Five Foolproof Steps for Making Friends After 50

UPDATE:  Though I wrote this post 4 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.  Also don’t forget that I offer a free 30 minute coaching session to my followers (sign up on home page) if you need encouragement and a few new ideas.  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!

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

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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

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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