Flowers by Fence

Take Initiative to Make Friends

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

I’m 75 and having trouble finding friends. Seems like I should know how to do this by now, right? But no.

I’ve been blessed with long friendships but everyone has moved away to be closer to their kids or, worse, two of my dearest friends have passed away. With any one of these wonderful people, I could just pick up the phone and connect or we’d meet for walks. I miss all of them.

Last year I also changed churches. (I didn’t feel my church had an open heart. It was a hard decision.) But I’m having trouble connecting with people at my new church. No one asks me to do anything. I think I’m a pretty nice person, not too opinionated, compassionate, and I enjoy a good laugh. But I’m not a ball of fire. Maybe people think I’m boring?

I hear it all the time, old people are lonely. I guess it’s to be expected? Well, it’s irritating. How I long for those days when I was a little girl and all I had to do was walk up to another child and ask “do you want to play?” Life was so much easier then.

Old and Lonely

Dear Reader,

Unfortunately, getting older has its challenges and sadly, this includes the loss of dear friends. I’m sorry your friendships have disappeared on you. It isn’t easy to move through life without the support and caring of people we value.

Unfortunately, older folks can face some unique challenges when it comes to making new friends. I think people naturally establish routines over time and getting to know new people may fall outside of their normal pattern and comfort zone.  Sadly, not all but some people become a bit more opinionated with age and are less interested in exploring new relationships. (As one old curmudgeon told me when I asked him about a new neighbor, “We’re on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to politics. Why waste time getting to know him?”)  There’s also the reality of simply not having the same amount of energy. Lunch out with a new friend may sound appealing but some people simply can’t muster up the energy to follow-through.

However, you sound bright, caring, open minded and … you enjoy laughter. I’d be willing to bet there are people out there who would like your friendship. Consider these ideas:

1)  Make sure you’re not sabotaging your efforts by thinking you are uninteresting, have nothing to offer, etc. This is simply not true. The best friends in the world are those who are compassionate, flexible in their opinions, and know how to laugh. Believe in what you have to offer!

2)  How physically active are you? Sometimes increasing our physical stamina increases confidence and enthusiasm for being out and about. A simple daily walk can do wonders for your emotional outlook as well. (Try walking in the mall first thing in the morning. You’ll get exercise and you just may meet some people!)

3)  Instead of looking for friends, I recommend you look for activities you enjoy. When you engage in something that nourishes you, your confidence and enthusiasm will increase. Naturally, you’ll also encounter like-minded people and when we share an interest, friendships are often not far behind.  For example, you like your new church. Instead of waiting for people to ask you to do something, volunteer to serve on a church committee.

4)  Invite people into your life! So often we wait for invitations and they just don’t come. Take some initiative. Invite someone for a walk, host a small brunch, start a book group. Afraid you’ll be rejected? Keep your perspective! The reality is that people have many reasons for not accepting invitations and generally, these reasons have nothing to do with the person doing the inviting!

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