Many years ago, I had a good friend who had just gone through a very difficult loss and was overwhelmed with sadness. All I could do for the first few weeks was sit with her while she cried. Over time, she revealed the depth of her guilt and sadness and I realized that it was going to take her a long time to heal.
One night, we sat down with a bottle of wine and I naively said, “Please, don’t feel guilty”. She looked at me with eyes glistening with tears and replied “Margaret, guilt is not a feeling. It’s a way of life for me.”
As you might imagine, this response stuck with me and, over the years, I have applied it to many aspects of my life. It has only been recently, as I have started working on Boomerly – a service that will help older adults to build new friendships – that I realized just how broadly applicable and powerful my friend’s words were.
You see, loneliness is just not a feeling. It is a way of life. It is a tangled web of lifestyle choices, social triggers, bad luck, and limiting beliefs that keep us from having the social relationships that we deserve. To make matters worse, loneliness is a taboo subject. As a result, when we know that someone is feeling lonely, we don’t always reach out and give them the support that they need.
So, to help break the stigma of loneliness and to get some practical advice, I turned to the women in the Sixty and Me community. I asked them what they would say to a friend who was feeling lonely.
Their answers were warm, authentic and direct. More importantly, most of their suggestions were simple and actionable. I could imagine their friends actually following their advice. In my experience, baby boomers are a practical bunch. We share a special kind of “group memory” when it comes to loss and disappointment. We just need to remember to reach out and help each other!
Here is the advice of 50 women over 50 for how to beat loneliness and find more friends.
Carol: Take a class – cake decorating or medieval history – it doesn’t matter.
Maggie: Volunteer at your humane society. Dog and cats love kisses!
Susan: Let’s go to a silly movie.
Michele: Call me and let’s get together. Let’s make a play date!
Heather: You are my friend. I am here for you.
Barbara: Let’s go for walk, get some coffee and chat about your interests.
Connie: Let’s play some games together.
Linda: Step outside your front door and volunteer! I’ll come with you.
Judith: Why don’t you try meditation or yoga?
Arlene: Let’s go for a coffee and chocolate cake.
Raine: Join a walking group or a gym – it helps I know I’ve been there.
Barbara: Join a lively church or community group.
Angela: Look at yourself in the mirror and say “I love you.”
Millie: Go to a concert and talk to the person sitting next to you.
Patricia: Meet up for a coffee/tea and chat…..try meetup.com.
Christine: Join the Y. Helps stress and you can make friends there.
Laura: Don’t stay inside; force yourself to get out of your house.
Elena: Join a book club.
Angela: Pamper yourself, wear something glam, or waft around in a housecoat.
Edie: I’m coming over right now!
Bernadette: Make friends with yourself first.
June: Come over for a cuppa!
Millie: Go shopping! Indulge yourself – be frivolous!
Claire: You can call me anytime 24/7.
Pauline: Walk every day.
Paulette: Learn something new – get busy!
Gillian: Don’t be ashamed of loneliness.
Hélène Anna: Get busy with fun projects; make gifts you can give to friends.
Margaret: Go to a café and knit a scarf for Knit for Peace.
Margie: Pull up your big girl panties, take positive actions! (Said with a smile).
Linda: To get friends, be friendly. To get a smile, give one.
Karen: Start a conversation with a stranger.
Maryann: Go to Starbucks and offer to join someone sitting alone.
Kathleen: Learn to dance, learn Spanish, and try something for the first time.
Marilyn: Get a four-legged friend.
Patricia: What sports to you love? Can you teach me?
Judith: Come see me, we’ll have coffee and talk about your dreams!
Linda: Remember my friendly voice is only a phone call away.
Patricia: Be grateful for all the positives in your life.
Jenny: Join a theatre group or art class.
Maria: Jump on a bus and go somewhere you’ve never been before.
Judith: Reconnect with your old friends form high school, university or work.
Patricia: Build friendships with men even if you don’t want to date.
Joan: Clarify your purpose in life and pursue it with passion.
Anna: Start writing a journal or a blog
Mary: Think about downsizing and figure out what is important.
Helen: Consider shared housing like Golden Girls Network.
Vivienne: Make sure you are not depressed – if you are, get some help.
Su: Go on a group tour.
Adriane: Eat chocolate.
Finally, as Maria said, “Try to remember your favourite things. Look around. Loneliness is a state of mind that comes from forgetting what makes you happy.”
I hope that you find the advice of these 50 women over 50 helpful. Let’s keep the conversation going! What advice would you give to a friend who is feeling a bit lonely? Would you try to find something to do together? Or, would you recommend that they get involved in a particular activity? Please join the discussion.
Here is a short video that I recorded on finding friends and beating loneliness as an older adult.