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How to Make Friends in Middle-Age Most Liked Hot Conversation

You spent your life working and now, God willing, you’re looking at retirement. You’ll have time, glorious time! So you blow out the candles, go home with your plaque and sleep in the next day.

At first your life is full. You repot those straggly houseplants and organize your closets. Take a bag full of business outfits to the Goodwill. Cook from your dusty recipe book. Watch the morning news shows. Meditate. Go to the gym right in the middle of the day. Woo hoo, livin’ la vida loca, girl!

But pretty soon you get caught up. Your calendar says your week is filled, but it’s all mundane: take dog to groomer, get nails done, don’t forget mammogram. Maybe you start a business from the guest bedroom, and that keeps you so busy that you don’t mind the absence of those coffee-fueled morning conversations you used to have with your buddies at work. If you’re lucky enough to have somebody at home whose company you enjoy, that helps. But after a while, you notice you don’t have any women friends. There’s something missing in your life, and it’s uncomfortable.

That’s how it went for me, anyway. At middle-age, I realized I had few friends (does the one who lives halfway across the country count?) Worse, I didn’t know how to find new ones.

I’m an introvert so it was even more daunting.

So I read The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymoreby Marla Paul. Marla says finding new friends at our age is harder because our peers aren’t looking. By now, they generally have all the friends they need, so you have to sort of sneak up on them. You go where the prospects are, engage in an activity that makes you happy on its own merits, and then you and the targets just naturally fall into conversation (keeping it light at first). If there’s a spark, you’ll know. Bonus points for meeting multiple times at the activity (pottery class, golf, book club) without the pressure of a first date (“Hey, want to get a cup of coffee sometime?” is awkward, IMHO).

I know you want me to end this with “…and then after a while I had tons of friends!!” but that didn’t happen. At the time I was living in Palm Desert, California, where half my neighbors were snowbirds who left town six months out of the year. The rest of the population was at work. Tumbleweeds blew down the street. So Bill and I moved to what Dr. Phil would call a target-rich environment: a 55+ community an hour away where the residents live year-round and are eager to make friends. I joined activities that made me happy, like book club and golf, and friendships began to form.

I now know that the best way to make friends later in life is to find the activity and let the friendship follow. That’s my advice, but maybe you have some ideas, too. Have you had this experience, and if so, how did you handle it?

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Posted in Any Shiny Thing, family & relationships.

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63 Responses

  1. Sienna Jae Fein Sienna Jae Fein says

    Your post is beautifully, soulfully written, but you haven’t revealed what pressures you were responding to back in Palm Desert. Was it a deeply felt loneliness and a true need to share time with loving friends, or was it society’s insistence that self-worth is based on having a ton of friends? 

    It’s maybe a sign of the times that just as we women ache for the perfect children we see in the sit-coms, we ache for the perfect friends in those same sit-coms. They’re always “there for you,” not only dispensing incredibly wise advice, but absolutely adoring you.   

    A wise person has said that if in your whole life you have three close and entirely supportive friends, you are extremely fortunate. Pity the woman who tells you she is having a party and inviting 300 “intimate friends.” I don’t know about you, but I’d have to go out in the street and drag attendees to such a fest. I don’t even KNOW 300 people, certainly not 300 people I’d want to spend an evening trying to be intimate with. :O)

    As a marketing director for an active adult community, I have observed that the new mid-life friendships made here are typically rather surface at first, kind of “warily companionable.” Over time, however, relationships mature and you become entwined in a core group of people who stimulate you, and with whom you feel entirely comfortable.

    I’m happy for you that you’re in the right place now. It’s only going to get better.

    23 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Sienna, I agree we don’t need tons of friends, or at least, I don’t. But I do enjoy contact with people who make me feel welcome, so having regular activities such as book club, golf, etc. is my “fix.” Your entire comment is so filled with wisdom, no wonder you received 12 “likes”! Thanks for commenting.

      4 like

    • SassySenior SassySenior says

      Sienna, We’ve chatted in other posts and you may remember that I am considering moving military CCRC in San Antonio. I am interested in your experience as marketing director for a senior community. A CCRC isn’t exactly a financial bargain, but I’ve assigned value to what I perceive as a built-in sense of community. I have a few good friends (male and female) and a couple of great sister-in-laws…which together with kids and grands pretty much take up my friend time. But, we’re scattered and I’m looking forward to being able to join an activity at whim as opposed to the planning and travel it now takes. I’m not expecting instant caring friends, but your observation of “warily companionable” was a reality check. My social skills are fairly in tact as is the desire to join in activities that I’ve missed since retiring to the ranch; but, I may well be expecting too much too soon of my envisioned new urban life. Can you give me any pointers on being the “new” resident? Are there any unwritten social dos and don’ts of joining in? Thanks!

      2 like

      • Sienna Jae Fein Sienna Jae Fein says

        Sassy – Of course I remember our exchanges here on VN (isn’t this a wonderful place?), and I’m so happy you’re getting set to move to a community. That it will be a military one is a huge plus. One of the best things about the military lifestyle is how it imparts the skill of making friends! 

