VN Featured Comment

Making friends after 50 – 8 steps that worked for me

Today's Featured Comment

From Paula Ellen:

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 a while. 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.

[This comment was originally posted in this conversation. ~ Eds.]


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