Years ago, when all my friends were either occupied by working very hard or by doting on grandchildren and babysitting them, I was convinced I needed new friends. I was equally convinced it’s impossible to make friends when you are older!
Negative or limiting beliefs serve nobody. And being convinced it is not possible to do something is a sure guarantee I won’t be able to do it. Duh.
I am so glad I was wrong, but I only realized this when I read some posts in one of the Facebook groups I am in.
This is a group with a lot of single or widowed women and the topic often is solitude and loneliness. And I do realize my position is privileged because I am happily married. For 45 years, so I can in no way imagine how I would feel when I would be alone.
Still, by moving to another country and leaving my whole network of friends and acquaintances behind, I had to actively search for a way to make friends. And you don’t have to move to another country to try one or more of the ways in which I made this happen.
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Be open and enterprising
My parents were two opposites. My father had a face as if he was angry at the world the whole time. My mother looked around and smiled at everyone she saw. When people didn’t react she would even talk to their pet, and usually got a response then.
When they were on a holiday, even when my Mum didn’t speak a word of the language, she would act the same and get the same responses. As my son tenderly remarked: “My grandmother speaks every language, even Chinese”. 🙂
What do you do when you walk on the streets? Are you looking down or looking around? You will feel good when you smile at people. Sure, not everybody will smile back, but the trick is not to mind that and just feel good about yourself.
Learn a language
Unlike my Mum, I do speak several languages. The Netherlands is a small country and besides Dutch, we had to learn English, German and French in school. At the time I wasn’t a fan of the lessons, but as soon as we went travelling I loved it.
We live in Spain now so it goes without saying we learn Spanish. There are a lot of foreigners living in the south of Spain, mainly English, giving the Spanish a reason to learn English. We have quite a group of mixed people who see each other weekly to talk. Half an hour in Spanish, half an hour in English.
One of our Spanish neighbours wants to practise his English. We see him weekly as well with the same schedule of half English / half Spanish. Apart from practising the language, it’s a great way to meet people and make friends.
Another thing I always do is learn just a couple of words when I am in a foreign area. I even learned a couple of Catalan words when our son lived there. Just a few words in their own language and people will love the effort. So much so that I even could go on in Spanish in Catalonia once “the ice was broken”.
Join an organization as a volunteer
Tom and I both love organic produce. That’s why we participate in a group of volunteers of a group that distributes organic seeds according to an exchange system. Give organic seeds and get seeds of other plants.
They regularly participate in information markets at schools. Unfortunately, our Spanish is not yet good enough for that, but that will come in due time.
The people are fantastic and because we have common ground it is very easy to contact and communicate with them.
Participate in the activities of your local community center
If you don’t like the activities that are aimed specifically at seniors, try other ones. Although senior activities such as card games, billiards and bingo can be a lot of fun.
Knitting and crochet are ‘hot’ again. There are lots of groups of all ages that want to learn to knit or crochet and they will surely want to have experienced people around. Drawing or music classes are great activities as well.
Related: Healthy Lifestyle: 25 Tips on How to Spend Leisure Time
Join a network
You might know networking from your working days. Organizations like the Lions and Kiwanis are well-known. Usually aiming at business people for mutual benefits.
Those kinds of organizations are also existing for non-working people. Here in Spain are a lot of ex-pat networks. A group for the Dutch, for the English, the Germans and other nationalities. Or groups gathered around activities like camping or having a camper van.
As you can imagine there are groups around all kinds of activities.
Be sportive or go dancing
Ballroom dancing is done in couples, not necessarily lovers. If you like dancing there is surely a school to be found where you can go to. Salsa dancing is another example. Tom and I went to Salsa lessons when we were still living in the Netherlands and there it was the rule you didn’t dance with your own partner. A great way to meet people.
Sports ditto, unless you go running or biking on your own. Walking groups or soccer games are examples you could join. You won’t have much opportunity to talk during a soccer game, but the time afterwards is most of the time a pleasant gathering of both practitioners and fans.
Make group day trips or book a guided tour
When we were living on the south coast for a couple of months we visited the tourist agency quite a few times. They organized guided walking tours. Apart from being a great way to get to know the not so familiar places, it was also nice to talk to others.
You can also book an excursion or day trip with a travel agency. Some of these trips will be by coach. Others use public transportation or go on foot or by bike.
Start a group of your own
If you are not getting warm or cold from these possibilities why not organize a group of your own? You may have specific expertise you would love to teach to other people. Or you can start a conversation group. A reading club. A group to study with. Loads of potential.
To sum up the possibilities to make new friends:
- Smile and talk to people on the street or in the shops;
- Learn a language and practice it with others;
- Be a volunteer;
- Participate in a community center;
- Join a network;
- Do a team sport or dance;
- Book a day trip or a tour;
- Start your own group
Do you have to be a certain person to make friends?
We all know that some people make friends easily and naturally. Others have to push themselves a bit more to get the same result. If you feel happy and relaxed it is way easier than when you are feeling miserable and inadequate.
Can you add tips to make friends? Tell us in the comment box below.
12 thoughts on “Avoid Loneliness. How to Make Friends When you are Older?”
I can’t begin to imagine the impact of loneliness at old age especially when you are single. Engaging in some sort of hobbies should ease the loneliness as you’ve outlined in your post. Your tips are very helpful they prepare some of us to have an idea of what old age is about and how to keep the inner child alive not matter your age.
Thanks for sharing
Thanks for your kind comment, Maggie. And yes, hobbies are great!!
This is an excellent article on finding new friends. For me, I find going to the gym and playing racquetball to be an excellent way to meet new people and to maintain your fitness. I like your advice on taking group trips and joining networks. When you do that you will find many people who are interested in the same things you are interested in. Have you found COVID-19 affecting putting a stop to your new friend relationships? Take care and thanks for the article. Bob
Thanks for the compliment, Bob.
For the ones that don’t like skype or whatsapp, it does make a difference. But for instance for my young Spanish neighbors COVID made them extra committed and concerned for us. 🙂 They check in on us regularly either by Skype or Whatsapp. So sweet.
Hello – it’s so interesting that you have learned so many languages, and are still taking the challenge of a new one. You’ve given your readers many ideas in all sorts of activities and groups to keep them engaged with their community or online and make new friendships, which is important at any age. Thanks for your article.
I am glad you like it, Nancy. Learning languages is fun and keeps the brain working 🙂
What a wonderful collection of ideas! This is such an important topic for the elderly, who are too often left alone, without a wide circle of friends. Sometimes due to retirement, if the majority of friends came from work. Sometimes by friends passing away, or simply withdrawing from socialising. Sometimes due to moving to a new place, maybe to their children. And, while they probably enjoy being with them, I can imagine how empty suddenly the life becomes with life-long friends far away. Your article is something that bursts with possibilities to do it in a very natural way and enjoy so many nice relationships in (older) life. This was a great read, thank you!
Thanks so much, Minaher 🙂
I love this post. Join an organization as a volunteer I think is extremely valuable. Your providing service as well as making connections, and thats what life is all about. Whats your favorite one on here?
My favorite one would be ‘be a guide on a tour’. That would mean not only volunteering and meeting people, but educate them as well. I have done that for several years back in Holland for a International Photofestival and I really loved it!
Great article indeed.
I have used some of these myself when I looked for new friends. By the way this led me to becoming a professional dancer which I am right now.
I also like the volunteering part because you will meet people with genuine hearts normally.
Thanks Thabo. Wow, that is so marvelous, that you are a professional dancer right now!!