a better spot in proximity to more populated areas but after moving here, my resources are reduced and it will be expensive to move. So, my advice to others considering a life change is to consider the social aspect FIRST and the housing prices SECOND! Hopefully, my life will change once I can figure out how to get out of this mess but right now I’m sick of daytime TV!

  14. Kathy 13. Oct, 2016 at 5:45 pm #

    Hi Felicia–I’m a solo senior, and I empathize with your situation. I think you’ve given great advice: consider the social aspect first. It’s well documented that social relationships are critical to healthy aging and longevity. That said, living somewhere with high cost of living can be depressing and sometimes just unaffordable. I’d love to see some research on places in the US which are welcoming to 50 plus singles and not too expensive. Thanks for sharing. You’ve given me lots to think about. Would love to hear from others about affordable places to live that are good for older singles.

  15. Michelle 23. Oct, 2016 at 6:55 am #

    Great ideas. I’m finally at that place where I am okay with myself but am lonely. It’s hard to have to leave a lifetime of friends and fit in elsewhere. I’m a divorced woman in the Kansas City area. Email me if you’re where I am! colobleu@gmail.com

  16. jade 29. Oct, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

    Kathy & Felicia- Thanks for your honest responses! I am a teacher, single and childless by circumstance. I find myself thinking more about retirement and what that will look like. I have joined some groups that share an interest in music, spirituality & fitness, yet my attendance waivers. I am currently exploring shared housing options (I’m located in California) and am hopeful. Best to you both and all other boomers!

  17. Denise 18. Nov, 2016 at 8:55 am #

    Monica, I also empathize with your newer situation. Even married couples or women who seem to have a lot of friends, especially if you look on Facebook and see all of the great times they are having, does’t mean they are totally happy or fulfilled with their friendships. I would join a volunteer group. I joined at Petco a cat rescue, and I’m busy meeting people all of the time. They have fund raisers (fun) and you are doing good at the same time. When you hit it off with one of the other volunteers, don’t be shy to invite them to dinner, or walk somewhere pretty etc…..They may be looking for a friend that cares about them too. :)

  18. Kathy 18. Nov, 2016 at 10:00 am #

    Denise–thanks for sharing your experiences. I know many people are discouraged about finding friends and feeling lonely. Like you, I have found volunteer groups to be the best place to meet people who share common interests and demonstrate good character in that they care about people, animals, the environment, or something beyond themselves that provides meaning to their lives.

  19. anne 03. Dec, 2016 at 7:06 am #

    Im 47 and go to meetup groups, bars, coffee shops etc. I smile and talk to everyone but
    So far not had any joy. Im a nice person and witty, but dont take sny crap anymore ☺ . Im a bit unconventional so dont fit with materialistic or fashion slaves. Guess theres a bit of the hippy in me.
    Been on my own many years. If anyone is in Manchester U.K let me know.

  20. Scott 16. Dec, 2016 at 10:16 am #

    This problem affect men even more. Once again I came across a website written by women for women. I really wish men would take a more insight approach to this problem. Oh well, off to take my dog for a walk. At least he’s my friend.

  21. batphink 19. Dec, 2016 at 6:23 pm #

    Perhaps I’m one of few men on here.Some of your stories were nice but many of you are married and have families.I was wondering what about adults who have had to move back home? as I have due to medical problems that causes financial problems,however even when I was living with my last girlfriend and healthy few people bothered with me,though I know 96 people on Facebook.

    I have in the past volunteered,was in bands being a musician,joined a badminton club,was out and about and very pleasant to everyone but people leave me. I still don;t understand any of this,I am not at all demanding,or aggressive,just a normal guy trying to get more fit and move on with life.

  22. Shirley 21. Dec, 2016 at 12:05 am #

    I have a number of friends that are retired and live alone but they are not lonely. I think becoming comfortable in your own company is the place to start. A couple of friends really feel that they need a man in their life to feel complete and others like being on their own and free to come and go as they please. Just having a goal to go out, meet people and have a good time is the way to go and see what happens from there.

  23. Carmen 27. Dec, 2016 at 10:42 pm #

    I have been single for most of my adult life and yes it is becoming harder to meet people due to ‘loss of connection’ in our day to day life. I am in late 40s and what I notice over and over is the ‘opting out ‘ of friendships when people become couples, and especially once they have children. It’s extremely frustrating to be the only one who makes the effort to visit, to call up , to instigate activities. I have to wait whilst my friends deals with their children, husbands, house building ( that a joint income affords them a life I will never achieve). I am not invited to couple type event. I am also excluded from events that are costly, dinners out, I miss my friends! no one ever seems to have the time. I try to just be content with my aloneness, no one can ever consistently fill a gap except myself.

  24. P.S. 30. Dec, 2016 at 2:32 am #

    I am reading through many of these comments because I am having so much trouble finding new women friends in Boston. I go out all the time by myself to local pubs, art shows, long walks, a few dance clubs or concerts, and window shopping. I chat away to strangers and enjoy lots of different kinds of conversation topics but almost everyone is decades younger than me in this college town and even repeated acquaintance doesn’t lead to a real solid friendship. We often discover that I am their mother’s age and they just don’t have the same life references. I don’t have children so I certainly don’t feel like anyone’s mother. No one calls me to chat on the phone or follows through when I try to make contact to make casual plans. MeetUp in Boston seems useless for anyone over 50 looking for friends and not some kind of post-relationship dating or business connections. I always had a lot of friends so this turn of events is pretty shocking to me at 62. Every old friend has moved away physically and mentally over the years. My husband is wonderful but he is quite introverted and doesn’t feel the need to go out. I have to say he is my only true friend now and that seems like something I need to remedy. Is there anyone 45-70 in Boston who like to do things in the evening? (How can people make contact in this blog?)

