I was leaning back in my chair laughing so hard that I nearly fell over. My belly hurt. The six of us at our table were nearly in hysterics. It took us several minutes to get under control before the conversation continued. All of us wiped laughter tears from our cheeks. We couldn’t wait for the next story.
I was sitting with five women, mostly in their 20s and 30s, at the Book Bar in Denver. We’re all members of Outdoor Women’s Alliance, a loose confederation of women athletes in the Front Range of Colorado.
Tonight was the fourth meeting of our book club, during which we discuss the book of the month. This month it was Wild by Cheryl Strayed. We were sharing our opinions of the writer, her experiences and, inevitably, some of our own wild stories.
At 65, I am the oldest member of this group. However, I am just as welcomed – and my input just as valued – as everyone else’s, if not more so because of the range of experience I bring to the table.
Yet it’s so much more than that. These young women, with their fresh perspectives, different ideas and varying experiences are constantly teaching me spanking new ways to see life.
They inspire me. They come from vastly different backgrounds, countries and reference points. They constantly reshape my ideas and keep my thinking crisp.
One of the challenges of aging can be isolation. As kids leave the nest, create families of their own and get busier with their own friends, it can feel as though we’ve lost our value. If we’ve retired, or moved into a new community, we can feel disconnected.
Women in their 60s and older have so much to offer, but too often we can be marginalized. With some effort on our part, we can get fully engaged and feel wonderfully useful with a few powerful strategies.
Track down groups of women – of any age – where you share an interest. If you’ve had a career of any kind, you have wisdom to share and you can be a mentor. The idea is to give and take.
Get actively involved and become a leader and influencer. The more you give, the more you get. Be willing to learn as much as you are willing to teach. This is what keeps us young.
Actively solicit potential participants through libraries, social groups, social media and different organizations. This will get you out and about in earnest, meeting and talking to lots of new people. If at first you don’t find interest, then explore what does intrigue people in your area.
If your area of interest doesn’t spark energy, redirect. This is potentially an opportunity for you to become someone entirely new. For example, if there is a problem with stray animals, perhaps the real need in your new area is a shelter.
Put together a small group of committed people – who inevitably become a small and growing group of committed friends. Raise money, create a shelter and become activists to solve a problem. There are few things that draw people together more than animals in need. Age isn’t a determinant. Passion is.
Don’t ever let your fear of being rejected because of your age keep you from getting active in a new organization. Research what associations and organizations exist in your area and see if one sparks your interest.
Join online and study the threads. Watch what issues pop up. Inevitably, you’re likely to have some competence about something, so comment. I’ve become a respected member of my local OWA organization because I regularly post valuable information that is useful to most of the women.
My age has nothing to do with anything other than I have decades of experience and a variety of perspectives to share.
For example, when a young woman moans that her life is over because of a knee injury, I can start a discussion about how many of the rest of us have already had an injury and are already back on the slopes skiing. We all weigh in with rehab discussions and suggestions.
Nothing makes us feel more valuable than identifying an issue in our communities that needs our energy, enthusiasm and verve. And nothing draws friends and supporters to us than our determination to fix something that people complain about. So get busy. And make friends.
Positive enthusiasm and can-do energy draws people to us. Our willingness to continue to learn and laugh with others of all ages is what guarantees a lifetime of friendships.
What strategies have you used in making new friends and ending loneliness? Have you joined a meetup or started your own interest group? Please join the conversation below and share your ideas with us.