Despite everything we know about the importance of maintaining social connections as we get older, finding friends after 60 can be a challenge.

As we age, the easy social connections that we enjoyed as schoolmates, parents and colleagues change. As a result, many women find themselves facing shrinking social circles and needing to make new friends. In other words, we find a void in our lives and no easy way to fill it.

In our search for companionship, technology is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, services like Skype and Facebook allow us to stay connected with friends and family throughout the world. On the other hand, with everyone focused on clicking, it feels like “connecting” has taken on a new, softer meaning. Like many women, I often feel like I have 100’s of “friends” and no-one to share my deepest dreams and fears with on a daily basis. Do you sometimes feel the same?

Despite all of the challenges, it is still clear that making friends and maintaining worthwhile relationships is essential after 60. Having good friends is not just a “nice to have” – it is essential for our health and emotional well-being.

The good news is that having a rich social life after 60 is absolutely possible – but, only if we take matters into our own hands! There are millions of wonderful people in the world who want more friends, people just like you. But, in order to find them, you need to face your fears, explore your passions, use your network and, most importantly, take a chance on reaching out to others.

Ironically, the first step to making more friends after 60 is to get to know yourself.

First, Admit that You’re Feeling Lonely

Do you ever feel lonely? I do. That might seem strange to hear, coming from someone who started a community of 350,000 women over 60. But, the truth is that we all feel lonely from time to time. I know women in marriages and with big families that feel like they have no-one to talk to. Feeling lonely from time to time is natural. What we do about our feelings of loneliness is a choice!

The first step to dealing with loneliness is to separate yourself from the feeling so that you can give yourself permission to make positive changes in your life. Let me be clear. If you are feeling lonely, you are not alone. As George Monbiot wrote in this article in the Guardian, “This is the Age of Loneliness.” You are a good person and you deserve true friendship, love and attention.

The fact that you are feeling lonely is not your fault. Nor is it something to be ashamed of. Once you admit this, you are more than half way to building the social life that you deserve. Loneliness is your mind’s way of telling you to get out there and engage with the world. The longer you stay in your own cocoon, the greater the chances that you will slip into an even darker mental state, like depression. So, act now!

Once you prepare yourself mentally for the road ahead, it’s time to define what “friendship” means to you. After all, as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

What is a Friend to You?

What do you value most in your friends? Do you look for people who enjoy the same activities as you? Do you like spending time with people who share similar beliefs to you? Or, do you prefer acquaintances that challenge your beliefs and make you think? Perhaps you enjoy the company of people who share similar political or religious beliefs. No matter what your preferences, it pays to be conscious in your choice of friends. This is true for a few reasons.

First, and most obviously, when you know what kinds of friends you are looking for, you can choose to engage in activities that will give you an opportunity to meet new people of your choosing. For example, are there political, religious, sports, social or other groups that you could reengage with?

Second, taking the time to think about what friendship means to you will make it more likely that you will see opportunities to start conversations in more natural settings – at the supermarket, in the post office, or in the park.

So, give some thought to what you’re looking for in a friend. Write your thoughts in a diary, if you have time. Friendship takes time, effort and advance planning. Think about the type of person that you’d like to meet and you just might increase your chances of meeting them!

In a future article, I’ll cover some specific steps that you can take to make new friends. But, for now, just enjoy the process of getting to know yourself!

Why do you think that it is so difficult for people to admit that they are lonely? Do you agree that the first step to making new friends should be getting to know yourself? What advice would you give to the other women in our community who are struggling with loneliness and isolation? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below and “like” and share this article to keep the conversation going.

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