Showing posts with label how to make friends. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how to make friends. Show all posts

Friday, December 15, 2023

Making Friends as an Adult: The Art of Building Meaningful Connections

We can still make friends as we age.

Life changes as we get older, especially after retirement. We may move to a new community, far from the friends we knew in the past.  Even if we stay in the same area, some of our long-time friends may have passed away or moved to be closer to their adult children.  We no longer are connected to the people we worked with over the years and, gradually, those relationships may slip away.

Being lonely can be dangerous.  It is associated with worse health outcomes, and could contribute to developing dementia at an earlier age.  However, with so many life changes after retirement, how can we avoid becoming lonely when we feel less connected to our old friends?

Making friends as an adult can seem like a daunting task, especially if you've recently retired, moved to a new city, started a new job, or experienced a significant life change. Unlike the structured environment of a job or school, where friendships often develop organically, adulthood presents unique challenges when it comes to building new connections. However, with a little effort and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone, making friends, even as you age, can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Let's explore some effective strategies to help you navigate the journey of forming meaningful friendships as an adult.

Embrace Your Interests:

One of the most natural ways to make friends as an adult or retiree is to pursue group activities you genuinely enjoy. Whether it's joining a book club, attending a fitness class, getting involved in your place of worship, participating in a hobby group, or volunteering for a cause you're passionate about, engaging in activities that align with your interests will naturally connect you with like-minded individuals. Shared passions create a solid foundation for friendships to flourish, as you already have a common ground to build upon.

Be Open and Approachable:

Approachability is key when making new friends. A friendly smile and open body language can go a long way in encouraging others to approach you. Show genuine interest in people by actively listening to what they have to say. Ask questions and be curious about their experiences, opinions, and aspirations. Being approachable and genuinely interested in others makes it easier for potential friends to feel comfortable around you.  Be willing to share a little about your own background, but also stop talking about yourself long enough to ask others about their background, their families, and their interests.  Then, sit back and genuinely listen. You might be surprised at the interesting experiences other people are willing to share with you!

Attend Social Events:

Social events are fantastic opportunities to meet new people. Attend local festivals, social events, parties, or community gatherings. Be open to initiating conversations with strangers, and don't be afraid to introduce yourself. Remember that everyone is at the event to connect with others, so don't be shy about starting a conversation and sharing a bit about yourself.

If you have recently moved to a new retirement community, you will find that most of the people there also desire to meet their new neighbors.  They, too, want to form new connections!

Join Online Communities:

You can still make new friends, even if it is hard for you to get out and socialize as you age. The internet has made it easier than ever to find like-minded individuals and stay in touch with your family and old friends. Join online forums, social media groups, or platforms dedicated to your interests or hobbies. Engage in positive discussions, offer helpful advice, and connect with people who share similar passions. These virtual connections can often lead to real-life friendships and provide a safe space for introverts or those with social anxiety to ease into social interactions.

However, you also need to be cautious about online relationships.  Sadly, some people use these groups as a way to gain the trust of other members and then ask them for money.  Immediately cut off communication with anyone who begins to hint that they need money.  

You should also avoid getting into heated political or religious discussions with others online.  This will only make it harder to form friendships with others. 

Be Patient and Persistent:

Building genuine friendships takes time and effort. Don't be discouraged if you don't find your tribe right away, especially in a new community. Be patient and persistent in your pursuit of meaningful connections. Keep attending events, joining clubs, and engaging with others, even if it feels challenging at times. True friendships are worth the investment, and the process itself can be enriching and enlightening.

Be Authentic:

Authenticity is essential when making friends as an adult. Be yourself and embrace your uniqueness. Pretending to be someone you're not just to fit in will ultimately lead to superficial connections that lack depth. Embrace your quirks and vulnerabilities, as they make you relatable and genuine. When you are authentic, you'll naturally attract people who appreciate and value you for who you truly are.

Be Accepting and Uncritical

By the time we have reached our 50s or 60s, many of us have had a lot of life experience.  This can cause us to feel as if we know more than other people, and we can even start to believe we know what is best for others.  Learning to keep our strong opinions to ourselves, and being less critical of other people will make it easier to find friends.  Everyone wants to be accepted just as they are, and criticizing other people for the choices they have made is only going to cause hurt feelings.  Having an accepting and uncritical attitude will also ease strained family relationships, thus improving those connections, too.

