Learn how to make new friends and nurture caring, meaningful bonds with them.
Strong friendships are such an important part of healthy aging. Your friends can enrich your life, give you comfort, and support you in challenging times. But as the years pass, you may find that your circle of friends is not as large as it once was. Or perhaps you don’t spend as much time with friends or family. Or you may have many casual acquaintances, but long for closer, more caring bonds with them.
It’s never too late to meet new people and form strong friendships with them or with friends you already have. Here are some steps that can help you do that.
Making new friends
Starting new friendships may seem harder than it did in the past. The global pandemic certainly has not helped matters. Social gatherings have been largely out of the question.
But you can still safely meet and build new friendships online. Plus, you can find relatively safe ways to meet new people and get to know them outdoors.
Take an online class. Join a virtual book or movie club. Talk with neighbors on your walks to get to know them. Just stay 6 feet apart and wear a mask when you do.
If you click with a person you’ve just met in a group virtual setting, reach out to that person to let them know you’d like to get to know him or her better. Then spend some one-on-one time with that person online or in a safe outdoor setting.
You might be surprised by how receptive people are to a friendly gesture. But if someone doesn’t respond as you expect them to, try not to take it personally. There are many reasons a person might not be receptive. Just cast your net a little wider. Your new friends are out there.
Getting to know a new friend
If you’re shy, socializing and meeting new people can be tough. But try to push past your comfort zone. It gets easier with practice. It can help to try these tips:
- Break the ice with a simple question or sincere compliment.
- Smile often and use people’s names.
- Show genuine interest and appreciation.
- Really listen to what people are saying.
- Follow up with meaningful, open-ended questions.
Building a deeper bond with new and existing friends
Building caring, close friendships requires trust, open communication, and mutual understanding. You’ll usually know when you click with another person. To decide whether there’s a foundation for a close friendship, notice whether that person:
- Makes you feel at ease, so that you can be yourself
- Listens with full attention
- Is at ease opening up about themselves
- Is truly interested in you, in your thoughts and feelings, and what’s happening in your life
- Gets you, likes you, respects you, and supports you
Be mindful of red flags, too. Listen to your gut and notice whether a new friend:
- Constantly interrupts you or changes the topic of conversation to be about him or herself
- Makes you feel judged or that you need to be careful about what you say
- Leaves you feeling uneasy after you spend time together
Give your new friendships time to grow
It can take time to build a meaningful, close friendship. You don’t have to rush this process. And remember that it’s not about making as many friends as you can. It’s about finding genuine, caring friendships that last.
This information is not intended to take the place of regular medical care or advice. Please check with your doctor before using this information or beginning any self-care program.
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This article was edited by Gail Olson and clinically reviewed by Elizabeth Thompson, MPH, RDN.