A new study suggests loneliness is a significant factor in our overall health and well-being. According to a recently published report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, loneliness after age 60 is linked to functional decline and death, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco.
Fair enough, but how do you make friends when you are post 50 and all the channels toward friendship seem to have evaporated? Making friends is easy when you are in school. Everyone is the same age, lives in the same place, and the fishing pond is filled with people with whom you share interests and values. And then you graduate.
What comes next is a hodge-podge: You collect friends from the different parts of your life. You become friends with the people at work -- again, a pool of people with common interests if not common ages. And you become friends with neighbors -- people who generally match your age and socio-economic community: If you rent in a building with single professionals, that's who you meet; if you buy in the suburbs where all the young families live, you will find other young families. When you become a parent, friendships are formed with the other parents. You meet them on your kids' sports teams, at school, and enrichment classes you sign your kid up for like karate and ballet. I used to push my daughter to take ballet mostly because I loved the Moms in the ballet class.
But then the kids grow up and much of what you had in common with many of your friends -- your children -- disappears from your social life. What you're left with is a big void and no easy way to fill it. What do you do to make friends when you are post 50? Mind you, we're not talking about dating here -- online or otherwise. Where do you find men and women and couples to hang out with when your own old friends are scattered to the wind? Skype and FaceTime keep me in contact with my long-distance old friends, but they aren't around to grab a cup of coffee wtih or go hiking with on Sunday morning.
Making friends at this transitional point in our lives is critical to our overall happiness. Barbra Streisand had it right: People who need people are the happiest people, and I don't think Babs was talking about virtual friends. We need people around us -- brick and mortar friends to go out to dinner with, catch a movie with, join the new pilates class with.
Check out the slideshow below for seven ways to make friends post 50: