I was talking about friendship with a good friend recently. We talked about having life-long friends, work friends, casual friends and friends we have now lost touch with. The conversation turned to how it didn't seem that easy to make new friends as we got older. This got me thinking about how we meet new people, who subsequently turn into friends, once we turn 50 and beyond.

A search on the internet was full of suggestions from joining book clubs, choirs, adult education courses, dog walking, places of worship, supper clubs, sports teams, MeetUp events,  to working in charity shops, getting an allotment and returning to university or retraining to acquire a new skill. Walking groups, local gyms, fitness classes and running clubs were highlighted as being for good for physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing as well as meeting new people.

All of these suggestions require us to be open to taking action; going along, as a newbie, often alone, with a positive mindset, open to giving something new a try and seeing where it leads.  We need to be a ‘joiner' in these situations which is something many people find difficult. A warm welcome, when you are trying something new out, goes a long way to helping us feel more at ease.  I have been to events where there is an obvious clique and newcomers were viewed with suspicion.  I didn't go back.

There is a lot of research which highlights that having friends is crucial for our mental wellbeing. Similarly, there are an increasing number of studies which demonstrates how negative the impact of loneliness can be for our physical and mental wellbeing. This will be the subject of my next blog.

Friends come and go in our lives; school friends, college or university friends, friends made through the school run, work friends and so on. There are so many reasons friendships come and go. It is easy to drift apart after leaving school or college, our children grow up and there's no longer the school run. Work can sometimes limit the amount of free time we have and so we have to prioritise how we spend it.  People move and we lose touch. Even when children have grown up and moved away, they often still need their parents available to provide support in many different ways.

Divorce can also impact on women's friendships. Research has shown that after a divorce, women suffer more economic hardship than men, losing up to 40% of their pre-divorce incomes. This can impact on how emotionally available they are and also financially, in terms of being able to spend money when if they go out socially.

Experiencing poor mental health can also impact on friendships.  When we are anxious or depressed, maintaining friendships can feel like a struggle and we can lose touch with people.

A study published by the University of Kansas studied how many hours it takes to make a friend.  Apparently, as an adult it takes 94 hours to make a casual friend and from a casual to a good friend is 164 hours.  That feels like quite a long time.

As humans we need and crave connection, companionship and a sense of belonging. That, most often, comes from family and friends. Outside of our families we are looking for people who share our interests and values, and sometimes, who possess the traits we would like to have.  There can also be an element of seeking validation that we are decent, likeable human beings who people want to spend time with.

So, what else can we do to increase the number of friends we have once we are over 50, it that's what we want, apart from those things already listed above?

The first and maybe most obvious, is rekindling old friendships that have fallen by the wayside.  These days it can be pretty easy to find people we've lost touch with through social media.  It's then a case of reaching out to say hello. We won't know how it will go, whether we will get a response or not, but without trying nothing will happen. On the other hand it might.

We can also do some self-reflection on what kind of friendships we would like and what we have to offer as a friend. The best friendships are two-way and mutually supportive.  Do you have things that you would really like to try but have no one to try them with. That's where developing a ‘joiner' mindset comes in and where you could find people with similar interests.

As we get older it's easy to have the belief that we know whether someone is ‘our sort of person'. This is based on very little evidence and very much on our value judgements.  Until we have spent time in their company how do we know if we have anything in common or enjoy spending time with them?  Often, we don't like the qualities we see in others because we dislike them in ourselves and we are constantly looking at the world through our own perspective.

Friendship takes effort and commitment on both sides and it shouldn't take too long before you get a feeling about whether you want to make the effort to get to know a person you have just met.  If you don't feel you click, there is nothing wrong with not going any further. You won't know until you try. If you do meet someone you would like to be friends with then you might need to be brave and reach out to them. That might not come easy to you, but it's worth challenging yourself and getting out of your comfort zone as a good friend is priceless.


As a coach, I work with people who would like to feel more confident and who want to do more in their lives. Email me at michele@truepotentialcoaching.co.uk if you want to find out more about how I can help you be clear on what you want and how to get it.