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I Gather, Therefore I Am: Finding Other Women for Health and Happiness

By Danna Walker January 08, 2024 Lifestyle

Recently, as I sat in a local restaurant at lunchtime, waiting for my friend, I looked around and saw a large room filled with women doing exactly the same thing. We were all gathering to commiserate, share, expound and take or offer encouragement and advice – woman to woman, beet salad to beet salad – no topic too large or too trivial to take on.

Women, it seems, simply must get together.

There’s no direct research that women are more compelled than men to seek fellowship with the like sex, but anecdotally many women agree.

Often, our seeking and learning comes during times of transition and change, according to experts, because we’re looking for help in letting go of the past and embracing the new.


I conducted an informal survey recently of women in the Washington, D.C., chapter of The Transition Network, a U.S.-based non-profit organization and community of women who “empower each other to thrive as we travel through transitions from familiar old life experiences to challenging and inspiring new ones.”

I joined TTN during retirement; other motivators include relocation, career changes, divorce and/or any need to connect.

“I think women definitely feel the need to gather,” said Susie Lazaroff, 61, who started a TTN peer group for informal gatherings in members’ homes in the nation’s capital. “It’s the idea of togetherness, of community and being able to share. I think women are kind of communal beings and I’ve always thought how great it would be to live with all my women friends in one place as we all get older.”

Another member said she joined to “connect with women on issues and life-changing events to share insights, support each other and engage in joint learnings.”

Jane DiCosimo, 64, of Silver Spring, MD, said she was about to retire and realized she mostly had “work friends” and wanted to meet like-minded professional women.

All agreed there are special challenges to meeting people later in life.

“It is uncommon to find opportunities to explore issues that directly affect older women,” said Susan Lilly, 71, a Maryland peer group leader.

Another member said she was going through a divorce, the death of a parent and her children going off to college – all at the same time – and “I wanted to connect with other women at my stage of life – sisterhood!”

Women also find other women, according to the survey, at Meetups, on the Ethel Circle Facebook page (sponsored by AARP), doing volunteer work, in book and hobby clubs and classes, religious meetings, at community and senior centers, and in privately cultivated groups through friends and family.

Relationships Are Key to Happiness

According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest scientific study of happiness ever conducted, the answer to what makes life fulfilling and meaningful is relationships. Connecting with others is key to our mental and also physical health, yet loneliness is said to be at epidemic proportions.

Research indicates men may have a harder time making and maintaining friendships, with one TTN survey respondent attributing that at least in part to the socializing of men to avoid being vulnerable – a theory some experts support.

But everything I read and everyone I talked to agreed there is one element we all must employ if we are to find and keep friends – effort. It’s probably not something we’re used to. In fact, when I was working full-time, going to graduate school, teaching and raising a family, I took all the people I interacted and conversed with on a daily basis for granted. I often just wanted to be left alone.

Sometimes now I don’t want to admit that what I need to do to improve my social life on any given day or week is work at it a little harder. But joining a group, reaching out to old friends, making that phone call or sending that text usually pays off. And, if you think about it, that’s a good thing. That means you can make things happen. TTN welcomes everyone, and I have seen plenty of friendships develop.

As one TTN member pointed out, the dear friends her 90+-year-old mother had around her when she was in hospice recently had been formed when her mother was in her 70s. So, if you have felt you’re running out of time to make friends, I would dispute that.

One Conversation Has Meaning

English Professor Paula Cohen’s new book, Talking Cure: An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation, makes the case that sharing our stories with others, simply having a conversation with no fixed agenda or goals, feeds our souls and provides what one writer called “a kind of sanctuary.”

The challenging news as we grow older is that we will experience loss, and that can mean struggling to replace relationships and find new people open to such conversations. Those we lose aren’t replaceable, of course, but it hit me recently that I enjoyed the polite camaraderie of new friends and the quiet understanding that we navigated life in different ways and could share those insights on the ups and downs of aging.

