Unless you’re really outgoing and adept at actively seeking out ways to meet people, it can often be quite difficult for someone less ‘socially inclined’ to make new friends. And the older we get, the more challenging it can become. If you’re a retiree, you may feel this is especially true for you once you no longer have a workplace where you’d normally make new connections.

After all, for many of us retirees, our workplaces traditionally offered the best opportunity to make some new friends. And now the chances of meeting and making any at all is even more difficult as a retiree in a pandemic.

Some of us may still have a few long-term relationships such as friends from our college days or our childhood who may still play a role in our lives, but on the whole, it was while on the job that we made new friends, or through clubs and associations we attended.

What’s Changed?

A lot.

Work made it much easier for introverts to meet new people and generate friendships because it usually meant there was at least one common interest going on. Namely the work itself.

Approaching a colleague and suggesting a get together was less daunting then than approaching a near-stranger now. You could get away with saying something along the lines of “Hey, fancy a drink or a coffee after work?” or “How about grabbing some lunch?”

Ah, Youth

Remember when you were a kid how easy it was to just go up to another kid and say “Whatcha doin’?” Or, “Wanna play hide and seek?” I sure do.

Well, we’re not kids anymore.

Gee whiz, here we are, retired and really wanting someone to go do stuff with again.

Retired from Work, & On Our Own

The question is “how do we make some new acquaintances?”

Apparently, some research suggests that Boomers are already predisposed to having trouble making new friends. Drat.

The Stanford Center on Longevity did some research and their results suggest that, according to psychology professor and founding director Laura Carstensen, “of all the age groups, baby boomers show the most signs of disengaging from traditional modes of social relationships”.

She goes on to say that the way in which people form their social networks is changing too. For example she cites the fact that “people aren’t attending religious services or engaging in community organizations, two areas where people tended to congregate and meet like-minded people”.

Carstensen also intimates that when people relocate after retirement, they often have difficulty making new friends due in part to the fact that they may not know anyone who can help make introductions or help them settle into a new community.

The way people now form their social networks is changing too, which adds to the difficulty of making new friendships. We need to learn how to create a larger circle of friends as the old ways may not always be enough.

New Ways to Enlarge Your Circle of Friends

1. Virtual Encounters

Virtual encounters have now eclipsed, in many cases, the once tried and true solutions we used to use for making friends – such as meeting others through religious affiliations, joining community organizations, our hobbies and sports. Now people are more likely to connect online with the organizations and groups they’re interested in with the hopes of meeting new people via a shared hobby, perhaps similar political or spiritual interests, or a return to the classroom, recreational pursuits like card and book clubs. There’s an endless list of virtual choices to be found, populated by individuals you may wish to make friends with.

2. Know What Makes You Happy

Knowing what makes you happy will ultimately help you find like-minded people to become friends with. It will certainly eliminate some of the frustration when you are trying to make new friends. If you love literature, join a book club. If you love golf, join a club or go to the driving range and strike up a conversation with a fellow player.

Do you have a passion for a particular activity? Well then, that’s the best place to start! Take it from an expert: “What do you want out of life? What do you want out of a friendship?” For instance, “Volunteering is one way to tap into that passion”, says Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of the AARP Foundation. She goes on to state,

Building social connection or meaning around that passion is a really great way to meet people.

3. Not All Friendships Are Deep

Decide if simply having acquaintances is enough to fulfill your need for what I like to call “people time.” I try to remind myself that a lot of new relationships often begin as sort of superficial before they become meaningful, if at all.

Be patient. Good, true friendships take time.

4. Be Positive About Yourself

Ms. Carstensen advises “Go out there, be proactive and don’t be discouraged right away.” That said, it may be intimidating for people who are unused to meeting new people. Try to avoid negative thought processes such thinking thoughts like, “they wouldn’t want to befriend me. Or “I can’t do that”.

Focus on your positive attributes. You made friends in the past, you can do it now too.

5. Use Technology

Technology has changed how we interact. It can be a great help, not only to stay in touch with past colleagues and friends from work once you’re retired, but also to increase your exposure to new opportunities to make friends as your life situation changes.

“Phone calls, social media and even email can help people communicate with distant friends, and for people struggling to make new acquaintances, they should use all available technology to stay current”, Marsh Ryerson of AARP said.

6. Who Are Your Neighbours?

Depending on where you live, getting to know the neighbours may or may not be as easy as it sounds, but it’s worth investigating. After all, it’s nice to have people nearby you can rely on should you need help or support. It’s also nice to be the one that they may rely on for support or help too. That’s friendship.

I speak from experience here as I was not all that eager in the past to befriend my neighbours out of pure shyness and respect for their privacy. Well, since moving back to Quebec, it’s a different story. I discovered that neighbours here are not shy and do invite you over for a ‘cinq à sept’ (cocktails and snacks). They are gregarious and don’t accept “no thank you” for an answer.

The result is that my partner and I have made about twenty new friends in our condo complex alone, never mind at the clubs we joined and with members of the local arts community. A lovely way to spend our retirement!