12 Tips for Making Friends In Middle Age

How many quality friendships do you have? Who are the treasured people who support, validate, and encourage you to live a good life and be a good person?

If you’re struggling with your answers, you’re not alone. Friendships undoubtedly become more challenging as we get older. In fact, research shows that nearly half of adults in middle age report feeling socially isolated. Loneliness, as we know, is associated with numerous physical and mental health risks.

But making new friends in midlife isn’t impossible. No matter your circumstances, you can create and cultivate meaningful connections with others. Here are some tried-and-true options to consider.

Acknowledge Your Fears About New Connections

Even though we all know that friendships are paramount for our mental and physical health, many people experience some discomfort when they think about new social interactions.

This makes sense. Change, after all, is scary.

But it may be helpful to spend some time reflecting on your concerns. Do you worry that you don’t have anything interesting to say? Have you recently been betrayed by a close friend? Do you feel too busy with work, aging parents, or other concerns to devote to relationships right now?

No fear is too big or too small, but it’s important to be aware of them. Knowing your fears can help you identify reasonable steps toward working through the anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with being nervous, and it can be grounding to remind yourself that most people feel uncomfortable socializing in new settings.

Join 1-2 Local Groups

Sign up for a local group and commit to attending at least 3-4 meetings to get an accurate feel for the members. You can find these groups within your church or synagogue, on websites like Meetup, or through local community events.

Remember that it isn’t enough to be a passive attendee. Instead, consider taking on the mindset that you intend to connect with someone. This means going into the meeting ready to chat and ask someone questions about themselves.

And if you connect well with someone, get their contact information! This is so key. It’s one thing to enjoy a conversation, but it’s another thing to actually use that as a springboard for further connection.

If you feel self-conscious, remember that people attending these groups are all seeking the same thing. They wouldn’t be going if they felt they had everything they needed with their current friends. You just may need to be the one who initiates that first contact. You can start by asking for their email or phone number and sending a message asking if they’d like to grab coffee or lunch.

Start Volunteering

Along with unquestionably making the world a better place, volunteering offers numerous opportunities for social connection. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals who share your same good intentions.

To get started with volunteering, consider:

  • reflecting on the social causes that mean the most to you.
  • identifying your core skills and knowledge base.
  • determining an appropriate volunteering schedule.
  • examining various volunteering gigs in your local community.
  • trying out an opportunity (and sticking with it for at least a month before deciding if you want to continue).

If you want to build new relationships while volunteering, try to look for opportunities that meet at consistent times. This way, you’re more likely to run into the same people.

Try a Book Club

If you enjoy reading, book clubs offer a low-key opportunity to connect with other literary lovers. You can look for local book clubs at your library, bookstores, or online.

Book clubs are relatively diverse- some focus on reading books of a particular genre, and others are geared toward a specific population. All groups have different meeting times and meeting arrangements, so you may need to try a few clubs to find the right match.

Additionally, don’t overlook the idea of starting your own book club! To start, all you need to do is determine who you can invite, where you will meet, and how you will choose books. The group will likely evolve over time, but other members may be grateful you took the chance to organize it.

Try a New Hobby

What activity or interest have you always wanted to pursue? If you’re new to the empty nest after spending years raising children, how do you want to spend your free time?

There is no doubt that hobbies are one of the best ways to bring people together. Whether it’s skiing or knitting, cycling, or scrapbooking, filling your spare time with hobbies can create numerous opportunities for connection.

If you’re brand new to something, consider signing up for a class. You’ll strengthen your skills, and you’ll be around other eager students. A class positions you to find a fantastic partner who shares the same interests.

Join Online Communities

Although they sometimes have a poor reputation, online connections can be just as satisfying as in-person friendships. We all saw the value of maintaining social connections during the pandemic. People turned online to spend time with loved ones, and many formed new friendships virtually.

