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How to make friends and avoid loneliness in your 60s

 

In the digital age, it’s easy to ‘connect’ with other people. It can be as simple as clicking a thumbs-up button. But you don’t need me to tell you that this isn’t the sort of connection that really makes a difference in your life.

It’s the deep and meaningful friendships, the people with whom you can share your hopes and fears on a daily basis, that affect whether or not you feel lonely. As Carl Jung said,
“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.”

In contrast to the new friends that tumbled into your life when you were a child, a student, an employee or a baffled new parent, your social circle can take a squeeze in the later stages of life. Divorce, kids flying the nest, retirement, poor health, a loss of mobility, bereavement: at times, it can feel like everyone is moving on and you’re left behind with a nagging sense of loneliness and few of the necessary skills needed to navigate this potentially lonesome new stage in life.
 
And learn to navigate it you must. Loneliness has been linked to depression, dementia, high blood pressure and several other serious chronic health conditions. In fact, loneliness and isolation is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and worse than obesity.
 
If you regularly feel lonely, it’s time to be proactive about making new friends and sustaining the friendships you truly value, before that feeling of loneliness takes root and starts to manifest as a physical or mental health problem.
 
The first step is to accept that feeling lonely is a normal human emotion. Attach no blame or shame to this feeling. It is not your fault.
 
The next step is to tackle that creeping sense of loneliness head on. Think of making friends as your new career. Invest time and effort into finding potential friends and developing those budding – or stalled – friendships.
 
You may need to develop a thicker skin. As Ana wisely pointed out,

“Don’t take it personally if someone turns you down. Their friendship book might be full right now, but they might get back to you in the future.”

You should also be prepared for a few awkward moments as you get to know each other. A recent study found that it takes about 40-60 hours of time spent together in the first few weeks after meeting for people to form a casual friendship. To transition to a friend takes about 80-100 hours. To become good or best friends takes 200+ hours spent together. Of course, these numbers apply to people you click with right away. As we all know, it’s possible to know someone for years and not wish to become friends – and that’s no-one’s fault, just the way life is.

Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to prioritise making new friends in your 60s, make time to think deeply about what friendship means to you, and what you need from friendship at this point in your life. Do you value friends who share the same beliefs as you, or who challenge your beliefs? Do you need friends who share the same interests as you, or friends who will encourage you to try something new? If you’ve already got a group of friends but much of the conversation seems to be complaints about the weather or latest ailment, then you might like to invite a sunnier sort of person into your life. Or if you love boxsets, but your existing friends are all about high-brow books, perhaps a friend who shares your passion for Game of Thrones is what you need right now!

 

7 practical ways to meet new friends in your 60s

  1. Join. Find a club that centres on something you’re genuinely interested in and join it. It could be a walking group, a reading club, or a regular life-drawing session. Once you’re there, make the effort to properly talk to people – turning up is the easy part; using it to develop meaningful friendships is trickier. One way to do this is to exchange information. Ban yourself from small talk and instead ask for relevant recommendations, or offer your own, whether that’s a walking route or a book – and follow up with an email, call or coffee shortly afterwards.
  2.  Meet-up. Join or start a Thelma & Louise meet-up and have a coffee, cocktail or meal with a group of women who love to travel. See all the meet-ups already being planned here.
  3.  Reconnect. Get back in touch with old friends you’ve lost touch with. Here’s the thing – when you reconnect, try to have no expectations. You will have changed over the years, and so will your old friend. If you no longer connect as you once did, don’t think of it as a waste of time. Perhaps they can introduce you to other people you have more in common with. Here’s an inspiring story about two childhood friends who got back in touch and became best travel buddies
  4.  Learn. Go back to school or join an evening class to learn a new skill. It could be anything from IT skills to a new language. Try the University of the Third Age, whose aims are the education and stimulation of mainly retired members of the community – those in their third 'age' of life. It’s an international movement but particularly active in the USA, UK, India and Australia.
  5. Travel. Join a group trip or find a travel buddy or three in the Thelma & Louise community. If you’re not already a member, join and find like-minded women travellers to explore the world with. You’ll find everything you need to know about starting your own trip idea and making it happen here.
  6.  Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and help others at the same time. A volunteering opportunity in the UK that women travellers might love is helping disabled children, young children or adults have a brilliant experience on a Sense Holiday.
  7. Make the Wait Great as the Campaign to End Loneliness urges us: “91% of us think that small moments of connection can make a difference to someone who is feeling lonely. It could be smiling at the person next to you, or starting a chat whilst waiting for the bus.”

 

We know that Christmas can be a particularly lonely time for some members of our community. If that includes you, here are a few trips taking place over the holiday season that you might like to join: