Making Friends in Midlife
It’s Friday night and a movie sounds great. Then the voices start. "Who should I call? They were all busy last time. I must look so desperate... I can’t go alone. Or could I?” In the time that it takes to look up the theater schedule, you’ve talked yourself into another Netflix night on the couch.
Social engagement, that is, our participation within a community and our interactions with others, is more than having a back up movie partner. Research tells us that socialization is vital for health and wellbeing, especially as we age. Studies show plenty of benefits, including greater functionality and longevity as two positive health outcomes. Conversely, social isolation is associated with physical and mental decline, so fueling our social pipeline should be one of our top health priorities.
Growing friendships in midlife may seem a bit awkward, especially if our circle of friends has shifted over the years. At one time, parents of our kids' friends may have been a close social circle, but now may have dissipated as the kids moved on. Our coworkers may not be our closest tribe, as company turnover increases. Maybe we lost custody of some close friends after a divorce, placing them on the No Call list permanently. While it may seem like we’ll live a solitary life from here on in, there are plenty of ways to fill our dance card if we’re willing to put a little effort into broadening our friendship circle.
Here are six tips for renewing old friendships and gaining new ones:
1. Use your phone feature on your phone. That’s right, call an old friend. Say hello, I’ve been wondering how you’re doing? Wanna catch up over coffee?
2. Try something new. Look through your local meet up groups (meetup.com) for something that piques your interest. Cycling, knitting, blog writing, antique hunting, comic book discussions, and lots more. There are some interesting mid-lifers out there doing some interesting things in their spare time. You could too and make some new friends.
3. Online dating. Once upon a time, it may have seemed strange, but it’s very common now, and another way to find a partner with similar interests. Of course, bar hopping is still an option, but you’ll have a different set of stories this way. There are safe ways to online date; just ask your friends who are secretly signed up.
4. Volunteer. Make a change in this world by giving your time, and make some new friends as a bonus. You’ll share a common passion and work together to make it successful. A pretty good base for friendship.
5. Join a team, class, or club. Yoga, reading, kickball, travel, gardening. Think about activities you already do that could be done in a group setting? Walk every morning? Join a community center walking group.
6. Get on Facebook, then get off Facebook. Social media is a great way to reconnect, stay connected, or develop new connections. But don’t spend all your time drooling over someone else’s life. Follow pages that interest you and people that make you feel connected.
Sometimes we have to force a mindset, and yes, it makes us feel pretty vulnerable when we recognize our social needs aren’t being met. The good news is, many of us are in the same boat, looking to sustain old relationships and develop new ones as we move through life stages. If we think about it in simpler terms, it may seem less daunting. We all eat, work, shop, talk, play, laugh, care, and it’s healthier to share some of these activities with a friend. So let’s take a collective deep breath and introduce ourselves to the wide world of friends outside our door.