        You asked me for tips on sucessfully becoming a part of a new community. The retirement community for which I handle the marketing is not a military one, but we are blessed with a disproportionate number of residents who have lived on military bases all over the world. By the time they make their way to us these career men and women are old hands at making friends – by which I mean almost all of them are open, non-judgemental, personable, discreet, laid-back, and completely unfazed if the doorbell rings while the dishes are still in the sink. They’re uncomfortable with cliques because they’re used to a changing neighborhood dynamic –they know that today’s excluder is tomorrow’s excluded.  

        This leads to my second affirmation about the process of making friends in a new community: don’t try too hard. If you don’t like the water, it’s not a great idea to show up for water aerobics, especially if you’re thinking it’s the best way to meet the in-crowd. 

        I don’t much like the term ”make friends” because it implies a task, which in turn implies failure if it’s not accomplished. True friendship involves chemistry, much as chemistry plays a big part in finding a husband / lover. Do what you enjoy and you will draw people to you because they will want to share your contentment.  For example, if you like to walk, hit the trail every day. One woman jokingly complained to me that she dares not go walking between 7 and 8 AM because she cannot accomplish her exercise goals — too many people stopping for a chat!

        I know you to be a positive and personable and thoughtful person, and that’s great friend material. They’ll love you!  

        2 like

  2. JustJan from MI JustJan from MI says

    Thank you!  I thought I was the only one stuggling with this.   After retiring 6 mos. ago I’ve cleaned the closets, decluttered, etc. but now I am slowly coming out of my shell finding activities that interest me knowing I will meet some lovely ladies.  I can be very shy meeting new people and I agree with the “first date” comment.  It’s hard to break the ice but I’m working on it!  Thanks again for sharing.

    6 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Jan, I have to say again that blatantly seeking friends doesn’t work as well as sidling up to them in a shared activity and enjoying both the activity and the company, which as Sienna says above, may then deepen into friendship. But in the meantime, you have companionship. A win in any situation!

      1 like

  3. Generic Image tennim says

    Good to hear I am not alone – I too find that I am an introvert – an only child (at 66 (yesterday) who really enjoys solitude, my kids, my grandchildren, reading, painting, and find myself without friends -  tried to join groups but then realized that I was not looking forward to yet another movie or restaurant outing, just to be out of the house.  I prefer smaller groups – 2 or 3 for me is a group – so I am slowly looking at joining groups that do what I like to do: speak Italian, sing, (I am looking to join a group that sings for senior’s retirement homes a few times a month), I joined an art association to show my paintings and when my new knee is healed, I want to go back to ballroom dancing – hopefully, I will make one or two good friends, if not I intend to enjoy myself doing what I love doing.

    15 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Tennim, I’m an introvert, too. I’m good for about 3 hours with other people and then have to have solitude to recharge my batteries.

      11 like

    • MEL810 MEL810 says

      Tennim, I am also a 60 something who was an only child. I still work. I also have no kids and have found that most women seem so tied up with their families and their jobs that they have no time or interest in much outside contact. Although I am interested in their families if I am interested in them, a steady diet of talk about the kids and grand kids just bores me.

      11 like

      • DallasTime DallasTime says

        I totally agree with you, though my circumstances are different.  I am a retired registered nurse (thank God), though I am looking for something else just from the boredom and restrictions of not working for a paycheck.  My family is all out of state, including my grandchildren, and we are not a close family, which is not all terrible.  One of the hardest things to accept as we age is that sometimes you have to know when it is best to leave family alone and when to stop being victimized by one (aka narcisstic family).  Sometimes being right means standing alone, and sometimes standing alone means just that…you’re alone.  Nevertheless, you can’t grow and become a better person if you don’t take the risk of not repeating what doesn’t work.  So you see, I too, understand the pain of everyone else referring on and on about their families as if that is all left to talk about.  It’s such a shame, because there are so many other things to share!

        9 like

  4. YvonneJ10 YvonneJ10 says

    I quickly opened this email — because I am in this boat, for sure!

    But pray tell, what do you do when you’ve tried most of the tried and true methods of making friends?  I’m 54 years, relatively attractive, outgoing and mainly the life of the party.  I noticed I get invited to functions where my wallet is needed, i.e., jewelry parties and Tupperware/Avon,  However, when it’s time for BBQ’s, B/day outings or girls night out I find myself watching reruns of Columbo.  I’ve joined a gym – - and everyone is friendly, talktative and chatty but that’s where is stays.  Everyone seems to know everyone else and the arrive in cliques; these are women who are around my age and have kids in college; husbands, some w/grandchildren.  I have no children, am divorced.  I have tried to forge friendships but….I feel like I’m knocking but no one’s coming to the door.  Can anyone shed any light as to how I can make friends?  One of my resolutions this year is to get out more, get involved in a charity; I’m joining a new gym; and plan to join the local library’s book club.  Sometimes I get so frustrated and I usu find myself back on the couch wondering where have all the flowers gone?