The good news is that as we age, we gain resilience, so don’t wait too long before reaching out. The longer you go without social interaction, the harder it can be to start to engage again, according to experts.

I particularly like Susie Lazaroff’s idea about striving to have all your friends living around you as you gain maturity and wisdom.

Some friends and I even fantasized about our later-in-life sanctuary being a lovely, remote island somewhere off the coast, perhaps of the Carolinas, a place we named, to uproarious laughter – Hags Head.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you make it a point to gather with other women to share and commiserate? Do you especially feel this urge during times of transition? How much “work” goes into your relationships as you grow older? What are the best ways to overcome loneliness for your own health and well-being?

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I agree wholeheartedly about the importance of having friends. Also some platonic male friends are capable of having deep personal conversations, probably not many though. What I find daunting about developing friendships with women- and I have really been working at it- is that a lot of women are so involved with their kids and grandkids, they just don’t have the interest in making new friends. Also a lot of women lack interest in other people and don’t enquire about you. They go on and on in a sort of filibuster, talking just about themselves and their opinions. I find that men do this too, but most women are equally lacking in conversational skills. I keep looking and trying, though


Keep looking, Jan. There are women in our age group who desire connections with other women who share similar interests. I know what you mean about kids/grandkids obsession. I have lost some close cousins who no longer have time for me, even at holidays, because their grandkids have become their world. Very sad. Hope their grandkids will have time for them when they get out into the world, or these women are going to find themselves very alone.


I agree, Jan, that I sometimes find myself in these one-way “conversations”! I’m vowing not to be that person as I grow older. I hope you keep looking!

karin Bendel

I agree. So many women are so deep into grandchildren that they don’t even come up for air. They are doing caretaking, visits and even talking about them nonstop. I don’t have grandchildren so this doesn’t work for me. Also, some ladies are very self focused and obsessed with their bodily problems as they age. Making good new friends at this age ( 72) is challenging.


I finally found a remedy to finding new friends ( I’m 71)….I just joined OSHER…which is Lifelong Learning Institute for people over 50! This is offered at the University of Richmond….and other colleges as well!……I paid a tiny membership fee and signed up for 14 free classes as well as joined their bookclub, Theater club, Travel Club and Coffee Chat and Happy Hour club!!! I already in a month’s time made 2 new friends!!! ….and having a blast!!


Thank you, Dottie, I will look into that!

Eileen Johnson

I started a knitting/felting group in my craft room at my home. We all needed a get away from caretaking, grieving and stress. It has become stimulating, creative and energizing. The more we get together, the more laughs, fun and closeness develops!


What a wonderful idea!


This article was “spot on”, describing what seniors face in today’s “online world”. My new year’s resolution is to spend more time going places where I can talk with people and socialize, not necessarily to make a life-long friend, but rather to let things evolve where they may. Who knows what the universe has in store for the rest of our lives. Serendipity!


I love this attitude – yes! My point exactly!


I love this article. Especially the point of making sure to have your friends close by as you get older.My friends are all over the place.
I’m yearning for a group of women to sit and have a conversation that matters, that makes you feel heard and seen.


I totally agree with this yearning. I guess we all do. 💜


Several years ago a friend talked me into taking a crochet class at the local yarn shop. I was reluctant as I’ve never been a good seamstress but I joined. I had a huge learning curve because I’m I. The rare breed of lefties but I found my way with yarn. I loved it! That was 15 years ago. I’m still making hats, scarves and blankets but I have happy hands and special group friends. I go to a yarn talk group at my senior citizens center and one a week I meet a small group at the library for chat and knitting or crocheting. I know at least 2 hours of my week I will have warm and caring and entertaining female company. I look forward to that time and so grateful for wonderful companies.

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The Author

Danna Walker is a writer, educator and student of media. She is passionate about getting better at life no matter what age. Danna got her Ph.D. at 50, got serious about exercise at 65 and has rekindled an early passion – style.

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