Show Empathy and Support:

Friendships are nurtured through mutual support and empathy. Be there for your potential friends during both happy and challenging times. Celebrate their successes and offer a listening ear and a caring heart during their struggles. Being a reliable and empathetic friend fosters trust and strengthens the bond between you and others.

If you hear about a friend or neighbor who is going through a challenging health emergency, offer them a ride to a medical appointment, or take them a meal, or even a few cupcakes.  Just showing them how much you care will be greatly appreciated.  You may never know how one act of kindness can change a life!

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone:

Making friends as an adult often requires stepping outside of your comfort zone. Be willing to take the initiative to plan outings, invite people to join you in activities, or attend events. Embrace new experiences, as they offer great opportunities to meet new people and expand your social circle.

You might even occasionally invite your new friends or neighbors over for dinner, a barbecue, or just some morning coffee or an evening glass of wine on your patio.  Extending casual invitations to friends is a lovely way to get to know others better and deepen your friendships.

Over the years, every time my husband and I moved to a new neighborhood, we always made the first overture to our new neighbors by hosting a block party and inviting everyone who lived nearby.  It made it easier to get to know everyone quickly, and we never regretted reaching out to our neighbors within a few months of moving into a new home.

While making friends as an adult might not be as effortless as it was during our school days, the rewards of meaningful connections are well worth the effort. Embrace your interests, be open and approachable, attend social events, join online communities, be patient and persistent, be authentic, be less critical, show empathy and support, and step out of your comfort zone. By applying these strategies, you'll increase your chances of forming lasting and fulfilling friendships that enrich your life and the lives of those around you.

Remember, friendship is a beautiful journey of shared experiences, laughter, and support, and it's never too late to embark on that journey. So, take that first step, and let the world open up to you in ways you never imagined.  It could also keep you healthier and help you postpone dementia as long as possible!

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Don't forget to nurture your friendships, too.  When I was a Girl Scout leader, we taught the girls this song.  "Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold."  In other words, even as we make new friends, be sure to reach out to the ones you are still in contact with from the past.  Send them holiday and birthday cards.  Call them occasionally.  

If you are looking for small gift ideas for your friends, you might want to check out my Etsy shop at:

It has a number of inexpensive gift ideas to send a friend for any special occasion, including this bracelet.  The gift box can easily be personalized, too, at no extra charge, if you contact me on my Etsy shop with the personal message you want to send.

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Stay Connected if You Live Alone - It Could Save Your Life

The retirement community where I live contains over 12,000 condominiums, and only one person lives in approximately half of them.  As a result, we occasionally hear about people who have died alone, and their death was not discovered for a day or longer.  In a few instances, people have gone missing, but no one realized it until days had passed and a friend or neighbor checked on them.
In addition to these risks, living alone has been shown to decrease your lifespan, as well as the quality of the final years of your life, often because the person becomes isolated and fails to reach out and contact other people. Loneliness is a dementia risk.  People who live alone often have a poorer diet and are less likely to maintain their personal hygiene. They may be slower to get to a hospital if they are showing signs of a heart attack or stroke. They rarely recognize their own dementia symptoms.  It is dangerous for many reasons.  
I recently heard about a woman who fell in her home and it was days before anyone found her. She was dehydrated and extremely weak before she was discovered, but she did survive. Doctors said that she would probably have died if she had laid there much longer.  Being alone too much puts your life at risk.
Loneliness is even more important during situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic.  Many senior citizens, unable to visit with friends, neighbors, and family, have become more isolated than ever before.  If they have a dangerous preexisting condition, such as diabetes, asthma or chronic kidney disease, they are usually taking extreme precautions to avoid seeing other people.  This could protect them from Covid-19, but put them at risk in other ways. 
If you are one of the millions of retirees who live alone, how can you stay connected to other people?  How can make sure that someone is looking out for you?  How can you maintain your relationships and build new ones?

