Loneliness is increasing among people over 50. In a recent study by Independent Age, more than 700,000 men and 1.1m women aged over 50 admitted to suffering from “severe” loneliness. Friendships we thought would last forever are left behind after we graduate high school and college. Retirement brings a new set of challenges. Later, when we reach our 50s, we finally get a reprieve from some of these responsibilities and suddenly realize that our list of close friends has dwindled to only a few or is virtually nonexistent.
So, how do we go about finding new friends and creating meaningful relationships?
Admit that there is a problem to solve
Self-awareness is always the first step. Recognize that loneliness is not a character flaw—it’s simply life’s way of telling you to need to make some changes asap.
No one is more attractive to others than someone who is engaged in life. Find something that stirs your passions and places you in regular contact with the same people week after week. Friendships will follow. Take a class, learn to Salsa dance, just try something for the first time.
Volunteer at local Non-Profit. Step outside your front door and volunteer! Join a lively church or community group. Jump on a bus and go somewhere you’ve never been before. Life is full of surprises. Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend and Thefriendshipblog.com, says the best way to find friends is to follow a passion — “and whether it’s golf, tennis, bridge or art, participate in your chosen activity regularly.
What kind of friend do 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.
Become active in your community. Can you become a friend of the library? Participate in local government by serving on a committee of one sort or the other? Join an existing book group or cooking club, or start one of your own. Go to www.meetup.com to find out about various interest groups; they are cataloged there by zip code. 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. Also, Your 50s really can be the age of enlightenment, a time when you can do all activities you put off doing when you were younger.
If you look around, you’ll find that there are other people as hungry for friendship as you are and it’s just the right time to make friends for the rest of your life. Perhaps you have been limited by looking for people who look just like you. You can expand your pool and might be better off seeking out people who are a little bit different, in terms of age or lifestyle. Sites like www.meetup.com, can be a great online resource for connecting with people based on common interests.
Virtual friends, you’ve never met sometimes turn out to be real friends.
There are many reasons why your path might cross with another person’s path online. Maybe you’re involved in a business networking group, an artist’s forum, or a support group. Social media can often be a good indicator of someone’s personality. Similarly, don’t be in a rush to meet your online pal in person until you feel completely comfortable with him or her.
The happiest retirees are the ones who have figured out how to fill their days with something meaningful. That can include spending time with others who have time to spend with you — other retirees. Friendships post-retirement tend to be based on common interests and projects. It’s also why many people choose to live in a retirement community where there are lots of activities to join.