Making new friends as you age

A fulfilling social life is a goal of many people, no matter what their age. But for middle-aged adults, having good friends can make all the difference when it comes to quality of life. Friends provide companionship, relieve stress, instill a sense of purpose, and even strengthen immune systems–benefits that are especially important to older adults. Unfortunately, many middle-agers find themselves lacking in friends, due to a move or other life changes. So is it ever too late to make meaningful friendships? And how do you go about forming new relationships if your friend-making skills have gotten rusty over the years?

You’re Never Too Old to Make New Friends

Although making new friends sounds like a task for young people, you’re never too old to develop friendships, even lasting ones. In fact, some of the best friendships can be formed after age 50, when life becomes less demanding. Without the busyness of raising families, empty-nesters and retirees have more time to devote to relationships outside the family. Plus, many older adults look for ways to stay active and gratified, and a healthy social life can fill the bill.

The process of socializing and building relationships is a part of human nature that can occur at any age; the only requirements are a positive attitude and openness about making new friends. Although friendship usually begins with the recognition of a common interest or chemistry with another person, it takes consistency and patience to develop the friendship–and that’s where the challenge often comes in for middle-agers.

One reason young people have an easier time making friends than older adults is that their routines typically involve settings and activities that encourage friendship, like school, camps, parties, and sports. Not only are the routines of older adults less conducive to forming companionships, their focus may have shifted away from making friends due to other priorities. Many middle-agers don’t know where to turn to find friends. The good news is, there are plenty of places to look.

Where to Find Friends in the Middle-Aged Years

One of the easiest ways to find new friends in the middle-aged years is to join a group or club. Today, groups and clubs exist for nearly every interest, from playing cards to dancing to dining. Local meetup groups that share the love of a favorite activity can be found through an online search, but middle-agers can also look for groups to join by contacting a community center, fitness club, place of worship, professional organization, or neighborhood association.

Volunteering is another great outlet for making friends. Libraries, schools, hospitals, animal shelters, political campaign offices, and museums are all good places to look for volunteer opportunities. You can also take advantage of a volunteer-matching website that will pair your skills and interests to a fitting opportunity. Volunteering doesn’t just help you meet new friends; it’s a productive and rewarding way to spend time with like-minded people.

Classes offered through local colleges, cooking schools, pet training clubs, and community education programs open up more options for finding and making friends. For the housebound older adult, taking an online class that includes interaction with others via virtual discussions is a worthwhile alternative that can lead to meaningful friendships. Book clubs, bible studies, and various other social opportunities are also available online for those who choose to remain home.

Embrace New Friendships, Cherish the Old

Although developing a friendship doesn’t require an abundance of work, it isn’t effortless. Initiating conversation, giving another person your time and attention, and inviting further contact–repeatedly–can be easier said than done for middle-agers, who might be set in their ways or out of practice. The payoff, however, is well worth the energy, especially when the friendship clicks. On the other hand, a friendship that doesn’t have a fair share of give-and-take may not be worth the effort.

While making new friends in the middle-aged years, it’s important not to neglect old pals. A friendship that goes back years or decades is a gift worth cherishing. Even if you no longer live near an old friend, you can still maintain the relationship with today’s technology. Text messages, e-mails, and phone calls help keep distance friends close and convenient. Nurturing old friendships can be as beneficial as cultivating new ones, as both contribute to a fulfilling, well-rounded social life.

So whether you have friends from the past or not, it’s never too late to make new ones. And with a multitude of places for older adults to find friends, there’s no excuse not to try. After all, some of the best friendships are formed in the middle-aged years and beyond. Who would want to miss out on that?

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