    Signed,
    Yvonne J/Dumont, NJ

    31 like

    • Generic Image Anonymous says

      Yvonne! It is almost as if you wrote MY story. Wish you lived in Texas!! Maybe we should start a “meetup” for women in our shoes.
      Ashley

      11 like

      • YvonneJ10 YvonneJ10 says

        (smile) Thanks, Ashley — didn’t mean to make that post sound like a blah, blah, blah thing!  But it is so very true.  Thanks for responding; at least I know I’m not the only one — well, for now, since we’re in different states, but experiencing the same “symptons,” let’s keep in touch and maybe exchange ideas.  What’d ya say??

        Yvonne

        4 like

      • DallasTime DallasTime says

        What part of TX?  I am in Dallas.

        0 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Yvonne, I’ve tried finding companionship in places like a gym, but end up feeling even more lonely somehow. I think more intimate settings work better. For example, if I’m in my book club and they tell me about another activity coming up, I’ll attend that, too. I think friendship is created when you have frequent contact with the same people. Prior to that, it can be somewhat unsatisfying, so keep at it.

      1 like

      • YvonneJ10 YvonneJ10 says

        Lynne and too all of you who responded, added feedback commiserated re: how to make friends over 50.  I love you all!  This is a great site and I enjoy hearing back from everyone.

        I am going to try to get out more; I know good times/fun times don’t knock on the door. You must get out and be about.  I was so glad to hear that I am not the only one in the “looking to connect” club.  And now I know it’s not just us ladies in our ’50s but younger women, too. 

        Lynne has great ideas about discovering a new you!  I will try to follow suit; maybe not all but most.  Thank you, Lynne!

        Best to all,
        Yvonne     

        1 like

  5. Generic Image moonshadow43 says

    I found you article calling to me when I saw it. I too have been looking for friends. I recently found my very best friend from 30 years ago and have seen her once. Even she has other friends and family that take all her time and seems to have no time for me. I am 55 and recently moved back to my hometown with my husband. I have no friends and don’t know how to find them. I do miss working (retired after 36 years of nursing). I do need to find activities but don’t have many interest other than reading and my dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband but I really do miss having friends to go to yard sales or shopping with. At least now I’m not alone. I have even thought of putting an ad on Craigslist looking for friends!

    8 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Moonshadow, don’t do Craigslist. It’s too big and unprotected. You could put yourself in danger. However, you might try Meetup.com to find a group in your area who meet to share something that might interest you. There are lots of other people who just like dogs and books and the rest of the time, nesting with hubby!

      But keep in mind that a big part of the problem with meeting friends in middle age is that so many of them have a complete set of friends and feel no hunger for more, so it’s a bit more difficult to break in. It’s not you, and it’s not personal. Hence you should make yourself happy with the activity first, and hopefully the friendships will follow.

      4 like

  6. Generic Image PC Gal says

    Thanks for your article. I sometimes think I am the only person who has this issue. I’ll be 50 this year and my youngest is going off to college in the fall. I have been wondering what I will do with my time after I complete all my household projects. I worked full-time until my oldest was going to start school, stayed home for a year and then my husband and I bought a business. I started working again part-time while getting the kids off to school and making sure I was home after school. I haven’t really had close girlfriends since I worked full time. Through the years I’ve made friends with my children’s friends parents but nothing very close. Even now I have many acquaintances and do lunch and dinners on occasion as well as things with couples, but there’s no one calling me on a regular basis. For the most part, I am very happy and my husband and I do a lot together, but I have missed having those special close girlfriends. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do it. All those years I put my family first and was too busy with work and home to care about much of anything else. Yes, the first date comment rings true with me, but your advise about getting involved with something you love and working from there is good. It’s just nice to know I am not the only one. Thanks!

    P.S. I just recently found this website and love it.

    6 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      It is a great website, isn’t it? So much community! See, you’re in the company of friends already.

      I really do recommend that book I mentioned in the original post above. They wrote it because of exactly the challenges you’re referring to. Best wishes.

      0 like

  7. Generic Image Anonymous says

    I’ve recently relocated from California to Massachusetts and have been dealing with this very same issue. I totally agree that participating in activities you like to do will help you find others who like the same things. It is a tough, though.
    I actually just wrote about it on my blog:
    relocationtheblog.blogspot.com (“Book ‘Em, Dano”)
    That’s something else I started doing once I moved…writing about my new life!

    3 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Anonymous, I agree that being online can be a surprising source of warmth and friendship. You should come out of the closet of anonymity, though, and create a profile on Vibrant Nation, with a link to your blog so more people can know about it. Then you would have your own little community there. Best wishes.

      1 like

      • Generic Image Bagaline says

        As a French Canadian arriving in Ireland 11 years ago to start a new life with the man I had fallen in love with, the fact that I had no friend seemed rather unimportant. My partner was a local, born and raised in this same city, had quite a few friends who appreciated me and our social life turned around meeting those few friends for drinks, inviting them for a meal from time to time. A little less than a year ago, I finally gathered the strenght to end what had become a toxic and abusive relationship. It wasn’t long before I realised that they were and stayed HIS friends. 

