Making Friends Is Challenging As We Get Older – Here’s How to Find Friends You Connect With
One of the biggest challenges for caregivers and their carees is the loneliness that comes with your stage in life. It doesn’t help that you don’t have a lot of free time and your aging parent may not be able to get out and socialize frequently. Unfortunately, loneliness is tied to many emotional and physical health challenges, so ignoring this side of your life is not a good idea.
As we get older, we lose friends. They either move away or pass away. It can be hard to move forward after losing a friend, particularly if your friends have known you for years. They know the real you, not the caregiver you, or the mom you or the tired you. It can be hard to get past the sadness and dust yourself off to make new friends.
If you or your caree are struggling with making friends, it is an easy fix. It will take a little work, but the payoff is huge! You’ll have someone to share your challenges with and someone who enjoys the same activities.
You may be thinking, I’m a caregiver, I don’t have time to add another person to my life. Or, you may be thinking, I’m a caregiver, not a cruise director for my aging parent’s social life. The last thing I have time for is helping my mom make friends. While it may feel like one more thing on your to do list, remember, loneliness causes emotional and physical health problems. This isn’t just about finding a person to have lunch with; it’s about reducing loneliness and improving well-being.
Simple Ways to Make Friends When You’re Older
Whether you need to make a few new friends or your aging parent needs to make new friends, here are some ways to find like-minded people who you may build a connection with.
If your aging parent is still physically able, volunteering is a great self-confidence booster and a wonderful way to make friends. I had many clients who were volunteering well into their 80s and they got so much more out of it than they gave.
Choose an organization that is important to them and help them find a way to get involved. If you are stumped, here are some great opportunities: library, museums, theater (bonus – they get to watch plays for free), animal shelter or church group. This is probably something for your caree, since you already give so much of your time as a caregiver.
- Join a Group:
Find a group to join. Do you like to read? Look for a book club at your local library. Are you a caregiver to someone with a chronic illness? Consider joining a support group (same goes for your parent – find a support group for people living with their illness).
Are you or your aging parent interested in politics? Consider joining a group. I had a client who belonged to a political outreach group that met monthly and wrote letters to members of congress or the senate. She really enjoyed her monthly meetings and met with people outside the group.
- Take a Class:
You don’t have to spend money on a class at your community college. The library and senior centers offer fun, engaging classes for free. You can learn to crochet, take a yoga or painting class or learn computer skills. If you have extra money, consider taking a class on a topic or activity that has always interested you.
My mom takes a sewing class at her local community college and she really enjoys it. She has even made really great friends in the group – one member even made bibs for my nieces as a gift!
- Join an Exercise Group or Class:
You can make great friends in an exercise class – and it’s good for you! Does your community offer Tai Chi or yoga? Does your local mall have a morning walking group? This is a great way for you and your aging parent to get healthy and make new friends.
- Connect Online:
If your schedule is too tight between caregiving and your regular life that you can’t get out to make new friends, consider connecting with like-minded folks online. This is also a great way for aging parents who struggle with mobility to meet new people.
You can reconnect with old friends on Facebook or join groups that relate to your interests. For example, I am a member of my local city’s Facebook page and have met several neighbors I never would have known. You can also connect with other caregivers on Twitter. Of course, you’re also welcome to like my Facebook page for caregiving news and tips and follow me on Twitter.
If your parents haven’t explored Facebook, they’ll love being able to connect with distant family members, as well as join groups that share similar interests. My dad is probably the biggest Facebook user I know!
It can be difficult making friends as you get older since some of the natural friend-making situations (school, work, kids, spouse) apply. That being said, it is never too late to form bonds with other like-minded adults. You just need to put yourself in situations where you will meet people with similar interests and put yourself out there.
Joining a group or participating in an activity are simple ways to make friends who share your interest. Not everyone is like my mom, who will walk up to complete strangers and strike up conversations. That being said, if you are brave enough to get outside your comfort zone, go ahead and strike up a conversation with the woman at the grocery store who shops at the same time as you every week.
Have you made friends in unusual situations? I made friends with a woman in my arthritis fitness class. We were the only two people in the class who had young children so we clicked. You can basically make friend anywhere!