If you’re over 50 and are suddenly realizing that your friend group has shrunk over the years, you’re not alone. Here’s how to make new friends when you’re over 50 and want to expand your circle of friends.
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It seems like I keep hearing the same two complaints from so many women over 40 or 50 whose kids have moved out of the house. They either say something like “I focused on my kids completely for so many years and let my friendships lapse. Now my kids are gone and I realize I don’t have any friends to talk to or hang out with. I’m lonely.” Or they’ll tell me that they thought they had tons of fellow mom friends from their kids’ activities only to have those friendships fall away once their kids were no longer participating.
Whatever the reason, too many of us reach the empty nest and realize that we have very few close friends. We’re lonely and we don’t remember just how to even make new friends in the first place.
That’s unfortunate because several studies have shown that female friendships are vital to both your mental and your physical health as you grow older. Feeling isolated can lead to depression and folks with few friendships tend to have more chronic illnesses as they age.
But how to even begin to make new friends? Fortunately, it’s easier than you think. I’ve been compiling tips on how to make new friends in midlife. Here are 15 of the best tips I’ve discovered.
#1. Make friends with yourself first. If you’ve focused on your family for years, you may have forgotten what used to interest you or what kind of friend you would like to be. Spend some time getting to know yourself again and then you’ll be able to recognize who you want to be friends with when you meet them. I have a free e-book full of exercises to help you get to know yourself again.
#2. Ask yourself, am I lonely or am I depressed? Many people with depression suffer from loneliness and find it difficult to make new friends because they tend to isolate themselves and have low self-esteem. If you think you may be suffering from depression, seek help. If you’re not sure if you’re depressed, here’s a handy quiz to help you determine if you’re depressed.
#3. Turn Virtual Friends into Physical Friends. There are several good groups on Facebook where midlife women hang out and share their struggles and triumphs. (Here’s a list of some of my favorites.) Start by joining a few and becoming an active participant. Many of these groups offer regular get togethers for their members or some group members will create a meeting on their own. If you’re in a group you like and haven’t seen any group get-togethers in your area, propose one of your own! Simply post saying something like, “I live in xxx area and I’m looking to make some new friends. Is there anyone who lives nearby who would be interested in a get together?” I guarantee you’ll be surprised and happy at the response. Reach out to these women in a group message and plan something right away. Then make sure to keep scheduling regular events.
#4. Look on meetup.com for events that interest you. Meetup.com is available in many cities and is an invaluable resource for making friends. Most people on the site are, like you, looking to make new friends so it’s very easy to forge relationships. Simply sign up, then enter your interests in the search bar. (Hint: Every city has multiple groups centered around wine.) Try entering “Over 50” or “Over 40” in the search bar. Or search by interest such as “movies” or “dinner club.” My own city has over 30 groups catering to the interests of the Over 40/50 crowd. Try out several until you find the one that’s right for you.
#5. Create your own Meetup group. If nothing you see on meetup appeals to you, start your own! Perhaps you’d like to gather together a group of women to try out new restaurants or visit local museums. Create a group and schedule a few events. Participation may be slow at first, but if you’re consistent with your events, word will get out. Think this something you could never do? Then, let this New York Times story inspire you.
#6. Look for friends in your own neighborhood. Nextdoor.com is another great resource for finding friends. Join the one for your neighborhood and then create a post saying you’re looking for women in the area who also like to try out new restaurants, form a walking group or book club, etc. You may find a few friends within walking distance!
#7. Join a Book Club. If you like to read, a book club can provide a chance to read some interesting books and a way to grow new friendships. There are a few ways to try to find a book club in your area: check with your local library, check the online directory of book clubs at my-bookclub.com, search for “book club” on meetup.com, or check your local independent bookstore. Or start your own book club and post on Facebook or Nextdoor to recruit new members.
#8. Join Your Local YMCA and start attending a class regularly. If you attend a class regularly, you’ll start seeing familiar faces. Strike up a conversation and suggest meeting for coffee after the class. Any gym could be a great resource for making friends, but I’ve found that classes at the Y seem to attract more regulars. Also, many YMCAs have a social component where they host regular get-togethers.
#9. Find a Walking Group. A walking group is a great way to make new friends because you’re walking and talking with the rest of the group the whole time. Search on Meetup or Nextdoor or simply google “Walking Group Near Me” for a list of groups to join.
#10. If you belong to a church, join a small study group. If you belong to a church, but only show up for services, join a bible study or other type of small group. Many lifelong friendships are forged in these groups.
#11. Check out your town’s parks and recreation department. Many towns have activity centers that offer programs and classes and even sports leagues. Sign up for something that interests you and you’ll automatically have something in common with the people you meet there.
#12. Volunteer. Many organizations depend on the support of their volunteers. Find a cause you’re passionate about and sign up to help. You’ll be supporting your community and making friends at the same time. Volunteer Match can help you find the right group for you in your area.
#13. Take up a hobby or revisit a hobby you’ve abandoned. Have you always wanted to learn to knit, but never had the time to learn. Local knitting or craft stores often have classes. Working on a project together can be a great conversation starter. There are organizations in Atlanta, where I live, where you can explore things like soap making to glass blowing. Just google your hobby and “near me.”
#14. Take a class at the local community college. Many colleges offer continuing education classes in topics like painting, creative writing, photography and more. My local college even offers a 4-week class on enjoying wine. You’ll spend time developing a new skill and meeting interesting people.
#15. Join Weight Watchers. I know it’s a weird tip, but if you want to drop a few pounds and make some new friends, check out your local Weight Watchers. The weekly meetings are full of kind, supportive people. Why not suggest that some of you meet outside the group for walking sessions?
How to Turn an Acquaintance into a Friend
So, you’ve tried some of the previous suggestions and you’ve met some interesting people that you would like to spend more time with. It’s time for the next step.
Ask your acquaintance out on a “date”. This is, for me, the hardest part of making new friends. But it’s also the most important part of making friends because that’s how you move from “acquaintance that I give a friendly nod to when I see them” to “such a good friend!” You are, of course, making yourself vulnerable to rejection, but you’ll find that most people will be flattered and delighted.
All you need to do is say you enjoy their company and ask if they would like to do something together some time. It’s helpful if you make this very specific: “Hey, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you in our knitting class. Would you like to meet for coffee next week?” Then exchange contact information.
You may have to take the lead in initiating get togethers for a bit but before long, you’ll realize you’ve created a loving circle of friends.
Final Bonus Tip
Reach out to your old friends. As I mentioned earlier, it’s so easy to let friendships lapse. Life gets in the way and suddenly you realize that it’s been years since you saw your friend. If you have a friend you would like to see again, even if it’s simply a casual friend you know from your children’s activities, reach out to them! It might feel a bit awkward but chances are your friend is also missing your friendship and will love to chance to reconnect.
Ready to Get to Know Yourself Again?
Are you struggling to remember who you even are after years spent raising a family? But it's time to focus on yourself again! Spend some time getting to know yourself again with ten days of journaling exercises designed to help you pinpoint your goals and create a vision for your life!