50 Years Old And No Friends? 10 Practical Solutions
Entering your 50s can be a difficult time, you are certainly no longer young but you are not really old either. Victor Hugo described it well when he said that ’40 is the old age of youth and 50 is the youth of old age’. If you had children your 30s and 40s are likely to have been spent raising your family together with all the stresses and joys that entailed. American parents have a tendency, these days, to create a fetish of parenthood, putting all their energies into supporting their children while allowing their own interests to take a back seat. Is it any surprise therefore that, by the time the youngest goes to college, mom and dad sit back and realize that they no longer know who they are and what interests them?
Because parents’ lives are so intimately bound up with their children’s many of their friendships will also be tied into their children’s activities. You may suddenly find that you no longer have anything in common with the soccer moms and dads you spent every weekend with if there is no match to cheer.
At the same time your 50s is a challenging period career wise. You will be close to expert in your field with many years’ experience under your belt. You may also start to struggle with innovations and new methods of working that are introduced, that is only normal. Sadly, for many employers, that leaves the impression that the over 50s are expensive dinosaurs and they may be searching for any reason to get rid of you. This makes finding the time to socialize even more difficult.
So what is your average, gregarious 50 something to do when they wake up one morning to realize they have the sum total of zero real friends? We have 10 practical solutions for you.
10. Get A Dog
Pets provide almost instant companionship and true, unadulterated friendship. They love you for who you are; faults and all. Just owning a pet can help make you feel calmer when you are anxious, lower your blood pressure and generally make you happier in yourself.
Just the very act of having another living being to care for is often enough for some people and with that in mind a cat would be as good as a dog. They are certainly endearing pets. Dogs have an even greater advantage, however. They get you out of the house! Dogs need to be walked every day and that means you need to take them. Once you are out and about you will find that your cute pooch is a magnet, people will want to come and admire your fuzzy companion. Where your dog really starts to show his worth, however, is when you get to places like the dog park or puppy school. They will be teeming with hundreds of other dog owners all happy to talk about their pets (people get very enthusiastic about their furry family members). Of course you won’t hit it off with most of the people you meet and many of them will end up as no more than passing acquaintances, but the chances are one or two of them will be potential new friends.
If your circumstances do not allow you to get a pet consider looking into dog share schemes where you ‘borrow’ a dog while their owner is on holiday or walk them while they are at work. Many people who subscribe to these schemes end up becoming very close to the dog’s real family. Local humane societies are often searching for volunteers and are another good option.
Please note, you have to be healthy and willing to take on the lifetime commitment to an animal that can live 15 years or more. If you are not willing to commit the time, resources and emotional energy your pet deserves please do not get one!
9. Take A Class
A quick search of your local paper or internet listings will show that there are interest groups for just about everything. Is natural history your thing? Go to the monthly lectures at community college. How about knitting? There will almost certainly be regular meet ups of a local group and this goes for just about every skill and interest.
Of course you may turn up at a group and realize that it is not for you, perhaps all the people at the Natural History lectures are in their 90s and have little in common with you, you won’t know until you try. List a few interests that you have always wanted to explore and skills you have wanted to learn, then give yourself a period of 6 months where you pursue them through groups or lectures. At the end of that period of time you will know which ones truly benefit you and which ones just don’t click. You will almost certainly have made a few friends along the way as well.
8. Get Involved With Politics Or Become An Activist
Politics is not just for those who want to become a Governor or the next POTUS, in fact those big ticket races would not be possible without the support of local activist organizations. If you have always supported the Democrats or the Republicans (or even a third party) at the polls you may find getting involved with your local grass roots organization very rewarding. This can be an excellent way to meet many likeminded people and attend fundraisers, rallies or even meet important national figures whom you admire greatly. Before you know it you will have more social interaction than you could ever have thought possible and many of those people are potential friends.
Let’s face it, however, not everyone is interested in party politics and that is ok too. There are plenty of organizations that would welcome your support and provide the same return in terms of live social networking. Go protest at Standing Rock, join the Occupy Wall Street movement, get involved in Women’s March style events the NRA or Greenpeace (who would have imagined seeing those groups in the same sentence!) or just about any group you can think of. If you are passionate about something other people who are similarly passionate will make great friends.
Did you think that only the young college types could join the Peace Corps and volunteer overseas? You would be wrong, the Peace Corps is for everyone and if you have the flexibility to leave your life behind it could be just the thing you are looking for. Of course if you are still working a shorter term volunteer program might be more suited to your taste. Why not make a difference with monks in Laos or help children in India. Along the way you are certain to meet a lot of likeminded people.
If you have a professional skill that is in demand outside the US (a telephone network engineer or a cataract surgeon) it may be that you will be able to volunteer through a professional body that sends people overseas on a pro-bono basis.
If you don’t want to or can’t go abroad at the current point in time or if you want to use your volunteering time to make friends closer to home then there are still many opportunities open to you. Hospices and homes for the elderly often need volunteer ‘befrienders’, schools often need people to help read with children. You can also volunteer in areas that support your interests, local historical attractions and national parks often rely on volunteers to help their organizations run smoothly. There are endless options.
6. Go To Church (Temple, Synagogue, Mosque Etc)
Going to church (or other places of religious worship) no longer play as pivotal a role as it used to in many people’s lives. 100 years ago it was almost unheard of not to be involved in worship, today while many people profess a faith many others do not. Places of worship are, however, fantastic hubs of community activity. They can be bases for volunteer efforts (see 7 above) and again are a good place to meet likeminded people.
Many people, particularly those who have not attended Church in years, might feel nervous and potentially even hypocritical about going to Church in order to make friends, particularly if they have doubts in their faith. Don’t worry, doubts are normal, if you speak to the Priest, Pastor or Vicar and explain why you are returning and that you have had breaks in your faith and ability to believe they will support you, if doubts were a barrier to attendance then Churches would be empty! That said if you really do not believe then this solution is probably not for you!
When you join a new Church (or other place of worship), take the time to get to know the Priest, Rabbi, Imam etc, they will introduce you to the people who can help you settle in and make friends. You will find all sorts of opportunities to get involved from brunches and lunches to donation drives, just get stuck in, the more you do the more opportunities you will find to meet people who might become close friends.