Key Takeaways:

Friendships help to maintain health and wellbeing. Older adults are sparking virtual friendships on GetSetUp that lead to in person meet ups. Find out how older adults are improving their health and wellness through friendships.

No matter your age, making friends is no piece of cake,  but as you age it gets harder. People often experience loneliness at different points in their life; a recent survey of 20,000 Americans by the University of California on their “Loneliness Scale” (prior to the pandemic) found that nearly half of Americans (47%) are suffering from feelings of loneliness. However, not all age groups experience loneliness the same.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine surveyed 340 people ages 27-101 and found that severe loneliness occurred during three age periods: late-20s, mid-50s, and late-80s.

Making friends as you age

While loneliness increased during social isolation across all age brackets, many people actually opened a whole new world of virtual friendships; some of these are carrying over into real life. This is encouraging for health and wellbeing, since establishing, keeping, and maintaining friendships helps to improve overall health.

The National Institute of Health’s research on  Friendship in Later Life: A Research Agenda  stressed that

“The likelihood of older adults continuing to enjoy and benefit from interactions with friends, combined with the potential for social isolation in old age suggests the importance of investigating friendship in creative new ways to advance understanding of friendship structure, processes, and phases along with their implications for health and well-being.”

10 Ways To Make Friends As You Age And At Any Age

  1. Take Initiative - Don’t wait for others to call or make the invitation get out there and invite. Invite someone a couple of times and if they aren’t interested move on to someone new.
  2. Participate In Group Exercise - This could be joining a sports team, a run club, or a local aerobics class. This is a great way to meet people with similar interests and perhaps spark a conversation at an after-workout lunch or coffee.
  3. Volunteer - A great way to meet friendly people is through volunteering. Find a theme you are passionate about and join a good cause with like-minded people.
  4. Take Classes - Find a class in one of your passions: photography, woodworking, or crocheting, for example. This also allows you to work together on projects and trade tips and advice.
  5. Mentor - There are lots of younger people looking for mentors. You can find them through professional networks  or in your local community.
  6. Join A Club - Whether it’s robotics or books, join a club to start sharing with others who are passionate about similar topics.
  7. Attend Public Events (or Virtual Events) - Get to the events that interest you--whether in person or virtual--and make a goal to talk to one person. Not every conversation will lead to a friendship but sooner or later it just might.
  8. Participate in Virtual Communities - Virtual communities on shared interest, advice, or passions can help you spark friendships digitally that may stay digital or bloom into in-person relationships.
  9. Make Friends Of All Ages- Don’t limit yourself to friends your age. Friendships can be really rewarding when they are intergenerational. So, spark up a conversation with someone younger than you!
  10. Smile and say hi - Nothing gets a conversation started as a nice smile. When you see the chance to open conversation over a book someone is reading, the dog they are walking, or another topic, do it. Especially if you see these people regularly, this could spark a budding friendship. Take initiative.

Older adults turn to technology to stay connected to friends and make new ones

Many older adults are turning to technology to maintain their friendships. to keep in touch and to establish new friendships. GetSetUp wants to celebrate the friendships that have formed thanks to our lifelong learning platform.

Enjoy the stories and photos of learners who are taking their virtual friendships to the real world!

Rose B. and Mary Ellen Z. Met To Walk And Bird Watch

Rose B. shares their friendship story:

“Mary Ellen and I met on Norman's Good Morning America session. This weekday morning video call is similar to morning shows on television, but the great part is that we are not watching celebrities, we are talking to each other!  Everyone gets the opportunity to discuss their weekend, their day, their plans, etc.  On one call I mentioned attending a bird-watching event at McGinnis Slough on the outskirts of Chicago.  We had seen eagles, hawks, herons, pelicans, and osprey, among other shorebirds. Mary Ellen was amazed to hear that it was near her house.  We saw each other a few more times on Norman's call and then exchanged email addresses via chat.  We then started communicating and made arrangements to meet on a nature walk at Oak Forest Heritage Preserve, another trail not too far from either of us. Mary Ellen is a natural storyteller and we had a great time.  It was a delight for us to meet each other, and a friendship was born!”  
Joanne and Frank K. Meet GetSetUp Guide Russ For A Coffee

Joanne shares their story:

“Frank and I participated in Russ’s program on the Camino De Santiago walk.  We had visited the Cathedral on one of our trips to Spain and chatted with Russ about our experience. We were traveling south... and mentioned that we would be in his territory. Russ suggested we meet at a local coffee shop, which we did.  Our visit was terrific and cemented the fact that Russ was as delightful in person as in his broadcast.  He is a top-notch guy. We are thankful to GetSetUp for the opportunity to connect with like-minded travelers."

Remote Co-workers And Friends Norman Reiss and Liz Miller Meet In NYC

Norman Reiss shares their story:

“My co-worker Liz and I live in different parts of the world, Liz in Brazil and me in New York.  But after nearly a year of working together, we’ve gotten to know each other by the many online meetings that we’ve attended - and sometimes led - together.  When Liz recently planned a trip to several states in the US, one of her stops was in midtown Manhattan - an easy train ride away from where I live.  So we arranged to meet for a rare opportunity to socialize in person over dinner.  It was the first time I  met anyone from GetSetUp on anything other than a computer or phone screen.  Liz looked a bit  different than online, but we quickly recognized our voices and spent a wonderful few hours together.”

Marlene and Garnetta Met Up To Share Vegetable Plants And Seeds

Marlene H. shares their friendship story:

“I meet Garnetta first in our Meatless Recipe Interest Group. Later we meet at her home in Detroit. Garnetta wanted to share some vegetable plants and seeds. During our visit, we toured her container garden in her backyard, where Garnetta has planted a variety of vegetables in many different types of containers. So many vegetables were growing and I could tell she really enjoyed this hobby. Garnetta’s garden was beautiful and we had a chance to share which GetSetUp classes we are taking and future classes we might consider. I also invited her to our SAGE (Seniors church group) meetup in August. We enjoyed our time together and plan on meeting for lunch in the future.”

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Feb 25, 2023
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Liz Miller

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