Elder Dental Care
INTERESTING STUFF – 27 September 2014

TGB FORUM: Finding New Friends in Old Age

Let me thank you all for the terrific forum topics you suggested a few days ago.

My intention was/is to use them only occasionally but with my teeth, preparing for friends who have now arrived and time for writing (not even counting time for research or thinking before writing) has disappeared.

So I'm going to make greater use of those topics in shorter succession. Today, let's consider friendship which several readers mentioned.

As I have frequently mentioned here, if we live long enough, old friends – and relatives too – die. Others move away, or we do. And when we retire, we also lose the day-to-day camaraderie of the workplace, the importance and pleasures of which never occurred to me until I no longer had them.

All of those conspire to shrink our social circles. Here is the topic suggestion Nancy Wick left:

”I'd be interested in getting ideas on how to make friends with people who are younger (even much younger) than you.

It seems to me that the only way to combat being friendless because contemporaries die off is to make friends with younger folks, but I find it really hard to do. At social events, people do seem to congregate in age groups.”

It's a good subject that affects pretty much all elders. So, let's expand Nancy's question a bit to include meeting potential friends of all ages.

Loneliness is not only painful to endure but there are legitimate studies showing that it is twice as unhealthy as obesity and can even lead to premature death.

So pull out all your best ideas, examples and experiences to share with everyone on how we can find new friendships, young and old.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Younkins: Homage to Age


My friends are very varied in age from early 40s to over 70. I meet people in classes I take, my former workplace, on my walks and at the pools where I swim. Also, meetup.com is a good way to find new friends.

I have been told-- to make friends you must reach out. Throw caution to the wind and say "hello" to strangers.

For some people this is easy, but for me, it takes all I have in me to be the one to begin the conversation.

I try, but it doesn't happen too often. When I do, I am usually glad I did.

Gosh, this is a very difficult issue for many of us. It is even more challenging for those of us who are loners by nature and enjoy our own company.

I fret about having too few close friends, but I jealously guard my time alone too and cherish it. I don't enjoy just hanging out, which usually centers around eating and drinking.

I have joined volunteer groups and yoga classes and such, but they have not panned out into real friendships.

Unfortunately, my husband is the loner type too. I fear for the time when we might need help, but by then we plan to be living in the city where his children and our grandchildren live.

I used to work in that city and as a result I do have friends there -- I keep up with them through Facebook and the odd lunch through the year.

We have recently both come to the realization that we need to spend more time with family, and get to know our grandchildren as they grow up. (They are babies right now, but we need to start now, even though we are not naturally the kind of people who coo over babies.)

Family is a challenge too: with all the divorces and remarriages in our extended family, the grandkids are saddled with multiple grandparents. (I say this tongue in cheek.) It's almost a competition to spend time with them.

There are two kinds of friends. One is the kind of friends you work side-by-side with at work, or in some shared volunteer endeavor. They are "built-in."

The other kind of friend is someone you meet with socially in the evenings or weekends. You have to generate and maintain these friends on your own.

The first kind of friends has been sufficient for me in my life and I have felt no need for the second kind. However, I am lucky to have family to spend time with, and I know not everyone has family nearby.

After avoiding church attendance for 50 years, I tried one that claimed to be "a welcoming congregation." It turned out to be just that, and I found several new friends.

Like Yvonne, I too was a bit of a loner until one day I woke up in a hospital, alone. I never realized how many of my friends and relatives had moved away or died until I tried contacting them.
As we age we tend to approach strangers with more caution, sometimes to our detriment. Fortunately, here at the old folks home (ALF) there is always someone to talk to. For those people who live independently at home, the local senior center is a great place to meet new people.
By the way, it is a lot harder for old men to make new friends than older women. Women are much more talkative and seem always to make friends quickly. Therefor, the next time you see an older gentleman sitting alone, go over and say hello. See how fast he opens up.

I am so blessed to have younger friends my kids' ages, who like spending time with me and are extremely helpful in taking me places now that I am not driving. I worked for 13 years in a volunteer folk music organization with great people, all younger than I am. I have always been active in my association with my chosen religion, and they provided me with rides, check-up calls, and prepared food during my recent physical traumas. Also I live in a building with 34 other old people, with another 34-5 in an attached building, and through the years (17), I have had good friends here, but they have all died. I could certainly cultivate friendships here and we do sit outside in nice weather and chat while we watch the birds,chipmunks, and deer come to our bird feeder. Two women, younger than me and from my church, have moved into my complex and all of a sudden, I have two new buddies.If you can remain someone who is fun to be with and who is willing to go places, I think you will attract cheerful people of all ages.

