We are born wired for connection. “It’s in our DNA,” says Dan Roberts, psychotherapist, writer, and teacher. “It’s as strong a need as food, water and warmth.” Infants won’t thrive if they don’t have a connection to their mother or caregiver. We adults won’t thrive either if we don’t make connections in our lives. How do we make connections as we age?
Many of us may feel our circle of friends is shrinking. As we get older, we lose friends. They move, they no longer drive, or they’re too busy taking care of their grandchildren. Yet we all know that friendship and community are important for our health and happiness.
I recently listened to an excellent podcast on KQED Forum about How to Make Friends as an Adult. The subject resonated with me. I’ve always considered my friends to be the treasures of my life. The podcast mentioned that the prime time for making friends is between 18 to 25. That’s when we’re in school and our friends are in close proximity. Another stage for making friends is when our children are young and we meet other mothers with children the same age.
How do we make friends when we’re grandmas?
One of the reasons I founded the GaGa Sisterhood in 2003 was to meet other women in the same stage of life. Having a common bond improves your chances of becoming friends. Over the 16 years since the GaGa Sisterhood has been meeting, I’ve witnessed this bonding firsthand. Many friendships have formed in our Sisterhood because we’re all going through similar life experiences. At our meetings, we have many opportunities to share our stories with each other which is one of the ways we make friends. We open up and share our vulnerabilities because we trust each other.
We can also find friendship and connection with people in different life stages. When we’re young and looking at potential friends, we tend to seek friends who are the same age as we are. As I’ve gotten older, I enjoy making friends with people who are younger than I am. They give me a different perspective on life and open up a window to the future. I’ve made some wonderful friends of different ages through Toastmasters, an international organization that teaches public speaking and leadership. I’ve been a member of Menlo Park Toastmasters for 10 years.
Tips for Making Friends
I feel blessed to have a large circle of friends. Here are some things I’ve learned about making friends and being a friend.
Keep your friends in mind. Remember their birthdays or wish them happy holidays. Tell them what they mean to you. Be of service to them.
Broaden your definition of a friend. Just because someone is years older or younger, or different sex doesn’t mean the two of you cannot be spiritually compatible!
Make the effort. The temptation will be to stay home versus venturing out to a book club meeting, or never asking someone you share laughs with in your weekly yoga class, “Would you like to grab a coffee or juice?”
Follow your passion. Join a tennis group, volunteer for a politician, take a cooking class—the point is to show up on a regular basis for something that excites you. There will be a pool of participants with whom you already have something in common.
Use online connections. Meetup says “go online to get offline.” You can find Meetup groups for hiking, dancing, knitting, and pet lovers.
Volunteer for a cause that you value. You’ll get a double bonus — you’ll be helping the organization and meeting new people with like-minded spirits.
Join a gym. Talk to other members and ask them how to use the equipment or if they have a favorite class
Take a class. Check your city’s community classes or senior centers for memoir, current events, storytelling, or improv.
Join a place of worship. You will definitely meet people who share your value system.
Reconnect with old friends. Go to a school reunion.
Start or join a book club. You’ll meet new people while you’re enjoying an intellectual challenge.
Alternative connections. If you can’t connect in person, use the phone or FaceTime, or become a pen pal.
As adults, we require connection (physical or emotional) with other humans to release certain hormones like oxytocin. Regular connection to others allows us to maintain a sense of well-being that allows for self-care. Make the effort — the payoff is worth it. And it sure beats sitting home alone!
What’s your favorite way to meet people? Please share in the comment box.