  25. Kathy 01. Jan, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    BOSTON!!!! A tough city to crack when it comes to making friends after 50. I lived in Boston for 25 years. Not the most welcoming place. I found a few friends thanks to my work and neighborhood connections. Over time, however, friends retired and left the area. I agree that Meetups in Boston are not ideal for 50 plussers. My go to strategy is to get involved in projects and programs that give me personal meaning or help me contribute to the betterment of our world. In my case, art classes, continuing education, volunteer groups. It’s often a good way to meet kindred spirits. But worst case, I’m doing something I enjoy or find meaningful. Thank goodness you have a friend in your husband! Best wishes for a fulfilling new year! -k

  26. Susan 02. Jan, 2017 at 9:56 pm #

    Hi ladies,
    I moved to Myrtle Beach SC a year ago, and all the women I met are married and don’t really seem to need a friend to pal around with. I love that there are so many things here to do, but bummed that I haven’t a female friend or friends to hang out with. I have always wanted friends like from the show “friends” or “golden girls” or “sex in the city”. If in any one is looking for a great friend in this area to go do things with, just let me know! :)

  27. Trisha 03. Jan, 2017 at 10:13 pm #

    I’ve recently moved to the DC area, I’m 60, single and alone as well. All of my friends are married and are now traveling and busy with their husbands. I have children, but other than a weekly check in text or call – that’s about all the conversation I get. With so many single people – it seems ashame that there’s not a good app or website that would allow for making friends over 50. Years ago Match.com had friend search capability, and I made a couple of single girl friends from that site. I recently checked that site and the friend search feature is no longer available :-(
    Omg Susan, I understand the “Sex and the city” reference totally. I love that show and have had that thought as well.
    Wishing you all a happy, healthy and hopefully friend filled 2017!

  28. Virginia 06. Jan, 2017 at 5:24 am #

    I turn 50 in a few weeks, and my best friend is my mother who is 81 and lives in another state. I am divorced with a 12 and 13 year old that I share custody with, so I can’t move back to NYC to be near my parents I live in Tennessee, all the friends I hav emade here are in their 60s and my best friend here is a man, it is platonic but her might have pancreatic cancer, his gall bladder was removed thinking that caused the pancreatitis and it did not so we are worried. He is my life line, I do not want to see all my older friends pass and find myself alone, would like to meet other people in general. I rarely go out, I work from home and do phone sales all day.If anyone would like to get a coffee email ginnyvaet66[at]yahoo [dot]com

  29. Kathy 06. Jan, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    Hi Virginia,

    Thanks for sharing your situation. I changed format of your email address to prevent you from getting spam. Saying a prayer for you and your best friend, hoping that he recovers soon. Best-kathy

  30. Susan 06. Jan, 2017 at 5:56 pm #

    Hi there! I have been trying to find things in my area to join to make new friends – either on my own, or other couples. I just can’t seem to find any good websites that will give me volunteer ideas of hobby activities in my area (I live in northern NJ). Any suggestions?

  31. Karen 14. Jan, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

    Hi susan in myrtle beach. I have moved here from nh and have had a hard time making female girlfriends to do things with.

  32. Kat 16. Jan, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

    Hi everyone! I love this column, it gave me some great ideas! I am 60, divorced, widowed, and have one adult child..I live in Boca Raton and am looking for new friends, who’d of thought at this age? I keep in touch with friends and relatives out of town on Facebook. The girls I work with are all 20 years younger with teenagers and husbands.
    So this is how it happened to me. All of my married friends don’t invite me anymore since I became single. I also consciously ended several friends ships that I realized were sacking the life out of me! My 3 best friends moved away in the past 2 years. So did my sister and closest cousin. Two friends died, a good friend and a date. My mother also passed away. So I am going to go to some meet ups and join some groups. Are there groups where you meet and go to a movie and get a bite to eat? Reiki, yoga, beaching and painting…Go to museums, art shows, etc? Email me ladies diamondgoil at aol.com
    Thanks and good luck all!

  33. Wayne 17. Jan, 2017 at 7:11 pm #

    I’m a 52-year-old single, childless male that’s been suffering from considerable loneliness for about 7 years. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs but ended up broke, uninspired, and living in my hometown here in southeast Iowa in the middle of nowhere. I know a ton of people here and some of them I’ve known for decades and have been very close to in the past but everyone is either married, busy with kids, or having some kind of physical or mental problem that makes them incompatible with me. It’s frustrating as hell how married people tend to exclude everyone from their lives. I very rarely get invited to anything. It hurts deep inside. I’m intelligent, healthy, physically active, good sense of humor, deep conversationalist, and a great listener with lots of compassion but that and 5 cents will barely get you a cup of coffee around here if you aren’t married. I probably should just be focused on finding a remedy to my financial and joblessness situation first anyway I guess. Just needed to share this someone. I’m sure there are people here who can relate – maybe even a few men. I just want you all to know that you aren’t the only person in this boat and my heart goes out to you. There has to be solutions. There’s too many of us. It should be easier for us all to find each other and bind together. I’m going to start at least looking for some pen pals online. I need new people to talk with and share things with.

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 […]

Leave a Reply