Making friends tends to get harder with age. This stems from a number of causes, from retirement, to obligations such as caring for an aging parent or spouse, to losing long-time friends to relocation or untimely passing.
A recent nationwide survey conducted by SCAN Health Plan, a California-based not-for-profit health insurer, revealed that some 82 percent of older adults know at least one person they consider to be lonely. Yet, 58 percent of respondents said they would be hesitant to admit it if they were lonely themselves.
It’s okay to acknowledge that you’ve experienced many life changes throughout your 50s, 60s and beyond. And there’s nothing wrong with admitting that those changes may have left you feeling lonely. Luckily, this stage of life still holds many opportunities during to reconnect with others and build up new friendships and social networks.
Below, we explore four fun ways to meet new friends over 60.
1. Volunteer in Your Community
Volunteerism brings numerous benefits, including giving you a sense of purpose while helping those around you and connecting you with like-minded individuals.
Romilla Batra, M.D., SCAN’s chief medical officer, firmly believes in the power of connection. That’s why SCAN formed the Volunteer Action for Aging (VAA) program. Batra loves to share the successes of the GiveBackers group, a part of the VAA program composed of members over 55.
“They give back to the community as a team and have formed fast friendships along the way,” she says. “When they’re not volunteering together, they’re often socializing together and have become an important support system for one another.”
SCAN’s VAA program is open to volunteers in different parts of California, but seniors can find opportunities to volunteer throughout the country. One place to look: the federally operated Corporation for National and Community Service, which sponsors the Senior Corps for volunteers over 55.
Through its website, you can find programs in your own area in many areas from foster grand-parenting to companionship matchups. Along the way, you’ll meet up with some of the 220,000 other volunteers who are involved with Senior Corps programs around the United States.
2. Take a Walk
After the broadly altruistic idea of volunteerism, going for a walk can seem like a very pedestrian idea. But walking can be a social activity, and it gives you the opportunity to meet and make new friends while exploring new areas in your community. Plus, it’s great for your health.
Check online to find walking clubs in your local area. Some clubs meet at local shopping malls to walk the halls even before stores open for the day, while others explore area trail systems or stick to neighborhood sidewalks. Another resource available in many areas of the country is Meetup.com, where you see what walking groups are already available or organize your own events to invite others in your area.
Lisa Chavis, who blogs as The Travel Pharmacist, suggests organizing a photography group as part of your walk. “Take your camera or your phone and find interesting things to take photos of in your own neighborhood, and share them on social media with family and friends,” she advises.
You can share your event through Meetup.com and invite new friends you’ve met on other walks, plus get in your steps for the day, all while learning more about photography as a hobby while you’re exploring.
3. Take the Technology Plunge
Friends don’t have to be people you only see in person. You can both connect with old friends and meeting new ones online. Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and life, dating and relationship coach in Columbus, Ohio, also believes in the value of using sites such as Meetup.com to meet others through local social and cultural events.
Bennett notes how important it is to remain open-minded while using technology and attending events to make new friends. “Many adults are set in their ways and tend to stick to what they know,” he says. “Take a few risks by trying hobbies and activities you might have previously ignored. It could open you up to a new group of friends.”
You might even consider learning about technology to meet new friends. Many public libraries and community colleges offer technology courses for seniors to learn about specific websites, software, apps and different types of tech gadgets. Those classes are often free to enroll in or come at greatly reduced tuition. You’ll be among peers as you learn while potentially making new friends.
4. Get a Part-Time Job
One of the most regular social outlets in your pre-retirement life may have been your workplace. Why not recapture some of that experience by getting a part-time job? You’ll be able to make a bit of extra money, re-engage in your former profession or in something new that interests you while making friends along the way.
Kathe Kline, the host of the “Rock Your Retirement show,” recently hosted a podcast touting the benefits of seasonal (part-time) jobs. With guests Kelcy Fowler and Matt Moore, she explored their website, CoolWorks.com. Their site features an “Older and Bolder” section designed to help users learn how to get the most out of post-retirement work while meeting others and having fun.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) also recognizes the value of seeking part-time work after retirement. Check out their list of five potential positions you might consider pursuing, all of which can help you put your well-honed skills to use while meeting others.
Plus, as long as you remain strictly part-time, you won’t endanger your retirement earnings or Social Security benefits.
Tiffany Aller is a freelance writer, civil servant and ministry professional with a background in healthcare, real estate and human resource management. She and her young children make their home in north Texas where they enjoy chasing Pokemon, geocaching, their million-and-one pets and immersing themselves in their great community.