        So now I’m on my own and learning to live alone. My interests were never what I would call ”social”: handicrafts, cooking, reading, sewing (I make handbags) -interests that don’t put me in contact with people really. To top it all, I’m still working (I’m 63), but my job does not provide opportunities to make friends either. I manage (and live on the premises of) a small shelter for homeless women and experience has taught me that it’s not a good idea to make friends with the guests of the house. 

        I’m quite lonely and don’t know what to do. Should I develop a taste for new things, activities that I had never contemplated doing before?

        Funnily enough, I travel a lot and always on my own. Traveling solo in India, Ghana, Jordan, etc. poses no problem to me. During those few weeks every year, I get so curious and interested in the people, their environment, their culture, their food that I’m never alone and/or lonely. I am no shrinking violet and I could start a conversation with the Pope himself.

        10 like

  8. Pamaloopy Pamaloopy says

    Thanks for this post. I am going to be 52 this year and after retiring from a work-outside-the-home job and starting one from the home which involves little person-to-person contact, and not to mention a relocation, I looked up one day to find I was friendless. It was one of those panic moments. I find now that most of the people who I have contact with now are members of the same disease group as me lol I have diabetes and it is a large community – I just don’t feel like hanging out with them all the time.
    It’s time to make friends
    Pam

    5 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Pam, it was neat that you provided a link to the diabetes forum. (Anonymous, are you reading this? ;)

      Even though you sometimes burn out on the company of your diabetic group (understandable! you’d want to focus on something else also), at least you have the mechanics of social networking now. I like Facebook and Pinterest.com, too.

      0 like

  9. Generic Image Ellen Draper says

    What a wonderful relief it is to know that I am not alone with the realization that the sum of my local circle of friends is a big ZERO. I moved to Virginia years ago and kept myself busy raising my daughter whom has recently moved away. As much as I am enjoying my well deserved personal freedom, I long for the company of good friends but, unfortunately, they are far away in other states and countries. So, what do people in my position do to fill the void when the odds are evidently stacked against us? (I for one, am a bit pickier when it comes to cultivating friendships if for no other reason than to keep toxic personalities  and drama queens from invading the serenity of my inner life.) One possible solution could be to start a meeting group that is centered around an activity or interest that you may have. And, as luck would have it, there is an online meeting forum called “meetup.com” that connects people with groups that meet in their immediate areas and have the same interests whether it be knitting, kayaking, book clubs, etc. I’ve found this to be a invaluable for getting myself out of the house on an otherwise boring weekend.  I hope this helps! 

    Ellen D/Richmond, VA.

    11 like

    • YvonneJ10 YvonneJ10 says

      Thanks, Ellen – - looking up the meetup.com website now…so nice to hear of you and others looking for a kindred-ship…thanks for the link!

      Yvonne J.

      1 like

      • Generic Image Marina77 says

        Hi Yvonne,
        I was just reading this entire post on how to meet women friends and I was pleased to see someone on here in the relatively near area. I recently moved to Monmouth County, NJ from North Florida and know absolutely no one and am finding it very difficult to meet people who do not already have a large group of friends. As I was doing a search about how to make new friends in the new area, I saw your response and thought you seemed to understand what I was going thru in trying to meet friends at this stage in life. I have a great man in my life but he’s always busy with his own work/social life which leaves me to try to acclimate myself to the area on my own, as well as try to make friends when I know nothing of the area or anyone.  I realize your post is old, but if you’re up for making any new friends, please give me a shout back. If not, thanks for the encouraging posts that you put on this site :)

        PJ

        0 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Ellen, I also recommend Meetup.com. Thanks for mentioning that.

      A GREAT thing about focusing first on the activity and letting the friendship follow (if it is meant to be) is that a person can surreptitiously evaluate potential friends while engaging in the activity; if a “target” turns out to be obnoxious, you can get away clean with no commitment! Kind of like speed dating :)

      2 like

    • MEL810 MEL810 says

      Ellen, I am in Richmond, VA, also! I have been her since 1981 and I will tell you it is the hardest place to make friends in which I have ever lived or even spent any time in. It took me years to make even one friend. I would join groups, volunteer, go to church, take classes,etc. and nothing worked.  The women, who had known each other for years, would hang around in little cliques in the groups or where ever and make no effort whatsoever to try to welcome or even meet the new gal. 
      It is slowly changing and  I have made a friend or two but Richmond is just an odd place in that respect. 
      One thing; I understand your need to avoid the extreme drama queens and the very toxic types but all of us have baggage and even the most emotionally healthy women like to share feelings and their own personal life. And sometimes difficulties and drama do rear their ugly head in otherwise stable, serene people.  I could be misunderstanding you but it sounds as if you don’t want friends who have any difficulties or problems that might intrude upon your emotional space.  Such people, in my experience, do not exist. You might be pushing away potentially good, fun and rewarding companions by your need to avoid their issues.