I was a gregarious person til I met my husband. We know a lot of folks, but tho I still have a few close friends, he has few. Not good. Volunteering is good, but most of the volunteers are older. The boss, who is a very modern 30, tries not to make close friends of the volunteers. They often died. I belong to other groups with young folks, but they prefer to congregate with the young. Most of my friends from the 1960's and 70's are dead. I sure do miss them, but I try to make friends everywhere.

PS: Eyes and frames. Could this be a forum topic.

Always outgoing and busy in the world and friends no problem. Now moving back to rural area that has my heart
it seems all the people I was close to in the past have died. Church I was active in has changed
but I am doing what I always longed for. A time of finally slowing down, gardening, writing, reading, yoga and days fly by.
Guess I have turned into a hermit but I like my lifestyle at this time and days are filled with projects.
I have 4 children and 5 grandchildren and usually hear from some one daily.
So far I am not lonesome but do miss the special friendships in the past that I no longer have. I am content
and 80 is around the corner
and the peace I am feeling at the moment was a long time coming..

I find this a very poignant topic for many reasons.

My situation is similar to Yvonne's. My husband is a loner type, and always has been, and he's perfectly happy that way. I like venturing out and doing different things, but also treasure my private time, and time spent with my family, so it can be a tough balancing act. I've gotten involved in several volunteer activities and am now an officer on four boards, all of which require a fair amount of time, as they are small working boards. So I have gotten to know a lot more people over the past couple of years, but most I see only in the context of meetings, they are not people with whom I've developed what I would call a real friendship. But one two have the potential of developing into that in time.

So, I would say that some good ways to do this would be volunteering with organizations or events that you support, attending meetings of groups that you have a curiosity about or an interest in, taking a class or two in something that you've always wanted to know more about or offer to teach a class in something that you are very knowledgeable or skilled in (the Learning in Retirement program through the local community college here has a wide range of offerings, some are one or two sessions, and some are longer, most are a minimal cost). If you like the outdoors and environmental or gardening activities, there are all sorts things offered through local forest preserves or park systems, and extension services (generally offered through state college systems). As always, transportation may be an issue in taking advantage of many of these, but some will be more accessible than others.

I've found it best to keep open to people of all ages and so I have friends of all ages. Having outlived most of my earliest contemporaries, this has been rewarding.

Taking classes or participating in activities that I am interested in has also led to many friendships. These don't have to be deep "best friend" kinds of relationships. A few hours of mutual companionship at an event or class has considerable merit too.

In my town there is a "learning in retirement" (LIR) group that I play with. There are people in it ranging from 50 to 90 who get together to study and participate in cultural activities. These folk bring with them amazing life experiences that are just fascinating. Sometimes these LIRs are affiliated with universities and they are all over the USA.

On the other hand, there is also merit in 'alone time' when there's time to just go for a drive with a camera.

I don't reach out easily. I speak to someone only if they speak to me first. So it is harder for me to make new friends now. In our new town home neighborhood, there are very few people over the age of 50. I attended a "meet and greet" a few months after we moved in and the only people who talked with me were guys well under 50. While that was somewhat enjoyable, it didn't net me any new friends. I'm ok with that, since making friends was not my intention. My husband, who has never met a stranger, found a new friend in the pool at our health complex. They are bosom buddies now, after 3-4 years. Were I in need of new friends, I might join a class or start attending church again.

Volunteering and taking a class are probably the best ways to meet new people, and the social interaction involved can be quite pleasant and may be enough to keep you feeling engaged until you find those one or two people who you can laugh and talk with easily.

There has to be the opportunity and reason to strike up a conversation to determine if the potential for friendship will appear. And try not to be too quick to judge; we ALL have unappealing facets to our personalities!

My dad audits art classes at his alma mater. If you are an alum and 65+, classes cost $5. He has made more friends in the last 2 years than ever before in my life, mostly with professors and staff, but some grad students too. He even created his own handicapped parking space at the studio building to make getting there easier. Put up a sign and painted the curb on his own. No one questioned him because he's an old white man!

It takes me quite a while to make new friends, too. I haven't made any "rest of my life" friends in the seven years we've been living here, but I audit a Kansas State U class every semester, sing in a couple choruses and regularly mentor students in the KSU gerontology program. I get a great intergenerational fix this way, and a lasting friendship will eventually emerge.

