Do you ever wonder why it can be so hard to make friends in midlife? Me too! Sometimes I wonder if I even know how to make friends in my 50s!
Feeling lonely for friendships can be depressing. Struggling to make new friends in middle age is hard, especially if you have recently relocated to a new place.
Why Is It So Hard To Make Friends After 50?
Studies have shown that enjoying solid friendships helps to keep us healthier as we age. Having friends boosts our immune system, sharpens our memory, and helps us recover quicker from illnesses according to research done by Aetna Insurance.
Finding Friends Over 50
The funny thing is that most people don’t realize how hard it can be to make friends after the age of 50! For many of us, making friends feels “do-able”, like finding the best oat-milk latte in your town. How hard can it be, right? Harder than you think!
Well, the truth is, that for me, making friends over the age of 50 has been almost impossible! It feels shocking and sad to realize that I have to work so hard to find potential gal pals at this age.
I never knew how hard it would be to make friends in my 50s!
How Do You Make Friends In Middle Age?
You thought that making new friends would get easier as you got older, but somehow the opposite happened, and keeping up with your existing friendships is taking more effort than ever before. The truth is, making friends as an adult can often be more complicated than when we were children!
We may feel like we don’t fit into any one group or community, our lives are filled with competing priorities and commitments, and many of us don’t know how to really start a conversation or connect with people on a meaningful level.
What Happened To All My Friends?
If you are like many women, you are so busy that you might not realize that you have fewer and fewer friends. Our lives are full of so many things, most of them good and purposeful, that we might not be aware that our friendships are vanishing!
Why Making Friends In Midlife Is So Hard!
Here are 5 things that can affect midlife friendships:
Having An Empty Nest Makes It Hard To Meet New People
Empty Nest- It’s funny that one of the biggest goals in life can bring about some of the most challenging changes! All moms want their kids to mature and become independent adults (adults who do things like actually put toilet paper on the holder instead of leaving it lying, sprawling, and unraveling on the floor next to the porcelain throne!)
When our kids leave the house, schedules can change, and friendships might not sync up any longer. Maybe you are headed back to work, and your friend is planning on returning to school after her kids leave home. Big changes in our families can lead to the loss of familiar friendships. It is harder to connect with friends when you no longer have intersecting schedules.
Retirement Can Cause A Loss Of Friendships
Retirement- When we think of retirement, we tend to think of older folks, not middle age women. But for some women, retirement comes in her early 50s and can result in the loss of work-related friendships. As a culture, we celebrate the idea of retirement, but unfortunately, it can negatively impact our friendships. It can be a bittersweet feeling, no more morning commute (yea!) but also no more chatting about your weekend Netflix binge during coffee breaks.
Breaking Up With Friends Can Happen In Midlife
Breaking up with friends- Oof, this one hit hard! If you have raised kids, you know that middle school and high school girls are always in some type of friend drama. But what about when it happens to middle-aged women?
Breaking up with a friend can be a sad and isolating experience as an adult. Sometimes you see it coming, like a gathering of storm clouds on the far horizon. And other times, it’s like a flash flood, fierce and fast. No matter how it happens, the difficulty of locating and nurturing new friendships can be overwhelming.
When You Move, You Lose Friends
Moving or relocating – Many of us have fantasies about moving and starting our lives in a new place, with no baggage or history to burden us. Well, I actually did that! I moved out of state to a completely new place, leaving behind five decades of friends and community.
Initially, it felt great to be exploring a new city, creating my own rules, and maximizing my independence.
It felt great until it didn’t. Despite my fuzzy fantasy of moving and having everything fall into place, finding friendships has become a real challenge.
Friendships Have Changed Since The Pandemic
And lastly, the pandemic has taken a serious toll on friendships. Many of the clients that I work with are struggling to find friends. It seems that since the pandemic started many people have opted out of social life and are choosing to stay home instead.
It is undeniable that the pandemic has had long-lasting impacts on mental health, particularly in the areas of anxiety and depression. For some women, the idea of being out socially and interacting with their friends is no longer enjoyable.
Wondering How To Make Friends In Midlife?
Frankly, the reason I wanted to write this article was because I knew firsthand that finding and making friends later in life is not easy. It can be surprisingly difficult! If you’re feeling lonely trying to navigate through midlife and could use some help figuring out where to go from here- I want to help!
Isolation, loneliness, and lack of connection can be experienced at any age; however, when you hit middle age, it can become particularly difficult to make meaningful friendships. After your children leave home for college or even a few years prior, many women find themselves struggling with how to navigate the next phase of life without their tribe by their side.
Do We Even Know How To Make Friends As An Older Person?
Suddenly you find yourself with extra time on your hands and no real plan in place as far as socializing. It can feel like a steep lonely uphill climb! This post will be diving into why midlife friendship-making is so hard – and what we all need to know in order to establish strong relationships that last.
Making friends in your 50s can be a challenge, but by having an open mind to different points of view, some patience in meeting new people, and a mindful strategy on how you will approach friendships, it can be done!
It might take some experimentation to find out what works best for you, but it is worth the effort. Not only can you make lasting and meaningful friendships, but those friendships can help build strong relationships with yourself and your community.