      4 like

      • DallasTime DallasTime says

        Totally agree.  If you are lucky enough to have lived this long, chances are you are not without baggage.  I am a former psyc nurse and though I helped bring calm to many people’s lives, my own life was tormented by toxic people where I had to learn how to deal with them and create boundaries.  This in itself provides a valuable learning tool and resource for a potential friend who might need that insight.  Had it not been for other women who embarked on writing about their own struggles with personal relationships, I would not have benefitted from their experience and become stronger in my own life.  This of course does not mean to go looking for trouble; it simply means to be open enough that your example and empathy could give tremendous meaning to someone else, which will come back to bless you.  Cynthia in Dallas

        1 like

      • Generic Image Ellen Draper says

        Hi Mel810! Please forgive me for not responding to your post last year..I have only just logged into VN today and found to my horror that others have replied to my comments on the friendship over 50 article. I would love to drive down to Richmond and we can meet over coffee and great conversation! I have since moved from Richmond (in Northern VA now), just for those reasons that you and I mentioned. It is so very hard making friends in that City. I also want to clarify what I meant by the “drama queen; toxic” comments. I wrote my response at a time when I was surrounded by very toxic people both at work and personally so that may have colored my personal outlook a bit. Of course, I would always give potential new friends a chance to see if we can have that wonderful chemistry of just being ourselves and having a great exchange of great conversation and the start of a wonderful new “sisterhood”!  I completely understand your position in Richmond. I moved there after meeting my future husband, and after divorcing, I stayed on until I could no longer stand being so isolated and friendless. So, I decided to quit my job, give up my apartment, and moved north closer to family. I don’t regret my decision but I had to make some adjustments. In any event, please feel free to contact me and we can meet over coffee! Looking forward to meeting you Mel810!

        Ellen

        2 like

  10. Adoptsalot Adoptsalot says

    If you have never looked into      MeetUp.com      try it!  You put in your zip code and all of the local meetup groups show up. You can join whatever interests you.  For me, it was a great way to meet new people that liked the same things I like.
    I enjoy walking, camping, hiling and travel and found everything I wanted and so much more there. 
    The freindships are slowly evolving (SLOWLY) but they are evolving…

    5 like

    • helenw helenw says

      I put my recently separated friend onto meetup.com. Grace is an outgoing friendly person but was feeling stale with her old friends.  meetup.com has given her new interesting friends and new activities.  She loves it!  So that’s what I will be doing too once my children have left home (if not before!).

      2 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Confirmation! Thanks, Adopts.

      0 like

  11. Generic Image Anonymous says

    Any gals from Dallas or Lubbock, Texas area? :-) We can find each other!
    Ashley

    1 like

  12. placidplaid placidplaid says

    I am 56 and nowhere near retirement. I have relocated twice as a single person and 3 times as a couple. With each relocation and my age I also have found it difficult to make friends, especially now since I am divorced. It seems to me that people tend to stick to their immediate families and school friends, they  have no real need for outside friends. I have found that facebook has helped me reconnect with old friends and then through them I’ve made new ones. That is the extent of my socializing. I have tried hard to be friendly to everyone I meet, the cashier at the supermarket and anyone else. Church has been tough since I don’t fit into a group unless it’s the Senior Singles!

    2 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Placid, it sounds like you’re doing everything right, except I have to say again that “being nice to everybody” is only a first step. Friendship is born from seeing the same people over and over again, so intimacy can grow. Best wishes.

      1 like

  13. Generic Image Anonymous says

    I thought I was the only one who was struggling to make friends!

    In the past, no matter where I’ve lived, I  always made friends quickly and had a fulfilling social life.

    In this city, even after 10 years… nada! Not one friend! 
    I’m married to the same man for 40 years, He has no interest in making friends and works in an office surrounded by people. 

    I have been unemployed for 3 years (grrrrr) and have no family or friends close by.

    I am outgoing, a joiner, not afraid to initiate conversation or invitations. It seems like everyone I meet is surrounded by family, kids, grandkids and established friendships.  In that past, that was my life… but i always had room to welcome someone new into our fold.

    Our only child passes away a few years ago and our only grandchild lives thousands of miles away.

    I certainly didn’t think my 50′s would look like this! I always thought life would be the way it was pre-50′s… surrounded by friends, my son and his friends and extended family. 

    Thank goodness I can keep myself interested and occupied. I never give up hope the next person who makes eye contact back at me, may even respond to my hello and turn out to be my next friend!

    8 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      I’m so sorry about your child, Anonymous. In spite of all your challenges, you sound strong and resourceful, and I hope you take comfort from that.

      Here’s a little story: my dad was a slug after retirement. Didn’t want to do NUTHIN’. Mom was a social person who finally despaired of dragging him out of the house. He wouldn’t go. She figured, given the normal way of things, that he’d die first and she’d be left alone and lonely.
      So she said the hell with it and set about making a network of friends. Mainly she went to senior citizen exercise classes and also joined a group at her church. That went on for about 10 years. When Dad did in fact pass away, Mom was surrounded by love, due to the friends she had made going to her classes, group luncheons, group movie dates, etc. 

      I wish you well.

      1 like

  14. Paula Ellen Paula Ellen says

    I recently went through a rough separation and divorce, covering a span of three years. At the end of it, I had assumed my friends had my back, and was looking forward to rebuilding a lot of those relationships - when I realized they no longer existed. I actually lost all my dear, close friends, who told me I had been too unhappy for too long, and they were done with me.