Check in with someone every day - In the past, it was recommended that someone should call the elderly members of their family every day.  However, at a time when the younger generations are often overwhelmed with their jobs and children, making phone calls to an aging parent day-after-day, year-after-year, can become an overwhelming task.  Today, there are other ways to make sure everyone in your family is doing OK.  
If you are living alone, ask a friend, neighbor or relative to connect with you briefly every day.  The two of you could quickly touch base in one of these ways:
Send each other a quick daily text message in the morning, and wait for a response.  It can be as simple as saying, "I'm up this morning."  They could respond with an easy "thumbs up." 

Some people make a point of opening their blinds in the morning and closing them in the evening.  This allows concerned neighbors to know they are are alive and well.  Such a simple action, especially when you know a neighbor is watching out for you, can be life saving.
You could also post something daily on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  It could be a picture you took during a morning walk, a photo of a cake you baked, or your opinion about something interesting.  It is an easy way to let everyone in your circle of friends know you are alive, active online, and functioning mentally.  Because these posts go out to many of your friends and family, a number of family members and friends can be reassured at the same time that you are OK.  This is especially helpful if you have been ill.
If you are going to be out-of-touch and off-line for a while, let everyone know privately, so your family and friends do not worry.  You will want to do this discreetly, or to a limited number of people, so you do not return to a burglarized home. You could create a small "close friend's group" on Facebook, and only a small group of people will see your message. You can also create a small text message group, which will allow you to notify a few friends at once. It is important you do something like this if you are traveling, spending time in the hospital, or otherwise unlikely to be online, so your close friends do not worry about you. 
If you are hospitalized in an emergency, be sure to ask a friend or relative to let others know, or ask someone to subtly mention it online, and tag you, so it appears on your Facebook news feed. They could say something vague, but reassuring, such as "Helen will be off-line for a few days, but she is doing fine." Or, ask someone in your text group to send a message to the others. Otherwise, a caring friend may send the police to do a wellness check at your home!
Get a medical alert device - You have seen the ads with the person on the floor saying, "I fell and I can't get up!"  This is more common than you may realize. One in four people over the age of 65 falls every year.  Anyone over the age of 70 who lives alone should consider getting a medical alert device. (Ad)  Many assisted living facilities require their residents to wear a medical alert device at all times.  You can purchase your own at a very low cost, with a small monthly service fee.  Then, if you are having a medical emergency either at home or while out of the house, you can simply push a button on a necklace, bracelet or key chain and an operator will answer. There are a variety of medical alert devices (Ad) available, and you will want to check out your options. When you activate the device and contact the service in an emergency, the operator will ask you over the device's speaker whether you want an ambulance, the police, or need them to call a designated friend, relative or neighbor.  They will then place the appropriate call and get you the help you need. In many cases, the operator will stay on the line until they are sure you have been helped. These devices can reassure your family that you are never unable to get assistance the minute you need it.  It could save your life. 

Make an effort to see people
- It can feel so comfy, cozy and safe in your own home, you may avoid getting out and seeing people.  This is especially true today when it is so easy to have everything from your groceries to your clothing delivered directly to your door.  Why leave your home when it can be tiring and feel unsafe?  However, it is absolutely essential that nearly everyone makes an effort to get out and see others, when they can, and feel safe doing so.  It can be as simple as waving to a neighbor and chatting from 10 or 15 feet away.  You may also want to find a friend that you feel safe seeing, such as a neighbor who also lives alone.  Perhaps you can take a walk together, or sit outside and have a cocktail in the evening.  It is nice to know that someone would immediately notice if you did not show up for a planned walk or chat.
Having conversations with other people is an essential part of avoiding dementia.  When you are with other people, you pick up on non-verbal communications, such as facial expressions. You also never know what the other person will say, which means you have to be ready to respond quickly to new information.  Interacting with other people is the very best type of brain stimulation.  Even if you have to maintain a safe distance and wear face masks, it is important to occasionally interact with other people in-person.  At the very least, during the pandemic you should regularly interact using Zoom, Facetime, or similar sites.

