We are never too old to participate in the gift of a new friendship with another. It’s so easy in today’s world to make new friends – online. Technology has allowed the process of making friends and communicating with them regularly to become instant, convenient, and affordable. But those friendships don’t produce the same sort of benefits we derive from close, real-life, face-to-face friendships. Research shows that having strong face-to-face friendships can have a host of benefits, including happier, healthier, longer lives.
Your new friends in real life don’t have to become your Best Friends. Even casual friendships have these benefits. Casual friends are those with whom you share a common history, interests, and activities. They can be those you are connected to through family functions or groups. Examples include parents of our children’s friends, someone in a book club, a neighbor.
Though not at the level of a deep emotional friendship you may have with a best friend, these are friends you enjoy spending time with, participating in common interests and events together. These casual friendships are very special, meaningful, and rewarding.
The prospect of getting out and making new friends when you are a boomer can be overwhelming. Here are some tips for overcoming barriers:
- Assess the type of barrier impeding your ability to connect with your friends. If it is not having enough time, think about how to intentionally schedule regular “girlfriend time” into your calendar. No excuses!
- If the barrier is life transitions, then what specific challenge is this presenting for you? Assess what is blocking your ability to connect with friends or make new friends. Once you’ve identified the obstacle, write down on paper some possible solutions, and then develop a plan for how to move toward those solutions. For instance, if you are a new widow and feel alone and disconnected, and you desire to make some new friends, brainstorm some ways to make that happen. What are some places in your community you might find others like yourself who also wish to make new friends? Remember, you are not unique; there are others out there who also desire to connect and who are trying to find you. So, whether you join a new book club, wine group, bible study, travel club, knitting guild, or volunteer organization, start the process to find your tribe.
- Make your girlfriend relationships a priority. One of the most common mistakes women make is to approach our female friendships with an accidental, nonchalant, off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment attitude. Our friendships deserve better. We all deserve better.
In her early forties, my mother-in-law became a widow with three children to support. When I asked her how she managed to keep going through those dark days, she shared that the ability to function on a daily basis was due to the love and support she received from her circle of close friends in her small, tight-knit Nebraska town. She went on to successfully launch all three children to college and live a long and fairly healthy life, well into her mid-nineties. She is a perfect example of how the connection of friendship can help us live healthier, happier, and longer lives, despite some of the biggest challenges.
Practical Tools for Finding New Friends
Be a Joiner. One of the main ways to meet new people is to find a group based on a shared interest. These might include book, win, or cooking clubs, Zumba, yoga, or other exercise classes, knitting guilds, church or Bible study groups, walking or biking groups, golf, tennis, or other sports groups.
Find Support Groups. Check websites of local counseling offices in your area. Many offer support groups for women. Often hospitals offer different types of support groups as part of their health education and wellness programs. Churches often offer support groups especially for people going through difficult times due to grief or loss. Finding support is a matter of finding your tribe and seeking those who are looking for the same type of support.
Pursue a Volunteer Cause. Giving time to a cause or charity, and spending time with other volunteers who share this passion, is a great way to form new connections and make friends.
When was the last time you made a new friend IRL? Please share your thoughts and story!