    Having been a very faithful friend to them, I was devastated. I have lived in my hometown for over 50 years (except while away at college), and these were friends I had know almost all my life. So I didn’t only lose a husband of 23 years, I also lost what I thought was my entire support group.

    I had to do something to find new friends, so I took advice that I had been giving others for years. Find things you love to do, and find groups of others who enjoy the same activity. Join these groups and be active in them. It will take some time, but friendships will form. Whatever you do, don’t just sit home and hope for it, because that won’t happen. You have to get out and be where people are that you might like to spend time with.

    1. Volunteer. The United Way in our town has a website that lists volunteer activities. I subscribe to it, so I can see what’s going on in town and where I might help out, and find others who enjoy helping out. What talents do you have that you can share with others? Think about it, make a list, and then find ways to help, using those wonderful talents.

    2. Take a Class. I live in a town with a university, which provides many learning opportunities. Dancing (no you don’t need a partner), painting, drawing, learning a new language, photography, jewelry making…  the list is endless, and the offers change from season to season. Learning something new is a great way to meet people, because you are all learning (and vulnerable) at the same time, and this is a great way to meet new people.

    3. Join the Theater. My counselor suggested I do more of things I have always wanted to while I was separated, and so I auditioned for a show with our local community theater. I got a small non-speaking part and had a wonderful time singing and dancing for about 8 weeks. I have done a lot more with theater since, props, set, costumes, etc. You don’t have to be onstage for your talent to shine and be appreciated. People in theater are a very social bunch, so there are lots of opportunities to be together and chat.

    4. Get out and about. Go to Art galleries, city band concerts, picnics, festivals. Be where the people are and have fun. Ride your bike, hike, cross-country ski, kayak. If you don’t know how, learn! I once asked a kayak instructor for a free lesson that turned into a wonderful day on the water that made me feel like I was a teenager again.

    5. Hook up with Facebook or any number of social media out there. I did this to keep up with all the great photos being shared by my young friends in theater, but over the years it has led to many other wonderful connections. Friends of friends, their parents, cousins, coworkers and things they share or are connected to have created a wonderful network of even more opportunities for me to explore, and friendships to make. Sometimes just a simple inquiry can begin a wonderful relationship with someone.

    6. Make your own club! If you are noticing a lot of people like you out there, looking for others to hang with, why not start a group? In my town there is a Singles Network, and it’s not populated with young 20-somethings (they don’t need a club… duh!). It’s a group of active, middle-aged people who just like getting together for fun. They hold monthly dances at local retaurants or taverns, and weather permitting, they schedule outdoor events too. They have a monthly newsletter listing everything they do, and you can get the first one free to see if it’s something you might be interested in.

    7. Be sure to stretch yourself a bit, and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone for awhile. In order to have something new come into your life, you have to be open to new opportunities, and try new activities, or it just won’t happen.

    8. Whatever you do though, don’t appear needy. Don’t come out and say that you are there to find friends because you are lonely. No one wants to hear that, it will scare everyone away. Just say you wanted to help out or try something new. Desperation is not attractive, so just be friendly and positive, and above all, patient.

    One day an opportunity will present itself, and you will be asked to participate in an extracurricular activity or feel it’s time to invite someone to lunch to get to know them better. Little by little, friendships will develop. Meanwhile, focus on making yourself and your life the best you can, and the rest will follow.

    15 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Good Lord, Paula, what a horrible experience you went through! And what a beautiful, comprehensive set of ideas you’ve given us. You should do a post of your own, just copy and paste your comment. That way more people will see and benefit from it. THANK YOU!!!

      1 like

    • helenw helenw says

      This is a very comprehensive list, Paula. I suggest that one more thing could be added…www.meetup.com.  Meetup.com is worldwide (even down here in New Zealand) and it is a great place to start looking for an interest group (there are many!!!) to join.  From finding an interest you enjoy, then friendships may blossom.

      1 like

  15. Eileen Marie Eileen Marie says

    I sincerely relate to all of these posts.  My husband and I relocated from Maryland to California as a result of a job transfer for him in 2009.  This was a transition the likes of which I couldn’t have imagined.  I left a good job behind, and was unable to replace it here.  At 56 years old, I have found that the path to recreating a social life included reconnecting with college and childhood friends all over the country via Facebook.   I also joined some Meetup groups in my area, which led to 2 more meaningful friendships outside of the group.  I also recommend joining some of the volunteer websites such as Create the Good, and Volunteer Match.  After completing an online profile, you receive emails from them notifying of opportunities that suit your interests.  Taking classes at my gym has also been helpful, and has led to a few more meaningful friendships outside of the gym.  I noticed that there were others our age looking for friendships at this phase of our lives.  It has taken some time for me, but things are beginning to work out.

    4 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Exactly right, Eileen. You’ve got the recipe book for keeping busy, staying happy and making friends right in your comment.

      So much wisdom today! This string of comments could be used as a course on making friends in middle age.

