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How to build friendships in your golden years

Making friends as a child or even as a parent to school-aged children is relatively easy. Classrooms and school functions facilitate the building of friendships. Even as one gets older and enters the workforce, it’s not uncommon for people to become friends with their coworkers.

As people near retirement age, their situations may have changed considerably. Children have moved out, careers are coming to an end and friendships may be hard to maintain due to people relocating or traveling. Older adults may aspire to make new friends, but they may not know how.

According to Irene S Levine, Ph.D., The Friendship Doctor and contributor to Psychology Today, it is not unique for seniors to want to make new friends. Age can be a barrier because there are stereotypes that pigeonhole people of certain ages. But Levine notes that state of mind and physical ability is not directly tied to chronological age. Making friends is possible at any age. These guidelines can help along the way.

Explore online connections. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Gerontology found seniors (even those in their 80s) who stay connected with friends and family using social media report feeling less lonely and better overall. Connected seniors also demonstrated higher executive reasoning skills. There are plenty of ways to meet new people online by joining social media groups that cater to your interests. In person meetings in particular cities or regions of the country also can make for great ways to make new friends. Exercise caution when meeting people in person after contacting them online. Bring another person along, whether it’s a spouse or an adult child, to ensure that you are safe.

Volunteer your time. One way to meet new people is to get involved with causes or activities you love. This serves the double benefit of getting you outside and active and puts you in touch with people who share your passions and interests.

Attend alumni events. If you have an interest getting in touch with someone from your past and reconnecting, make the time to attend school reunions and other alumni activities. It can be fun to reconnect with friends from high school or college.

Join a gym. The local gym isn’t just a great place to get physically fit. Group exercise classes also can be ideal places to meet other people who enjoy working out. Strike up a conversation with another class participant you see on a regular basis. Once you develop a rapport, schedule lunch dates so your friendship grows outside of the gym.

Making friends is not just for the young. Men and women over 50 also can find ways to build new friendships.

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