Everybody remembers their best friend from school. Your meeting was writing in the stars, or at least, it wasn’t entirely in your control. The teacher sat you together on your first day of school. Within minutes, you were chatting as if you’d know each other all your lives, to the dismay of your teacher. When you think about it, teachers have been the first force of friendship. Nowadays, teachers play a significant role in helping young children to navigate the difficult rule of socialising at school. Many have introduced personal interaction skills and friend seeking as part of the essential day-to-day activities for primary school pupils. It’s easy to make friends when you’re at school because everybody shares the same values. When everybody around you wants to find a friend, chances are, you will find your sidekick very soon!
But nobody remains 7 forever. Making friends is a skill that nobody teaches you. The context of the school makes the whole process seem natural. However, step away from the teacher’s guiding hand, and suddenly you’re an adult, and you don’t know how to make new friends. Being a grown-up has its disadvantages, and one of them is that you can’t sit at someone else’s desk and call them your best friend just because you need to borrow their eraser. Does it mean you are now officially too old to make new friends?
Who says only kids can make friends?
According to a Finnish study from 2016, we make more friends up to the age of 25, after which the numbers begin to decrease. What happens after 25? For anyone who is now closer to retirement age than graduation, after 25, life happens. And life has a way of taking you through the most unexpected path. Children, relationships, and work tend to tear you in a variety of directions, and suddenly, you wake up, aged 50 or over, realizing that the only time you think of your old school friends is when you send a Christmas card. As devastating as it might sound, it’s hard to keep the friendship alive when your lifestyle doesn’t match your friends’. Perhaps they’ve chosen to settle down with their children and grandchildren away from town while you need to feel the urban buzz around you. Maybe you’re now proud and single while they’re still happily married. Regardless of how what life has thrown between you, it might have pushed you apart. Sure, you still love each other, but you’ve got no much in common anymore. However, don’t assume you can’t make friends after 50. It is a challenging process, no doubt about it. You need to learn to read the signs, as you’ve missed the past 20, 30, 40, 50 or more years of your new friends’ lives. But impossible, it is not.
Where do you start?
You’re outside of the school world. Where do you need to go to make friends? The tricky question has a surprising answer; you need to dive deep inside and start with yourself. Indeed, you probably know the adage, you have to love yourself if you want to be loved. The saying remains true if you’re trying to make new friends. Finding your inner peace is the first step towards changing your friendship network. The process of opening your heart and letting go of past hurts doesn’t come naturally if you’re new to meditation, but it is certainly a rewarding experience that will make you more accessible to your new friends.
Are you making it hard for yourself?
Do you know what new people have in common? They are not like you. The longer you spend on your own, mourning the friendships of the past, the more likely you are to close your mind to new experiences and ideas. You can’t meet and appreciate new friends if you’re not open-minded. Maintaining an open mind is, however, hard work. Indeed, if you’ve been going through a rough and lonely time, closed-mindedness is a natural defence mechanism that serves as a protective shield. Your brain is wired to keep you alert and warn you about potential dangers. As a result, you miss potential opportunities, but you also give yourself the time to heal. However, once the rough time is over, it’s time to embrace open-mindedness again.
Is there such a thing as a youth club… but for people my age?
Young people are lucky; they are plenty of community centres, clubs, and other social gatherings for teens and young adults. They can easily find someone who shares their values and interests, whether they love rock climbing or painting. But as a slightly older adult, things can get a little more complicated, if you don’t know where to look. How do you meet people your age? The answer is simple, look meet-ups , where you can find groups who meet up for a range of activities, or even a senior resource center. Ultimately, it is the equivalent of a youth club, and, per se, it’s a place where you will find a variety of activities and services. Whether you’re looking for a chess partner or whether you want to sit down and have a chat over a cup of tea, a senior community place offers a quiet and safe environment to make friends who understand exactly what it is to go through your silver years alone.
Stop thinking every friend should be your age
While your school years teach you to make friends your age, there is nothing that stops you from meeting up with people from another generation. After all, real friendship knows no bond, as the sweet relationship between these two friends with a 57-year age gap proves. There is a reason why age shouldn’t be an obstacle when you meet new people; it’s because it doesn’t matter. Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re too old for this or that. Nobody is ever too old to connect with people and be appreciated in return. Whether you bond over your passion for indoor cycling at the gym or your tasteful shoes at the shopping centre, you can be sure that your new friends won’t need to know your date of birth to like you.
Your open line doesn’t matter
What was your opening line in the classroom?
Can I borrow your eraser?
You’re likely to need a new line to start the conversation nowadays. But don’t worry. You don’t need to overthink it. The truth is that there is no need for a platonic pick-up line to make friends. All you need is to start the conversation, either by introducing yourself if you’re joining an event such as a sport class or with a kind comment.
Do you need friends?
You know yourself better than anybody. You may not have a lot of friends, and more importantly, you may not crave for a lot of social entertainment. It’s perfectly fine. Introverts and extroverts are two very different types of personalities. For an introvert, controlled loneliness is an enjoyable moment of peace. You crave alone time to recharge your batteries. While it doesn’t mean you want to live life as a hermit, it is crucial to understand that as an introvert, you don’t need many friends to be happy. Therefore, the last thing you want to do is to force yourself to make new friends because other people have built big networks of contacts. Listen to yourself. There is nothing wrong with spending some time alone if it is where you find your energy.
Friendship is a complex topic. As you grow older and life tears you in a million directions, you might find that the friends you once made have nothing in common with you anymore. Therefore, making new friends is a skill that is relevant at any age. The perfect age to build new connections is right now, because if you’re worried you’ve missed your chance, it means you probably need more friends in your life.