Get involved in your community - This can mean taking classes, volunteering, attending a place of worship, or joining clubs.  The advantage of these activities is that they will keep you busy, keep your mind active, and help you build a group of people who care about you and who will worry if you stop showing up.  You will make friends with people who have similar interests.  You will learn to care about them and watch out for any unexpected changes in their lives.  This is the basis for seniors helping seniors.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, many charities and political organizations offer ways to help them virtually by making phone calls, doing fund-raising, writing postcards, sending text messages or promoting them in other ways.
Being active in the community is especially important for people who do not have adult children or other close relatives who are watching out for them.  You need to find your own group of friends, neighbors, club members, church members and others who will watch out for you. 
If you are not able to go to in-person meetings, you can find groups that have Zoom meetings through Meet-up.  They even offer meetings in foreign languages, if you want to practice your Spanish, French, German or another language.  You can also sign up for fun discussion groups through a local community college. One couple I know takes a "Film as Literature" class through an Emeritus program offered for senior citizens by a local community college. They watch Netflix movies, and then participate in a weekly Zoom discussion meeting, where they talk about the movie.  Whatever interests you, you should be able to find an online class or discussion group which will be fun and interesting for you.

Local senior centers will reopen after the quarantine ends - Although you may not be able to visit them during the pandemic, eventually senior centers will reopen again. They are located across the United States.  They offer wellness programs, exercise classes, useful information, assistance with common problems, and other services.  Some of them even offer low-cost daily lunches, which are a wonderful way to get to know other people in your area.  They also offer social events and field trips to local places of interest.  It is a fun way to find friends who are interested in attending plays, museums and concerts. You could also volunteer at the senior center, which can be a lot of fun.  The more effort you put into spending time there, the more benefit will get out of your local senior center.

Host a social event in your home, once people begin to get together again. - If you want to get to know your neighbors or club members better, there is no better way to do this than to hold a social event in your home.  I have hosted annual block parties at every home where I have lived since my husband and I were in our 20s.  As a result, I still stay in touch with old neighbors from places where I have not lived in decades.  I have never regretted hosting these occasional events. Depending on what is easiest, you can invite a group over for morning coffee, lunch, dinner or evening cocktails.  A potluck dinner is fine, if you do not want to provide all the food, or if you know that some of your guests have allergies or may prefer different types of food from what you plan to serve.  You do not have to do it often, but try to entertain a small group at least once or twice a year.  You will get to know your neighbors better at an informal social event.  A few of them will reciprocate by inviting you to their social events. You will go from being acquaintances to becoming friends.  This actually keeps you safer, because people are more likely to look after neighbors they know and consider friends.

Stay in touch with people - Perhaps the most important thing you can get out of the above activities is building a large support group of people.  However, they will quickly fade away if you do not stay in touch.  It is not enough to attend a concert with a friend and then never see that person again.  You have to nurture these relationships. You have to take the lead.  Do not wait for someone else to do it. Do more than your "fair share" in the relationship. 
Send out holiday cards with a little update about what has been going on in your life.  Buy birthday cards and cards for other celebrations at the dollar store, and send them out when appropriate.  Ask people to go out for coffee with you, especially before or after a meeting, or whenever you want to discuss the plans for a volunteer event.  In other words, do not wait for people to contact you.  Reach out to them and do it as often as possible to maintain that relationship.  Show an interest in their lives, their celebrations, their worries.  Ask about their children, grandchildren and pets. If you do all that, you will have friends for life, you will stay mentally alert, and you may even live longer!

Share contact information with several friends - If your nearest family member lives in another state, it is wise to share their contact information with several of your friends and/or neighbors. Then, if something should happen to you, your friends and neighbors will know who to contact.  Nothing can be more frustrating than to realize that a friend of yours has had an accident or serious medical event, and you do not know how to contact their adult children, siblings or other relatives.  It is thoughtful to share this information with a small circle of friends.  You should also let your out-of-town relatives know about the friends who have their contact information and would contact them in an emergency.  Then, if they receive a call from a stranger, they will know that you gave them the information.  
The most important thing you can learn from this is that you are never too old to make new friends, get involved in new activities, and nurture your relationships.  In fact, it is important that you do these things your entire life.

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning for retirement, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, common medical issues as you age, and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credit:  Pixabay