Let’s face it: as an active older adult, it isn’t as easy as it once was to make friends. After all, there were the friends you had at work or at church or at the gym and friends who were parents of the children your kids played with. But when you’re older and circumstances are different, it’s more difficult meeting people.
There is the whole social media craze, too. It’s easy to connect with people through Facebook and other social websites. You don’t even have to leave the house! Therein lies the problem.
What can you do when living alone keeps you more isolated than you’d like? When transportation is an issue, how do you get out to create opportunities to make new friends? Here are some suggestions that can help:
A Bit of Self-Analysis
Motivation is the key to getting “out there” to meet people. Getting started means knowing what it is you like and want to do. Where do your passions lie? Do you like to dance? Paint? Exercise? How is your self-confidence? Are you timid about taking a few emotional risks? Think about what you like to do and what may be stopping you from taking the first step. This knowledge will help empower and motivate you.
Be Physically Ready
If you feel tired, out of shape, or sad, making friends will be more difficult than it needs to be. It’s important to have the energy and confidence to explore the opportunities that exist. Take a walk. Enjoy nature. When at home, be sure to get up and stretch hourly. Try a gentle yoga class on TV or on a DVD. Call the local fitness center, YMCA or YWCA to see if they offer exercise classes for seniors.
Reconnect with Old Friends
Think about the friends you haven’t seen in a while. Contact those with whom you’d like to rekindle a relationship or seek them out through mutual friends. You can also use social media, like Facebook or LinkedIn to search for old friends. No need to make excuses for not being in touch; simply say, “I’ve been thinking of you lately and would love to catch-up. Let’s plan to get together.” You can even suggest your friend bring a friend.
Visit the Senior Center
The local Council on Aging or Senior Center has a monthly calendar full of activities, special events, and opportunities to learn something new. Visit the center to see what’s happening and pick something you’d enjoy doing. You can check out the activities online as well. People at the Senior Center “have been there” and are welcoming and friendly.
Bring People into Your Life
Invite a small group of neighbors to your house for a movie night or for cocktails. Ask neighbors if they would like to walk with you when you take your daily stroll around the neighborhood. Invite those you met at the Senior Center if you’d like to know them better.
Start a Group
You can check your local library for adult groups that meet weekly or monthly, but you can also use your contacts to organize a new group. Start a book club or weekly lunch. How about a monthly sewing circle or movie night? Ask neighbors and others you know to bring a friend. Start small and get suggestions on how to expand.
Listen and be Positive
Don’t be interesting; be interested. Be the person people want to get to know better. When you listen attentively and are sincerely interested in what people are saying, they see you as likable and want to be your friend. When they mention something you have in common, point it out; research shows similarity is important in making friends. When someone talks about the good things in their life, be enthusiastic and encouraging. Celebrate the positive, reacting to their good news, rather than interjecting your own at that moment.
Open Up. Get Personal.
You’ll need to get beyond discussing the weather if you expect to make close friends. Close friendships lead to personal conversations and personal conversations lead to developing close friendships. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable helps foster trust and this leads to others being more open with you, leading to closer personal connections.
Keep in Touch
When you make new friends, be sure to set aside the time to keep the relationship moving forward. Spending time with someone is an indicator that he relationship is valued. Stay in touch at least once every two weeks by phone or whatever method is comfortable.
The key to making new friends is to want to make new friends. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move. Take the initiative. Take the time to know yourself so you know what activities you enjoy. Build confidence and physical strength. When ready, reach out and invite people into your life.
In addition to housing, healthcare and programs for seniors, SALMON Health and Retirement communities offer support groups and resources for caregivers and family members. To learn more about the options available to you and your loved ones, contact us today by calling 800-446-8060 for more information.