It was easy when we were little—when “Do you want to be my friend?” often counted as an acceptable first introduction. Then school and work settings provided us with lots of opportunities to bond over a shared love of books, sports or a post-five-o’clock discussion on goings on at the office. Even having children or walking a dog around the neighbourhood could invite a conversation with someone new.
Throughout all of these life stages, the trick was always to find the time to squeeze in a lunch, a coffee, or even a catch-up phone chat to maintain and nurture friendships. Yet, retirement may seem like a reversal of all of that: now there’s more time for friends, but are there also fewer opportunities to meet them?
The good news is that with the right attitude, and a few pointers for those who feel a little shy, this could be one of the best times in your life to make new friends, revitalize old friendships and have a great time doing both.
The bonus is that friends really do give us benefits: numerous studies demonstrate that people with strong social connections have a lower risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other serious health conditions—not to mention living longer.
Seek out those who complement your personality
Think about what sort of a person you are. Are you quiet, or do you like to chat? Are you a “big picture” thinker or find satisfaction in the details? Look for someone who complements your personality by being the ying to your yang. This will often expand your opinions and world view on things, and potentially lead to a deeper relationship.
Lead with an activity you love
One of the best ways to make new friends is to participate in an activity that you love. Retirement gives us time to find a new passion or reawaken an old interest—but also lets us discover a group of like-minded people who are a potential pool of new friends. This is easy to do by signing up for any number of activities at a seniors’ or community centre, or if you live in a retirement residence, where activities and social gatherings are numerous and varied.
Seize the moment
If you’ve just met someone and feel there’s potential for a deeper connection, be impulsive and invite them out to coffee or over for dinner. Acting on—or generating—an invitation with a definite plan means there’s more chance of turning an acquaintance into a friend.
The funny thing about friendship
A British psychology study found that people who shared a laugh or two were more likely to disclose secrets about themselves, which in turn led to deeper relationships. The researchers posit that the endorphins produced by laughter cause people to be more outgoing and more open to friendships.
Think about meeting up for a funny movie or a comedy show. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, check out the many comedy specials and invite someone over to watch. And, if you take the initiative in organizing a social occasion—especially on a regular basis—you’ll soon find that people will gravitate towards you. The result could well boost both the number and the depth of your friendships.