When original series of Sex & The City aired on HBO, we were not only in awe of the clothes, designer shoes, cool hot spots the main characters frequented or the men they dated, but we also envied the tight knit friendship of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. They were thick as thieves 30-somethings living it up in New York City and rarely seen without the others in tow. Let’s fast forward to the latest version of the rebooted cable program, Just Like That, where the women are now in their mid- to late-50’s. They have evolved by letting new people into their lives and effortlessly expanding their circle of friends. But their growing social circle also left us feeling a little bit envious…because it can be difficult to cultivate new friends as an adult. Is there a secret to making friends after 50?
Granted, almost everything appears perfect on television — that’s Hollywood for you! But, what about real life? At First for Women, we couldn’t help but wonder the best ways to find and nurture new friendships during midlife and beyond, so we asked top experts in the field for advice. Here’s what they said:
The benefits of making friends after 50
“Making new friends after 50 can pose some obstacles because women in this demographic may be juggling teen and adult children, taking care of an elderly parent and working long hours so there is less discretionary time for friendships,” says Dr. Irene Levine, Ph.D., psychologist, friendship expert and co-producer of Friendship Rules Newsletter. “Many women also tend to fall prey to the misguided myth that everyone already has their set group of friends at this age. The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth because many of us are eager to make new friendships.”
Though it can feel daunting to find new friends — some experts even equate it to dating — expanding our social circles has big benefits, especially as we get older. In fact, a recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology reviewed research findings regarding the relationship between adult friendships and wellbeing and found that that adult bonding is vital to our physical and mental health and our longevity. Socializing lowers depression, anxiety and stress, while boosting contentedness and overall life satisfaction. The National Council on Aging agrees that, “the physical, emotional, and mental health of older adults are directly impacted by social connection.”
ArchWell Health is a national health center with over 30 locations across the United States, not only offer medical care to those 55 and older, but each site also hosts an array of different activities, exercise programs and day trips to help people past the age of 50 meet others in their area and spark new friendships. The reason: They have found that making friends after 50 is good for your overall health, including reducing the risk for high blood pressure. (Click through to learn how spending time with friends strengthens your memory, too.)
How to make friends after 50
1. Find friends by doing what you already love
“The first step to growing your friendship circle is to look at your value system and comfort level with others,” counsels Dr. Robi Ludwig, Psy.D. is a psychotherapist and author of the book, Your Best Age is Now. “As you begin to meet people at events, parties or through your children, you can ask yourself: Is this person intellectually similar to me? Do we have similar values? Are we in the world in a similar way or is this person in the world in a different way and that proves exciting?”
Dr. Ludwig suggests then finding an activity that is appealing to you, so it gives you a larger forum to associate with people who also share those values and/or a love for a mutual pastime. “Tap into communities such as going to your local synagogue, church, gym, or sign up to take part in a volunteer program,” she advises. “You can also join a book club, mahjong group, ask people if they need a fourth for tennis or pickleball or partake in a charity you are passionate about making a difference in.”
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to be bold, cheers Dr. Ludwig. “After you meet someone, don’t be afraid to say, ‘If you have any upcoming events, or if you are going out with a group of girls, I would love to attend and be included.’”
2. Join a ‘Meet-up’ for making friends after 50
After Dale Pollekoff, 71, moved to Los Angeles, she quickly realized there wasn’t one avenue for women past the age of 50 to make friends so in 2016, she created “Finding Female Friends Past Fifty,” a Meet-up group that now has 23-chapters across the country and 9,000 members who eagerly take part in virtual and in person events such as movie night, meditation/yoga classes, writing workshops, museums outings, dancing at night clubs and field trips to beautiful gardens.
Pollekoff tells First for Women, “When you’re having trouble making new friends you think there is something wrong with you, so you become disheartened and discouraged. That is why I formed a space where there is no rejection just an approachable environment for women to meet other females that are down-to-earth, solid people.”
3. Play the friendship ‘numbers game’
Putting yourself in the center of unfamiliar territory or going to a group gathering by yourself can be a nerve-wracking experience and sometimes our fears regarding such moves get the best of us. Bonnie Scott, MA, LPC-S a therapist, and founder of Mindful Kindness Counseling tells First for Women, “It is totally normal to be nervous and be rest assured, you are not alone. It’s hard to put yourself out there to make any kind of connection with people you don’t know because just like dating, making new friends is a little bit of a numbers game — you need a large pool of candidates that you have some things in common with because you are likely to try out a lot of people as you look for the ones you’re really connected to.”
4. Begin slowly… and don’t give up
Let’s assume you spend hours talking to someone you are getting along with. You may begin to daydream, “I would love to do lunch or grab coffee with her because she seems so great.” While it is easy to get caught up in the excitement after a lengthy conversation with someone new, Dr. Levine cautions, “Don’t expect too much too soon and don’t pressure the other person to make another plan right away. You need to keep the bar low in the beginning and then slowly build from there.”
Scott also advises clients to not throw in the towel if your first few attempts don’t result in getting someone’s number or a new friend request on social media. She says, “There will be times where being discouraged is just part of the course so, don’t give up!”
5. Avoid over-sharing and stay positive
Other tips to laying down a solid foundation for a new friendship include not sharing intimacies, keep away from controversial topics like sex, religion, politics, money, etc., don’t bad mouth previous friends and let the friendship evolve naturally over time.
Dr. Ludwig says the most important thing to remember, “Women need other women. Women talk to each other in a deep and reflective way and there is an understanding of the female perspective that another woman understands.”
For more uplifting advice, keep reading!