      2 like

  16. Generic Image Karen says

    I love Vibrant Nation!  What a wonderful, supportive group of women visit here.   I think all of Paula Ellen’s suggestions are excellent.

    I too am middle aged (56), at the beginnings of a divorce, stay-at-home-homeschooling mom, last child graduates from high school this June.  I have a different  way of looking at friendships than most people I know.  I grew up in the military, and my friendships were always fairly brief.  Either I was moving away, or my newfound friends were.  I learned to make friends quickly, and not let them get too deep, because, well, that would just put me in a continually sad and painful place.  As an adult, I have lived in one place for 30 years now, and I have had some long term, deeper friendships, but even those have changed, evolved, and lessened over time as our common interests (mostly kids) have gone away.  

    I wonder if our expectations of friendship are unrealistic.  I don’t expect friendships to last forever.  Being a friend is a commitment, and being in a deep, long term friendship can be hugely burdensome.  I think the majority of women out there have too many family commitments to be able to support deep friendships with other women.  I am all for doing things that interest me and letting friendships evolve from that.  It is where I have made by best friends.  I guess, as my marriage ends and I head off to a new city and a new life, I will just have to see what happens.  It’s kind of scary and exciting, actually.

    Meetup.com is a great resource, and if you don’t see a group there that interests you, start one up.  I bet there are people out there just like you wishing that group existed.

    6 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Karen, you raise a good point about the possibility that we’re looking to go too deep. I personally have only a couple of very deep friendships, but hundreds of casual and online friends. I live across the country from my two “deep” friends, but the rest I communicate with very often, and that’s what feeds me.

      0 like

  17. Generic Image mariam9 says

    I love Vibrant Nation too. I love the topics.
    I too have been alone for quite sometime . I was working long hours at four part time jobs to make ends meet.

    Now two of those jobs are gone and I cant see one on the horizon. 
    Now I am spending many more hours alone. I am also cleaning and getting ready to downsize.  Yet I get the urge to take a break and call someone. But, everyone I  know are busy with their affairs. 
    I have tried classes and that didnt work. Gyms where people are cliqued together and leave together. I prefer to work out alone.

    Some people hang out at local coffee shops. I dont know if that is successful.

    Its amazing I have lived here for over  twenty years  and not made a single friend. I guess we all have to learn to stop and smell the roses, and take the time.

    4 like

    • Generic Image CarolynM says

      I thought I was the only one who felt this way….I’m so glad to know I’m not alone!  I worked here in town for 30 years and retired to re-marry and move out of state.   After 8 years, it didn’t work out and I am back in my home town.  But, I find that all my acquaintences have either retired or have moved on and I have no friends.  Also, I am quite introverted and I find I lost alot of my self-esteem and self confidence over the last 8 years which is also taking its toll on my ability to “get out there”.   Joining groups is so difficult for me….I never learned to go places and do things alone.  But, I know that if I don’t learn to do this, I will never meet new friends.  It seems like such a vicious cycle….so I find it easier to stay home.  Not good for me and something I am working on changing slowly.  I wish all of you lived near me so we could get together!!  You all sound like you would be wonderful friends!!

      6 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Maria, if you’re getting ready to downsize, I’m assuming that means you’re moving. If so, move to a place that has a community center, if that’s possible, because usually those are good meeting places within your local area. I live in a 55+ community and many are open to friends, and they’re home more than younger people so have more time to engage.

      1 like

  18. Generic Image anonymous says

    It feels like I too found my own boat. I am separated for 4 years now. This come after 30 years of marriage, three children and unfaithful husband. Thankfully my children are grown up and standing on their own feet. Besides being a full-time Mom, wife, housekeeper and self-employer there was no time or any other way for me to even consider to make friends never mentioning to look for any. One day I’d like to think, it was in my first year of being single again. I decided to become my own best friend, and started doing things which I was only dreaming about during the past thirty years. That gave me nice feed back, I was simply starting enjoy myself and my life again. Later on started volunteering, joined meet up gropes to meet people and going out to places I would never go before. Lately, I’ve decided to start modelling – ha, ha ha.. How crazy is that? I am in a menopause – is this middle age crises? This is simply nuts! But I enjoy it.

    2 like

  19. Generic Image tennim says

    Yes meetup is a good place – this is where I am joining a choir that sings in old-age residences and where I intend to join the Italian speaking group -  there are also groups for over 40 or over 50 women – however, they are huge groups and I found that’s not for me.  And for anyone who has solid knees, take Ballroom dancing classes.  I intend to go back once my knee heals – and it’s like a language – where ever you go in the world, if you do ballroom dancing, you can join a group – there are people of all ages – you may not make friends, but you will enjoy yourself

    2 like

  20. Generic Image wildwestgal says

    Just a note, its not just the over fifty gals struggling, both of my daughters ( in there 30′s) have the same complaint and struggles with making new friends. Im not sure why it seems so difficult to connect with others who care enough to return a call or accept an invitation. Reading all of your posts has given me hope that there are real potential friends out there!

    6 like

  21. Generic Image anonymous says

    Hi wildwestgal.
    Yes, there’s a great potential, and you already found it. We are talking on Lynne’s forum. I think this is a great idea. On the outside keep, looking you never know who you’ll bump into.

