How can I make new friends at 50?

A problem shared…GP and mother-of-four Clare Bailey gives her indispensable advice: How can I make new friends at 50?

  • An anonymous woman, who lives in the UK, has been struggling to make friends
  • Says she drifted apart from friends she made when her children were small 
  • Clare Bailey advised the reader to join a local community and try volunteering

Q I’m feeling really lonely. I have a lovely husband and enjoy my job, but have no friends to confide in. I lost touch with most of my old schoolmates long ago, and while I made some friends when my children were small, we drifted apart as they grew older. Lockdown has allowed me not to think about this, but now we are emerging, I would dearly love to make new friends, but don’t know how to do this in my 50s.

A Thank you for sharing your experience of loneliness, which many people will identify with, particularly as the pandemic has cruelly kept us apart from the ones we care for. And well done for writing in — it can be hard to acknowledge you are lonely, let alone discuss it.

An anonymous woman who lives in the UK, asked Clare Bailey for advice on making new friends in her 50s (file image)

When we reach our 50s, many of those easy friendships and connections made in our school years, or through work and parenting, can falter. As people move on or become time poor, it is so easy to lose touch.

I was part of a wonderful GP book group for almost 30 years and miss our get-togethers, partly due to lockdown, but also because most members have retired or moved away.

Social isolation can have a devastating and often hidden impact. Even before the pandemic, up to one in five people in the UK said they often or always felt lonely. And one in three hadn’t had a meaningful conversation in the past week.

Since then, 38 per cent of UK adults say loneliness is damaging their mental health. It can also lead to eating and sleeping badly and feeling withdrawn and anxious, which in turn can affect your brain and body.

Clare (pictured) advised the reader to join a Facebook group for her local community, chat to neighbours and try volunteering 

So, what stops us making new connections? Firstly, it takes time. According to a study from the University of Kansas in the U.S., two people need to spend 90 hours together to become friends, and 200 hours in each other’s company to qualify as close friends.

Psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud points out in his new book The Mental Vaccine, that overcoming awkwardness can lessen shyness and fears of rejection.

These suggestions may be helpful to you:

  • Put yourself out there. Chat to your neighbours. It may feel awkward at first, but take the plunge. Are there any old friends you’d like to reconnect with? I’m sure they would appreciate a call, a letter or email.
  • Get to know your community. Most areas have pages on Facebook. Check yours to find people with similar interests. And don’t forget the Women’s Institute. After lockdown, there will be meetings to go to. In the meantime, find outdoor walking and running challenges at thewi.org.uk.
  • Volunteer. You’ll be helping yourself as well as others.
  • Seek help. Find support through organisations like The Silver Line, a free confidential 24-hour helpline for over 55s providing information, friendship and advice (thesilverline.org.uk). The Red Cross has online resources for building connections (redcross.org.uk/loneliness-resources).

Netflix now sends you to sleep 

When our children left home, my husband Michael and I watched back-to-back Netflix. After a week, we were exhausted. How ironic then that the streaming firm, the enemy of sleep, has joined with meditation app Headspace to make the Headspace Guide To Sleep series. It gives wind-down exercises to leave you mellow, and tips for finding your sleep rhythm. Now where’s that remote… 

You can write to Clare at [email protected] or Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.

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