Research – and experience – shows that our network of friends tends to shrink as we get older. As we age, it becomes harder and harder to find time to catch up with friends, whether they’re down the street or across the country. Similarly, it becomes much harder to make friends after 50. We no longer can rely on our children’s play groups and sporting events to bring us together with people with whom we have interests in common.
But finding and nurturing friendship over the age of 50 is more important than ever. According to the American Psychological Association, a number of health risks are tied to our social interactions. Feeling lonely and socially isolated have been found to increase the risks of death.
Making friends in older adulthood can prove to be challenging, but there are some psychologist-backed tips for cutting through the small talk to make real, lasting friends.
Open your eyes
It’s very possible you encounter people in your daily activities who are great friend-material. Just like you would for a spouse, identify the qualities you’re looking for in a friend and identify what kind of friend you are. Then, open your eyes and be on the lookout. Your new walking buddy could be sitting next to you.
Make stopping at the coffee shop down the corner part of your routine
Instead of having your morning coffee in your living room, try something new. Take the newspaper or your favorite magazine over to your local coffee shop and spend time around others reading. Odds are if you do this routinely, you’ll find others who are doing the same. Soon, you can morph those casual morning greetings into real conversations. Consistency and familiarity are important to building friendships. Small daily changes can make a big difference in your social life.
Take a trip
Have you always wanted to see the French Rivera? What’s stopping you? There are dozens of travel companies that specialize in group trips for those 50 and over. There’s no better way to bond than experiencing the beauties of the world together.
Cut out the small talk
Next time you run into that interesting person who lives down the hall, don’t talk about the weather or how busy your day has been. Share something of importance with her. People are more likely to open up to you if you open up to them. Similarly, sharing something personal has been shown to forge bonds of friendship more quickly.
Take the leap
After you’ve cut out the small talk and started to form a bond, ask your potential friend for lunch or out to a drink. She or he may be wanting to do the same thing but doesn’t feel comfortable enough to do so. Take a leap and make the invitation. The worst that happens is she says no.
Making friends is good for your heart and soul. It’s never too late to start a great friendship.