    0 like

  22. MEL810 MEL810 says

    I have an unusual problem when it comes to making friends. I don’t drive ( I have a learning disability that is not apparent and does not keep me from working) and I live in a suburb that has no public transport past 7 pm on weekdays and none on weekends or holidays whatsoever.
    On the weekdays, when I can use the bus to get about, I am working. I take the bus to and from work. 
    I can’t get around to most of the sorts of meet-ups or groups that might interest me and when I mention that I don’t drive or have a car, most people just lose interest in me. Once in while I can get a ride, but I can’t count on it. 
    I have many, many interests and love to do many types of things as long as they don’t cost the earth but unless I am around someone who has a car and doesn’t mind giving me a ride (I offer gas money) I am confined to online activities for meeting new people.

    0 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Mel, that’s a huge barrier, I can see that. Thank God for the Internet, but still, that can’t replace actual contact. I’m glad you have a job so you can get out and be around other people. I wish you well and hope ideas or solutions will emerge. It’s probably ridiculous to recommend you consider moving closer into town, but maybe for sometime in the future, as you, like all of us, will need more services as we age. (Here’s an article on that very thing.)

      What city do you live in, if you don’t mind saying? Maybe other readers will see your comment and have some ideas.

      Ladies?

      0 like

  23. Generic Image Laurie says

    I have to post a follow-up to a post someone mentioning Meetup.com. Well I looked into it and immediately found an interesting group and they were having a meet up last Saturday…which we went to. We had a fantastic time and look forward to the next one.  It wasn’t so much to find a quality friendship but what was nice was hanging out with people that were fun and energized. New people are nice because you always will have tons to talk about and they aren’t  apt to judge you.

    1 like

  24. YvonneJ10 YvonneJ10 says

    Ladies, 

    There are so many of you so I can’t call you all by name.  But this goes out to all of my Vibrant Nation Sisters: In line with all of us commiserating about how difficult it is to forge new friendships, I have discovered and signed up for something called LivingSocial.com This website offers GREAT deals on gym classes, Pilates, language courses, meals, dancing, travel, theater, dentistry, mall shopping discounts, store discounts and the BEST part is the price for the online vouchers to participate is cheaper!  Also included are salon visits for facials, massages, B&B and weekend getaways…this site is fantastic.  Your zip code will dictate which deals are on special for the day or the week.  You purchase the voucher on line and present upon arrival at the given establishment.  Many vendors are hopping on board because they are scoring profits due to large volumes of folks purchasing the vouchers.  It’s another great way to meet people: Yoga classes, Nail salons, (a great conversation can be started up with the customer you’re sitting next to!), dance classes like Bellydancing and line dancing.  And again, the prices are 25% to 30% what you’d normally be paying.  Check it out if you get the chance.  It is well worth the trip!  I absolute recommend it – - please get back to me with any feedback – -I’d love to hear if some of you found this site interesting!!

    2 like

  25. Generic Image Anonymous says

    Glad I found this site and realized I am not the only person who feels like a “friend failure” at 50+. The ideas sound great and I hesitate to add my “but”, BUT I live in a very small town – the kind where you meet your “bff” in grade school and noone is allowed to break those chains that bind. I did not grow up here so, I have none of those grade school friends. There are very few activities/clubs that exist around here as well. I went on the meetup site suggested and the only one near me is a homebirthing mothers one. Uh, don’t think I would have anything to say to them. (: Start my own group? Ha! If I could do that then I wouldn’t be in need of finding a group. I’m the one that books the Tupperware/Lia Sophia/Thirty-one (just fill in the blank) party from a coworker only to have NOONE show up at my party! Has honestly happened several times. I have reflected upon what is wrong with myself and tried to change anything possible in order to be more social.
    I am not giving up, though. Still going to try and put myself out there and connect with someone.

    0 like

  26. SassySenior SassySenior says

    Dear Anon – I, too, found myself in a little town where friendships were already set – but it is possible to build a life almost anywhere. There are the obvious: churches, bible study or clubs. You don’t have to be a skilled card player to find groups that play games (bunko and board games are popular). Small town Chambers of Commerce always need working members – and no, you don’t have to be a business to be a member. Today, almost every county or small town has an economic development office or senior citizen center – and they always need help. As do single-owner businesses where the owner can’t afford help but has trouble getting any time off. Volunteering often leads to friendships, sometmes a job, and almost always personal satisfaction. Whatever YOU like to do, I’ll bet there are others who enjoy it also. If you sew, ask about a quilting group or offer to mend things for others. The highschool band always needs help altering uniforms and lots of Mothers today don’t sew and are working outside the home. Ask the local paper to start a Volunteer Column – where both those who need help and those who have extra time and skills can post for free. And there is always re-filing books at the local library. Good luck and God Bless.

    0 like

Continuing the Discussion

  1. How to Make Friends in Middle Age « voices @ wisanow linked to this post on February 27, 2012

    [...] by Lynne Spreen – a Vibrant Nation Blog Circle User [...]

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