The 5 Things You Need To Make Friends In Midlife
3. An open mind
Try These Tips And Ideas To Create A Strategy To Make Friends
Determination– Making friends in middle age will require a good amount of determination. Trust me, you will need to remain dedicated to this project for far longer than you might expect! One study suggests that it takes 40-60 hours to establish a causal relationship, 80 -100 hours to being a friend, and more than 200 hours for a good friendship.
See what I mean? Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule, but we need to choose a determined mindset to go the distance when finding friends.
Focus– So, let’s be honest- we are “hunting” for friends! And when someone goes hunting, they need to have a focused understanding of their “prey”. This might not be the best analogy but allow me to explain.
We need to think in a focused manner about where we might find potential friends. Here are some examples of my strategy to identify categories of places to find midlife female friends.
I start with things that I like to do or topics that I am passionate about.
Your Lifestyle Will Give You Clues To Find Friends
I like to exercise. So where are women like me exercising? I looked around and found a local recreation center that offers Pilates at 6 am. Bullseye! Pretty good chance that class caters to mostly women that are looking for an early workout. This early morning class might be a stretch, but I could try it once or twice. I just might meet my new bestie before sunrise, who knows?
What lifestyle interests do you have that would help you meet new friends?
I love to knit. Despite being a pretty good knitter, I have taken beginner classes to meet other women that like to knit. Even though I already knew how to do the class techniques, I was able to meet new women. I did make a casual friend from that class on sock knitting!
Additionally, if I have time, I will go to my local yarn store to sit and knit. By choosing to take time to sit and knit with strangers, I have met some women who are new to my area that are looking for friendships.
Being open to learning a new hobby is also a great way to make new friends!
This category includes recovery groups, bible studies, book clubs, walking or hiking groups, professional meetings, dog training classes…you get the idea! Group meetings already have one of the most important principles of making new friends, shared interest! Starting with a shared interest can be a fast track to identifying new friendships.
A few more suggestions:
Volunteering in your area of passion (mine is rescue dogs!) and using social apps for friendships (like Next Door MeetUp or even Bumble!) can be helpful as well. If you are a spiritual person, consider investigating if your local church/house of worship has volunteer groups that help your local community.
When you focus on finding friends, you have to be willing to show up and invest time.
Having An Open Mind Will Help You Find New Friends
Open mind– It takes an open mind to make friends in your middle age. Sometimes we want friends that are exactly our age, but often life will offer us friends that are not an exact match! I went back to grad school at the age of 52, I was the oldest person in my cohort. I had hoped to meet some women my age, but that did not happen.
Thankfully, there were open-minded people of all ages, and as a result, I have a close friend that is 15 years younger than me. We had a shared experience as a result of grad school, and that proved to be a solid foundation for a good friendship.
Sometimes we find friends that we would not normally consider due to circumstances. Keep an open mind.
Self-confidence– You have got to be self-confident when looking for friends in middle age! There will be times when you are sitting alone in a class or feeling left out within established groups. You need to remember that you are worthy of friendships! You deserve the joy of being known and accepted by other people!
There will be moments when you can’t wait to leave a social situation, you might feel annoyed or rejected. Slow down and rely on your self-confidence to help you be grateful for the opportunity to meet new people. Knowing that a group of women are not “your type” is helpful information. It doesn’t mean you are strange or awkward, it just means that they are not your people!
Be confident that you will find your friends in time. Remind yourself that you are a worthwhile person and will find compatible friends.
Patience– Making new friends in midlife requires a ton of patience. When we are kids, the process of making friends is so much simpler and automatic. Do you like ponies? I like ponies- let’s be best friends! Accurate, right?
As adults,most friendships are a bit more nuanced. We spend more time exploring the possibility of compatibility than we did in our younger years. Slowing things down requires more patience. When I first started looking for new friends in my 50s, I would say the same thing to each woman.
Hi, I am Melane. I recently moved here and I am looking for new friends. I would like to try and get to know you, maybe it will work out for both of us, maybe it won’t! No pressure if things don’t work out, but are you open to having a coffee together?
My methods of finding friends might feel too awkward to you, but that’s okay. I encourage you to find a way to introduce yourself and take the next step of inviting her out for coffee. Be prepared for some women to look startled and decline the coffee invite, but others will say yes! I have had a number of nice coffee dates using the straightforward approach, try it!
Finding Friends Will Take Some Effort And A Plan
The process of finding friends in middle age can feel incredibly slow. But remember, even a snail is making progress as she glides herself across the ground. Taking small steps toward finding friends will add up, just make sure you pack your patience!
Making friends in your 50’s can be a challenge, but there is hope! It requires patience and an open mind. Breaking out of comfort zones, engaging in activities geared toward your age group, and using online platforms to expand your circle of friends can have great rewards. So take the initiative and connect with people who share the same interests as you – you’ll never know what new friendships you may form!
The key is to stay positive and keep an open outlook when it comes to meeting new people. Looking for individuals who can enrich your life can be daunting, but with the right mindset, it won’t seem so scary. Now that you know how to make a connection and form lasting bonds, what are your best tips for making friends in your 50s? Share them below – I’d love to hear from you!
Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.