How to Build Friendships in Your Senior Years

Get a happier, more fulfilling retirement with a strong circle of friends. 

- Posted on May 24, 2019

A quartet of mature friends enjoy a conversation

Eric Thurman discovered that relationships are the key to a fulfilling retirement. Certified therapeutic recreation specialist Tammy Rowell, director of life enrichment at Good Samaritan Society–Greeley Communities in Colorado, agrees. Here are her tips on building friendships, new and old, in your senior years:

Take your whole person into account. In the field of therapeutic recreation, Rowell says, “we look at the whole person—their physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual needs.” To engage all those aspects of who you are, consider doing a variety of activities: fitness classes, card games, book clubs, community choir, fellowship groups, museum outings. There are all kinds of possibilities, and each one gives you an opportunity to meet people. Check with your local active adult center for options.

Get out there. Try something new, or do what you already love. Volunteering is a wonderful way to get involved in your community and get to know people. Or join a hobby group to connect with others who share your interests, whether it’s knitting, model building or fossil collecting. You don’t need an organized activity to meet people—as Rowell points out, anyone who has a dog knows pets are a great icebreaker.

Find a gathering place. “People like to have somewhere to go where they’re comfortable,” Rowell says. In the Greeley Communities, there’s the Cozy Corner, a little shop where residents visit with each other over coffee and ice cream. Folks also sit and chat by the koi pond on campus. Look for a similar place in your area. Keep going back and you just might become one of the regulars.

Connect (or reconnect) with old friends. “It’s important to have that connection to your past,” to someone you shared formative experiences with, Rowell says. Regular conversations (and get-togethers, if possible) go a long way in sustaining a relationship. “Just calling to say hi makes a difference.” Got an old friend you’ve lost touch with? Send a card, call, e-mail, connect on social media. Chances are, they’ll be happy to hear from you.

Keep trying. Don’t lose heart if you don’t bond right away with a new acquaintance or find a pal the first few times a club or class meets. Remember that it takes time to develop trust with someone. Invite the new person to do something low-key—go for a walk, have a cup of tea—and build from there.

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