As you get older, do find it more difficult to make friends? Recently, I was in a group of about twenty women all in their sixties through eighties. One of the most animated discussions we had was about how difficult it is to make new friends at this age. I thought about the discussion later and wondered if this is true for other older women.

Women Over 50: Making New Friends as We Get Older

I think back to college days when we would spend hours in each other’s dorm rooms talking about our Saturday night dates and tough classes and just plain gossip! “She did WHAT??” Really good friendships were forged that way, and for many, these connections last for years and years. So, perhaps one key to building a good friendship is time. It takes time, and lots of it. I’m not sure how so many of us got so busy, but we seem to be too busy to spend much time just hanging out with someone as we get to know them. We have to be doing something rather than simply being together and talking.

Many of us also made friends at work. Just seeing someone day after day led to a certain level of familiarity. And there usually were those few people who connected over coffee, or lunch, or in the bar after work. Somehow, we seemed to be able to find our “tribe,” those we identified with and gravitated toward. Unfortunately, when we leave work, either because of retirement or to pursue a new situation, we often lose touch with those friends.

Social Connections and Healthy Aging

Thinking about friends and our other social connections is important because we know that maintaining good relationships is an important component of healthy aging. Along with healthy eating, exercise, adequate sleep, and learning, our social connections have a big impact. And for those of you in your forties or fifties, now is the time to start thinking about this because it’s not something you can change overnight.

In an excellent workshop I recently completed with Sara Zeff Geber titled “Solo Aging,” she provided us with a quick and easy way to visualize this. Right now, get a piece of paper and something to write with. Draw an inner circle and then four concentric circles going out from the inner one. In the inner circle write “Me” or your name.

And then label each expanding circle with these words: Intimacy, Friendship, Participation, Exchange. In the circle of Intimacy would be those people closest to you whom you trust implicitly and cannot imagine your life without. In Friendship are people with whom you are close, but not as close as those in the Intimacy circle. You may spend lots of time with them or have a very good time when you do get together. In the Participation circle are those you interact with, perhaps frequently, but you don’t consider them friends. They are acquaintances, coworkers, members of a sports team. And finally, those in the Exchange circle are people like your doctor, or the checkout person at the grocery store. In some way you do transactions with them. 

Spend some time with this. Where do you have lots of people and where very few? There isn’t a right or wrong here; it all depends on how satisfied you are with what you discover, particularly with the Intimacy and Friendship circles. If you feel very good about those two, great! That suggests that you’ve taken care of that component of healthy aging (and just being happy for that matter).

Try These

But if you aren’t satisfied with what you’ve found in those two circles, what can you do about it? Here are just a few suggestions. I’m sure you can think of more.

  1. Make a list of those people whom you have enjoyed being with, and either have very infrequent contact or have lost touch altogether. Commit to contacting each one on a rotating basis. You might decide to contact one of these people a week
  2. Think about any groups you’re in. Are there one or two people you feel particularly interested in getting to know more about? Invite them for a cup of coffee, and if you have an enjoyable time, invite them again in a week or two.
  3. Are there things you like to do that have just fallen by the wayside? For example, have you always loved to hike? There are many hiking groups available to join that are appropriate for people of different ages and abilities. The same would apply to golf, knitting, cycling, reading, or whatever your interest might be. If you’re not sure where to look for groups like this, websites like Meetup and NextDoor can help you find local options. It is easy to be with a group of people who are enjoying the same thing you’re enjoying. Make a goal to get to know at least one person in this new group.

Extending ourselves to people we don’t know well isn’t easy for many of us, but it is the way to meet new friends, if you decide that’s something you’d really like to do.

I would love to get your ideas on this topic, Women Over 50: Making New Friends as We Get Older. Please let me know if you identify with what I’ve said here or not. Thanks!

Learn More…

The Prime Spark Membership Community is designed for women 50 (or close) and older to support one anotherWe learn and grow together while furthering the mission of Prime Spark. Membership currently is closed. If you’re interested in joining, please send an email to [email protected] and ask to be placed on the waitlist.

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