Along my daily walk, now, is a border of Saskatoon bushes nestled in among other common wild prairie plants. Lodgepole pines, spruce and poplar trees pose in a sloping bank, but lean toward me as if waiting for me to interact. Sometimes I’ll boldly step off the path into the trees, duck to avoid pointed branches, or grab on to them with a gloved hand to steady myself on the uneven ground. It’s somehow comforting, even among prickly pine branches and thorny rose bushes, to be in these close-knit quarters with life.
I sometimes call the path my “walk around the block” even though there is no concrete sidewalk or neighbourhood houses. Instead, it is farm land, with a shed that hosts the farmer’s combine during harvest season, and with an old grain bin where you can climb a ladder to a flat roof to browse the landscape from a top view. It’s very quiet, not a person in sight, a contrast to just a year ago when my “walk around the block” included greetings to neighbours and sometimes a friend alongside.
Moving from the city to the country, from working life in the office to working life at home, it’s natural that I would have less social interaction. In some ways, I welcomed the change. I didn’t like navigating the downtown traffic in the early morning darkness anyways. On the other hand, I knew without the social structure of my working week in the office, and the ability to spontaneously meet up with a long-time friend in a coffee shop easily, there was the possibility of social isolation and becoming lonely in my new place.
I’d read that impact of loneliness on health is similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. A non-smoker myself, and newly remarried, the effort to maintain and forge new friendships in my new place is necessary for your mental, relational, and physical health. Also, now that I am in this stage of life (my late 50’s), meeting new people, interacting with others in positive and productive ways, and developing friendships is a key to a healthy mindset as I age, and lessons the chance of depression.
Ways to Develop and Expand our Social Circles
Meeting new people and creating new friendships takes effort. For those of us that are inclined to be more introverted than extroverted, a new circle of friends can be intimidating. Finding new people that share a common interest is a great way to feel more comfortable as you stretch out in your new local area or your new city. Also, research shows that intergenerational interactions can boost your health. So, don’t limit yourself to the same age group when it comes to social interactions in common interest groups.
Places to Meet New People with Common Interest
Places to meet new people with common interests are easier to find these days since the explosion of social media. Searching in your social media networks for groups in your area that share your similar interests such as quilting, photography, bird watching, and book clubs can connect you with like-minded people. Also, your community may post events on their Facebook page.
If a social networking site is not your thing, your local library, local museums, and local community centre will often posts events on their websites or bulletin boards. Joining local groups, such as a church group, a women’s bible study or prayer group will also connect you to women of faith that can develop into long-lasting friendships. Joining a class in a skill you’ve always wanted to learn, such as an art class, cooking class, or sky-diving class is another way to meet interesting people and develop a new social group.
It isn’t easy as older adults, to jump out of our comfort zone and take that step toward a new friend group. I’ve coached middle-aged women to take that first step toward meeting a new group of women, and the common denominator for their success is being intentional. Writing down one thing you can do each week to meet new people is an easy way to begin. When we write our intentions down, we are highly more likely to complete them than when we just think about them.
What intention will you take this week to cultivate new friendships (whether you are in a new place or not)? Who can you ask over for coffee this week? Not only could you be forging a new friendship, you could also be lifting another woman out of loneliness.
How to expand our Social Network with New Interests
Being curious and exploring a new interests, a new skill, and a new hobby can give you a fresh perspective and meet new friends. You may not end up liking the new hobby, but you can still gain connections with others.
I remember reading a story of young lady who attended a photography meet-up, even though she didn’t like taking photographs. And, even though she did not attend to pursue romantic relationships, she met a man at the meet-up who eventually became her husband. And, by the way, she still doesn’t like photography!
Is there something you have always wanted to explore? A new hobby, or a new place, or a new volunteer opportunity? Whether we find ourselves living a new neighbourhood, town, city, or in the country, it is a great place to explore new interests and social activities. A fresh place gives our minds a fresh perspective, and eliminates any narrow scopes we have been living. You’ve already proved you are open to change, so why not get curious and get going on new stuff? New stuff keeps your mind active and keeps us interesting!
How to Bridge the Generation Gap for New Friendships
Just because we are women in our second half of life does not mean we are not interesting to younger women as female friends. Women that are in their 40’s, 30’s or even younger are facing similar challenges that we did at their age. The world may look different but challenges with health, work/life balance, children and siblings still exist in essence.
Having friends that are younger than us helps us to break the clichés that older women do not have anything in common with the young and vice versa. You’ve got a life-time of experience and your embarrassing or life-changing stories will relate to women of all ages, since we are all women sharing this time together called life. Let’s be curious and connect will all generations. After all, the most important thing is connecting.
Connecting with others is God’s love in action.
Being a reader, I am always on the hunt for other readers. Recently, I learned my husband’s eldest son’s girlfriend loves to read. So I asked her what she is currently reading and, even though the book she is reading is not my usual genre I generally read, I have tagged it as my read. Being curious about what books she likes to read connects me to her, one of my new extended family members, and introduces me to new books!
Sometimes I do get nostalgic about my old way of life, living in the city with my social connections close-by. A healthy dose of nostalgia is often wonderful, reminding me of the beautiful friendships I made in my old place, that was once new, too. Since moving to my new area, I need to make more effort to connect with my strong friendships such as planning quality time together weeks in advance, instead of spur of the moment gatherings. Our walks around the block are pre-planned instead of spontaneous. But that’s okay. Even a good thing.
Because, while I wait to be with my friends, my heart is joyful in anticipation.
What are ways you make new friends, and stay connected to your long-time friends?