How to make friends when you’re older

Dear Annie: How do you make friends when you are older?

I am 60 years old, and I’ve never been a “joiner” or good at making friends. I do have a couple of friends who I see once in a while, but I haven’t had a best friend since high school (and she wasn’t that good a friend, it turned out).

The vast majority of my social activities involve my husband’s family. If I do step out of my comfort zone to become involved in something, it may give me something to do for an hour or two, but it never results in a friendship. It seems at my age that everyone has longstanding friendships, and they are all so busy (with their friends!) and don’t need another friend. And I don’t know how to make that first move. I feel so awkward and socially inept.

My husband travels frequently for work, so I am home alone, days on end, without a single text or call from anyone. One of my kids might text, but they have their own lives. It seems like everyone has tons of friends, and I would be happy with just one. How do I get out of this lonely pit that I’m in and develop a social circle? Or even make just one good friend? — Lonely Later in Life

Dear Lonely Later in Life: I commend you for writing this letter. Friendship is one of the most important things in life, and you are taking steps to gain good friends. Making friends is a cinch by the inch and hard by the yard.

You won’t develop a large circle of friends right away, but finding one person to connect with is very possible. You have to be willing to get a little uncomfortable. Think about hobbies or activities you really enjoy or have always wanted to try, and join social events groups. If you connect with someone at a social activity, don’t be afraid to ask him or her to join you for coffee or a walk.

Also, broaden your horizon. Just because someone is a lot older or younger or of a different gender doesn’t mean you won’t connect as friends. You might find a new friend in precisely that. If you are still really struggling, you might seek the help of a licensed therapist. Sometimes, loneliness can be a sign of depression. Once that is treated, you will be happier, and you can watch your life open up as you naturally have an easier time making friends.

Dear Annie: When I read the sweet story about handkerchiefs early this morning while having my coffee, it brought back wonderful memories of my dad, who always carried a white cotton handkerchief in his back pocket.

There were three kids, and sometimes for Father’s Day, his birthday or Christmas, we would give him a package of 100 percent white cotton handkerchiefs.

Sometimes they had an embroidered straight edge, and sometimes they had a fancy “A” for his first name (Alfred) or an “S” for his last name.

After my dad died, I took his supply of white cotton handkerchiefs from the small top left dresser drawer. I gave some of them to my two brothers, and I even kept some for myself. Whenever I attend a funeral, I always tuck one of these sweet mementos in my purse.

If you are a father of a young son or have grandsons, please begin this sweet tradition of using a white handkerchief for the above occasions as well as giving a clean one to a lady to wipe away her tears. I hope you will pass on this sweet tradition.

Dear Sweet Tradition: My grandfather always carried a handkerchief. What a wonderful letter, and a beautiful way to carry on the tradition. Thank you.

(Lane is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.)


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