THE BLOG
05/24/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Make Friends After the Age of 65

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

At age 66, I lost a very close friend (45-year friendship) when she moved out of state. We talk on the phone once a week, but that isn't the same. I am happily married, but I need a good female friend. I do have other friends, but I feel the need for more. I still work, am tall, slim, dress well, attractive and "well preserved", but I find that making new friends at this age is very, very difficult.

Everyone at work is younger than me, and even people in their 40s don't seem to want to "hang around" with people in their 60s. I don't volunteer, because working three days a week and taking care of other appointments, housework, etc., I simply don't have energy to also do volunteer work. I am religious but do not belong to a church, as I don't feel a need to. Any good suggestions for making friends after the age of 65?

Signed,
Claire

ANSWER

Hi Claire:

I've gotten numbers of letters from women of all ages who--like you--are craving female friendships. So if it's at all reassuring, please know that your situation is not unique. There are so many different times in a woman's life, when she may feel like she wants more or different friends than she has, for a variety of reasons.

Age can be a real barrier so I don't want to trivialize that. At age 65, you qualify for Medicare, which is a milestone, but even eldercare experts are coming to realize that being elderly has more to do with someone's functional limitations and state of mind than their chronological age. On that basis, you may still be young and active.

The best advice I could give you is to pursue your own hobbies and interests so you are an interesting person and can meet people who are like-minded. If church or the regular commitment of volunteer work doesn't appeal to you, cross those options off your list and find other ways to put yourself in contact with new people.

Are there continuing education classes in your community? A senior center where you could drop in (even though you would be on the young side)? A swimming or exercise class, or nearby gym you could join? Are there book clubs or civic organizations in your community? Do you have any interest in connecting with someone from your past (e.g. with whom you went to high school or college)? Might you be able to connect with a younger person at work through an interest you share in common (e.g. knitting, movies, etc.)?

There is an organization called MeetUp.com where people who are looking for companionship can either start groups in their local communities or join existing ones. They are organized by interest and by zip code. Some are specifically focused on seniors if you feel more comfortable with your age peers. There may other online communities where you can meet people with shared interests.

I was recently interviewed for an article that appeared on AOL Health on the topic of How to Make Friends as an Adult. If you glance at it, it may offer another suggestion or two that you hadn't already considered.

Unfortunately, there is no simple fix to this problem other than to keep trying and to try different things. One caution: Try not to come across as too needy. Intimate friendships take time to develop. Based on your life expectancy, you have the possibility of making new friendships that could easily last a couple of decades.

I'll be so pleased when you post a letter telling of your success.

Sincerely,
Irene

Have a question about female friendships? Send it to The Friendship Doctor.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Her new book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, was recently published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at PsychologyToday.com.