My mother used to strike up conversations with anyone who crossed her path, from grocery store clerks to delivery people. They almost always loved it and those short interchanges brightened everyone's day. Now that I'm 75 I find I'm doing the same thing and loving it.

When I moved from Boston to Florida a few months ago I heard about a fiction writers' group and joined it -- and it's been a life saver. The people (all ages) are smart, hip and talented. I don't know what I'd do without them.
The secret, I think,is finding people who love doing what you love.

Ronni dear

Be carefull about any possibilities of periodontitis.
If you have it the new implants are not going to last for long. The dentists deny this problem because implants are a very good business for them.
All the best

Some of my younger friends were made through social media. Being on twitter, Facebook, and Instagram helps with this. Our daughter's friends often become our friends, too.

As for just making new friends, I'm trying, but find that between my activities and those of whom I'm befriending, there isn't much time to socialize. I, like many others, talk to everyone I meet.

I know almost all of our neighbors and think I could call on a couple for help if I needed it. I have had to extend myself to the neighbors, though, as they didn't come knocking on my door, but they were quite happy to meet and talk.

I would recommend joining a book club if you are a reader. Through book discussions, you may find a kindred spirit.
I miss my close friends who have died. I wish I realized how precious they were to me and told them when I could.

Has anyone in the TGB community tried Stitch, the "Meet-up" site for elders? I read about it on Senior Planet, and sort of joined but then backed out and so I'm just on their newsletter mailing list. It is not just---or even primarily---a dating site, but offers friendship connections and hookups via emailing. The cost is amazingly low and virtually free for some kinds of connections. I'm not at all sure it would work for me, but I'd like to hear if anyone has tried it.

Maybe apropos of nothing, does anyone know what happened to Elizabeth Rogers, who used to comment regularly on TGB? More than anyone else, I thought of her as a kindred spirit.

Has anyone in the TGB community tried Stitch

I have. It's interesting. Am talking to a guy Florida. I am in Calif.

That is an interesting subject. I have old friends, mostly foreigners like me that I see once in a while. We live in a very conservative area (the county of Newt Gingrich in Georgia.) We went to the senior center for dinner and two women sat with us, one said the county was too liberal and the other said she did not like Europeans (she heard my French accent) and added she believed in the Tea Party, so the conversation ended. My husband has onset Alzheimer so we cannot volunteer and I cannot leave him alone. I know they say to ask friends for help and support, but we have no friends, no family nearby. I don’t mind because I enjoy blogging and make friends through my blog. I visited some of them in Norway, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, and even when going home to Paris. Last May I met one blogger in St Petersburg, Russia and another in Brussels (my husband loves for me to take him on trips and I try to find some on budget while he is still able to come, even though it is not easy and very frustrating.) I read a lot and when we are not going on long trips I take him on small trips often, to try to keep his mind going. It would be nice to have one friend, but I have my books – I am not lonely. Growing older I find that I miss more my former country (France) my hometown (Paris) speaking my language and my culture than people – I still cannot speak about money or religion but enjoy talking about politics and history and that it not the type of subjects women here would talk about anyway. I think his illness is what would make it hard to find any friend. So I do a lot of research for my posts on my blog and I have all my memories. As Charles Baudelaire said “J'ai plus de souvenirs que si j'avais mille ans” (I have more memories than if I was a 1000 years old) and they keep me content. Without my blog I would become all faded but not sad though because I find so much joy in life.

On moving to Italy 5 years ago, I heard of an International Women's Group and went to a coffee they organized. I met the women who have since become my friends as well as the woman translator at the closing of our house and the real estate agent. All are bi-lingual but with English as their first language. I can't imagine my life here without them. The other key group is the Meet Up group in a nearby larger city. It's structured for Italians who want to practice their English and they request native speakers to attend. I've met some lovely friends there.

The best, longest lasting source of friends I have found is church. They usually have a caring committee who keep track of elders and others. There are also interest groups and community projects leading to other contacts. For the religion averse, check out the "welcoming congregation", non-credal UU's.

The next best has been Senior Band participation, in both my Iowa town and in my winter Texas environment. Speaking of which, I'm reminded that the activities inherent in an RV Park bring me in contact with many younger retirees with similar interests.

Soon I will become a Co-op Housing dweller where I'll get to better know the many nice folks already subscribed and socializing.

Another good source of buddies is an excercise group. I go to a "Silver Sneakers"and a water excercise group twice a week.

The best friend I've made came through a biking group I was invited to join through people I met at church. She's younger than me by 5 yrs. but we seem to be on the same wavelength about life.

Living in a university town offers many opportunities to find kindred spirits.

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