Making friends after 50 is not only important, it’s also often essential. Harvard research indicates that friendship and relationships are critical to our health and longevity.
But what happens when old friends are far away or when they are no longer in your life?
When my mother was in her 80’s I asked her if she still went to her book club. “It died,” she replied. She meant it literally. Several members had passed away and the club disbanded.
My friend Stacy, who was is very sociable and always surrounded by a “girl gang” back in New York recently revealed to me that most of her close friends moved away.
Sometimes we lose friends for other reasons, not related to geography. For example, choosing to distance yourself from negative or toxic people may be your own choice. People who couple-up in their later years may fall into a different lifestyle and only want to hang out with other couples.
We no longer have the built-in community of a dorm or family neighborhood with weekend soccer games to connect us with like-minded people. So what do we do?
Here are some of Stacy’s tips for creating a new social circle after 50:
- Show up. Don’t just go to a class once. You need to go to a series. Showing up in the same place over and over shows you have similar interests. Stacy happens to love barre class. “You have no idea how easy it is to talk to new people after you both just suffered through a grueling workout,” she quips.
- Learn a new game. Canasta and Mah Jongg have had a major resurgence and they require multiple people to play, so you’re quickly engaged with a new group. Take lessons. Do you really want more friends? Host the game at your home, it tells everyone you are serious about your new-found passion.
- Be the organizer. Buy tickets to a show and resell them through Facebook and Instagram or start a Meet-up group. Organize a meal before or after.
One 50+ man encourages his peers to buy motorcycles. You’ll immediately become part of a “gang.” Those of us who aren’t “Easy Riders” can join a bicycle group instead.
PR professional Marisa Vallbona took up surfing after 50 and found other like-minded women to add to her tribe. Those activities that are both social and healthy can be especially thrilling.
Consider expanding your circle to people outside your age range. Karen Dennis, a healthcare publicist and grandmother, pointed out that when we’re younger, we sometimes choose friends because our kids got along with each other. As we age, that’s no longer a restriction. Common passions like travel, cooking, volunteering, or sports transcend generations and we can schedule “playdates” for ourselves rather than kids.
The term “posse” originally meant a group that came together under the leadership of a sheriff to fight “the bad guys.” Your posse should be a group of diverse people brought together through common interests or philosophies to combat boredom and inertia. And, like those original posses, your gang should always have each other’s backs.
As you make new friends, remember the original ones too! Make the effort to call, visit, and stay connected.
The truly terrific and timeless friends may even comfortably blend in with your new circle!