The British Medical Journal (BMJ) conducted an interesting study in 2022. They asked people of all ages, from 113 different countries all around the world, if they were feeling lonely.
This major global study concluded that: “Problematic levels of loneliness are experienced by a substantial proportion of the population in many countries.”. Around a third of the older adult population in the USA constantly have that grim feeling most of the time.
So why is it harder to make new friends when you are older?
That’s precisely what we’ll talk about in this article. In addition to suggesting the best ways to make new friends in the second, or third, chapters of your life.
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5 Reasons Why It Is Hard to Make Friends When You Are Older
Forging strong relationships with others requires three things:
- A reason for being around each other
- Enough time to actually bond
- Several situations of shared vulnerability
These conditions often happen as a matter of course with children around their relatives, friends, and neighbors. Also with teens at schools, young adults in colleges, and adults at work. In these years, friendships just happen naturally, like the blooming of flowers in spring.
As time goes by, the social calendars of people in middle age, over 45 or 50 become mostly uneventful and rather low-key even though there might be significant life events. There are 5 main reasons why this happens.
Pursuing a Career or Family Interest
At around the age of 25, many people start pursuing romantic or career interests, and they dedicate much of their time to that. That’s when they lose their school and college friends.
Another group of people move from state to state or even travel abroad. Some do that more than once, and for extended periods of time. This reduces the opportunity of making stable long-term friendships.
Lack of Time
Taking care of the house and children is a full-time job. And the demands on a woman’s time are doubled if she’s also pursuing a serious career at the same time. This doesn’t leave much time, if any at all, for socializing.
Traumatic Previous Experiences
Spending a lifetime around various types of people inevitably ends up in some disappointments. For some of us, these are so tragic that we become reluctant to repeat the same experience again.
Less Shared Experiences
With the lack of a good reason to talk to a stranger or a very old friend, many people hesitate to make a move and start a conversation. At an older age, these reasons become less and less.
For more on life after 50.
Our Top Tips for Making Friends As You Get Older
There are tons of benefits that come with having an active social life. Friends are the antidotes to loneliness, and their mere presence in our lives makes it sweeter. Friendships can give a new meaning to life.
A good friend can alleviate pain, anxiety, and even depression. Additionally, being around friends provides mental and physical stimulation that contributes to a person’s general well-being.
Being such an important matter, it’s best then to be skilled at making and maintaining meaningful friendships. Here are 7 easy tips to make creating new friendships a breeze!
1: Look Around You
Spending enough time with a person is essential to building meaningful relationships. The best place to look for a new friend is right around the corner.
Neighbors are pretty good candidates. However, starting a conversation right off the bat isn’t the easiest thing for any of us. You can start slow, by exchanging “Good mornings”, and “isn’t the weather amazing today!”.
After planting these nice seeds, you can move on to baking a cake and offering it to a friendly neighbor or inviting a bunch of them over for coffee and cookies.
Similarly, the people you see frequently at the cafe, supermarket, or physiotherapy clinic can still be potentially interesting people. Little polite exchanges can easily lead to rock-solid friendships.
2: Make the Time
Friendships can’t survive without time. Both the time it needs to grow, and the time you put into maintaining it. I apologize for another gardening analogy. But relationships are quite similar to taking care of plants. They bloom with care and dry out when it’s lacking. There’s another one!
If you have a demanding schedule, then try to free up a little time for social matters. It’s totally worth it.
3: Join the Club
The best kinds of friendships develop organically while we’re doing something together. Being in the same place provides a circumstance. But sharing a fun activity is a common denominator.
Thus, if there’s a book club in your vicinity, a portrait drawing workshop, a hiking group, or a cooking class, you might want to consider one or more of them.
4: The More the Merrier
Maintaining a nice friendship with one person is actually harder than doing the same within a group of friends. That’s because as the numbers increase, there’s often something going on with someone.
Mentioning a story, an incident, or a question to the group usually gets responses from more than one person. The continuous buzz keeps the merriment going.
5: Rekindle an Old Flame
If you meet an old school friend, even after years of absence, somehow, you pick up the conversation as if it never stopped.
We tend to forget how easy it is to reconnect with old friends. And sometimes we feel overwhelmed by all the what-ifs. The most frightening of all, is what if my childhood friend doesn’t remember me? And even worse, what if he does!
Social media platforms have made finding old friends easier than ever before. Everyone has changed of course, but some things remain the same.
6: Celebrate New Beginnings
New friendships are always filled with endless stories about backgrounds, likes, dislikes, jokes, tears, travels, fears, and hopes.
The newly formed relationship is in a way a new beginning for you and for your friend. As you listen and share these little details, you aren’t just getting to know another person. You are also re-exploring yourself.
Forming a new friendship is definitely something to celebrate. Listen more and share more.
7: Enjoy Different Kinds of People
Older people are sometimes locked into the idea that they should only make friends with people “their own age”. This might make some parts of the conversation easier, but it also makes the rest of the conversation pretty predictable.
Associating with different kinds of people is a fun and enriching experience. Try to be around younger and older adults. Wander a little away from your background, and see what the folks who have different careers or interests are like.
Chances are that you’d enjoy that variety, a lot!
Wanting friends might not be a sign of loneliness and you might be happy with your own company most of the time.
But loneliness might seem like a natural part of being above 50, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Actually, the North European countries have significantly lower rates of loneliness than the rest of the world.
It’s true that it’s harder to make friends when you’re older. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.
Using a few of the tricks we mentioned here, we hope that you’ll start some wonderful, meaningful friendships and, who knows, maybe something a bit spicier.