Social media platforms like Facebook or Reddit make it easy to find friends who share similar interests, live in the same city, or have various circumstances in common. Additionally,  numerous apps like Friender, Bumble BFF, NextDoor, or Meet My Dog, can help facilitate friendships.

Just like in-person dynamics, online friendships also require intention and effort. In other words, you will likely get what you give. Be kind, curious, and attentive to others if you want the same in return!

Reconnect With Old Friends

Sometimes, making friends in middle age comes down to reconnecting with old friendships that fizzled. After all, you were once friends for a reason- that reason may still be compelling and positive!

If you would like to reach out to a former friend, consider:

  • reflecting on why the friendship faded (especially if there was a conflict).
  • sending a friendly text or Facebook message letting you know you’re thinking of them.
  • arranging to meet for coffee to “catch up.”
  • taking things slowly and seeing how it feels.

Reach Out to Friends of Friends

If you already have a mutual friend, you have something important in common! Building a friend-of-a-friend friendship can be fairly straightforward!

You can start by asking your mutual friend to introduce the two of you. Or, you can reach out to them directly and let them know you’ve only ever heard good things about them. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to make a conscious commitment to attend any social events that you think friends of friends may attend. It’s a low-pressure way to meet and interact with new people!

Intentionally Make Concrete Plans

Many friends fall into a haphazard pattern of “forever needing to catch up.” You may be guilty of those ven with your close friends. As we grow older, other priorities tend to take weight.

But deeply nurturing relationships requires you to take deliberate action. So, instead of saying, we need to see each other soon, try to make the implicit more explicit. This can sound like:

  • “I’m free on Sundays moving forward. How does this Sunday sound for grabbing dinner?”
  • “Let’s plan for a 10-minute phone call on our lunch break just to catch up. Does Wednesday work?”
  • “I’m having a get-together for Labor Day. Here’s the invite. Please bring a dish!”

Consider Part-Time Work

Retirement can be an exciting milestone, but some older adults find that it perpetuates social isolation or lack of connection to others. This can magnify symptoms of midlife depression and anxiety.

In many cases, work provides an outlet for connection. This doesn’t mean you have to get a job. But you may consider working somewhere a few hours a week simply for the social benefits. Moreover, if you work somewhere you feel passionate about, you may feel connected to the purpose, which can offer an important sense of meaning and fulfillment in your life.

Take a Travel Tour

Traveling provides many new opportunities to meet people all around the world. This is a great chance to connect with other people who share similar interests.

Fortunately, there are many types of travel group options, including walking tours, spiritual tours, small private group tours, senior group tours, adventure-based tours, cultural tours, women-only tours, and more. To make the most of your trip, consider the following guidelines:

  • Look into the group demographics ahead of time. You can generally reach out to the tour company to learn more about this.
  • Determine whether you want to stay in a private room or stay with a roommate.
  • Commit to having an open mind and be willing to join others to wander around, meet up for dinner, and/or go shopping. Keep in mind that many connections are formed early, so try to prioritize socializing during the first few days.
  • Get contact information from friends you meet during your travels and aim to stay in touch and/or plan reunions for future travel together!

Stay Patient and Honor Persistence

You won’t mesh with everyone you meet. But numbers are on your side. The more you put yourself out there, so to speak, the more likely you are to attract like-minded individuals interested in forming a genuine friendship.

If you and a no person don’t hit it off, try not to take it personally. Everyone has different values and needs in life, and it’s unrealistic to assume every person is compatible for friendship.

Remember that it’s always a virtuous goal to strive to be the friend you wish to have. This lays an essential groundwork for cultivating emotional safety.

Final Thoughts on Making Friends in Middle Age

Making and building friendships in middle age may seem daunting, but it’s worth the effort. Good friends give life a sense of purpose and meaning- they also provide joy and fun in ways other relationships might not offer.

Unfortunately, depression, social anxiety, low self-esteem, or other mental health symptoms may impact your ability to make friends. If that’s the case, therapy can help. We can work together to improve your self-worth and the quality of your social relationships. Contact me today to get started.

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