According to a Harvard Study, close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. However, as we get older, it may seem harder than ever to make and maintain friendships.

Our later years can include a huge number of life changes, including retirement, home moves, divorces, bereavements and the introduction of new family members, such as grandchildren, to care for. Additionally, health challenges can require lifestyle changes, from reduced mobility to the need for stricter schedules to allow for medication and self-care.

Staying social helps keep us healthy in mind, body and spirit. Whilst it might feel daunting to create new connections, and you may feel out of practice in taking the first steps, there are many things you can do to build new networks and find friends.

Whilst most of these suggestions remain possible, especially as lockdown restrictions within the UK are being eased, we encourage you to only join activities in which social distancing measures are observed. For example, many book clubs are currently meeting in gardens with chairs spaced out to allow for 1-2m distance between each club member.
Please ensure that any individual health concerns you have are taken into account and always pay attention to the latest government advice, as it may continue to change frequently over the coming weeks and months.

Four friends sitting down to eat a meal, cheers over a glass of wine

Stay Active

You may be wondering how your own activity levels will help you connect with others, but don’t forget that keeping fit is far more fun with friends!

If you already have a group of chums but are struggling to find excuses to meet up with them to cement your friendship, consider asking them to join you on a walk or at a local fitness class. If you’re looking to create new relationships, an organised walking group such as Ramblers can be great - you have a common conversational topic straight away and, hopefully, enough puff left to natter away as you churn through the miles.

Another fab place to meet new people is at the local park, during a dog walk. Let the dogs introduce themselves, then simply follow suit! If you don’t have your own pet, think about anyone on the street that may appreciate their pooch running off some steam whilst they’re busy working - you will have the companionship and ice-breaker, without any of the long term care concerns.

Staying active will benefit your body too - helping you maintain your weight, reduce your risk of certain conditions, and give you loads of energy to maintain your new hobbies and friendships. In turn, your confidence in approaching new people may increase too!

If you’re still feeling a little unsettled or a little uncertain about spending time outdoors or away from home, MedicAlert ID jewellery could be the peace of mind that helps you to enjoy going a bit further afield or to attend some social-distanced outdoor exercise classes and meets.

New Hobbies

When we retire, there can suddenly feel like there are endless hours to fill, especially if the work/life balance was previously pretty hectic! Whilst it sounds blissful in theory, the reality can be that we feel a little lost, lonely and purposeless.

Taking up a new hobby, or reinvigorating an old one, can be a great way to meet like-minded people whilst proactively filling spare time.

The world really is your oyster when it comes to finding a hobby that gets you all revved up, but some ideas to whet the appetite include:

  • Joining a community choir
  • Learning the art of yoga or meditation
  • Mastering a new sport, such as golf (great for a natter, too!) or badminton
  • Joining a book club

A great place to start when looking for groups that share your interests is Simply enter your location and choose the subject you’re interested in to find the nearest groups in your area. Meetup groups are locally organised by anyone with an interest in all kinds of things, and cater for all tastes and ages, so depending on where you live you’re almost certain to find one you could try. And, if you can’t, why not start your own?

A man and a woman playing golf

Lend a hand

Working alongside others, with a common goal, can be a great leveller and conversation starter. There are lots of ways in which you can give back to the community, locally or nationally:

Even if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you can still live a full life. Even though diabetes requires something of a lifestyle change, revolved around careful planning and management, it shouldn’t prevent you from living a life full of the activities you wish to enjoy.

  • Join a litter pick or bulb planting group.
  • Help pack parcels at a food bank - many can be found on the Trussell Trust website.
  • If you have a particular skill set, such as bookkeeping or business mentoring, connect with local enterprise groups to be matched with people looking to develop themselves.
  • Read to the youngest generation at your local library.
  • Provide some human contact at an animal shelter or veterinary clinic.
  • If you enjoy being really active, check out GoodGym - They bring together groups of people around the UK that combine regular exercise with helping the community.
  • Fundraise for your favourite charity (feel free to choose MedicAlert!) via a bake sale, carboot, or sponsored activity.

The sense of belonging can be just as satisfying as the giving back, and may lead to the discovery of a new purpose or direction for your retirement years.

Simply Join In

If you cannot be as active as you’d like, for example if you have mobility problems, don’t panic. You don’t have to be walking over the hills and towards the horizon to meet new people. However, you may not have much success simply by staying in and sitting on the sofa.

Keep an eye out for what is going on in your local community. Sign up to e-newsletters for the town hall, community centres, council events departments. Look in the local newspapers and on tourist information boards along the high street.

Food markets, festivals and fundraisers are great excuses to talk to people that catch your eye. If you’re alone or in a small group, ask if you can sit on tables that have spare seats - the more the merrier!

Go to local school productions, comedy nights and theatre productions, you may find that the bar during the interval is a fab place to strike up a conversation.

A group of people dancing in a circle

Another great place to meet people on the same wavelength as you is the U3A, or University of the Third Age. This UK-wide movement brings together people in their ‘third age’ to develop their interests and continue their learning in a friendly and informal environment. Members draw upon their knowledge and experience to teach and learn from each other, which means that the typical U3A area will have interest groups covering hundreds of subjects, from art appreciation to cycling lessons, from debating and current affairs to curry clubs, and everything in between.

Whatever you identify, the more you get involved, the more people you will naturally interact with. It may feel strange at first, talking to strangers just because you’re in the same place with one another, but stick with it… pretty soon, you’ll be a dab hand at putting others at ease too!

Connect With Old Friends!

Don’t overlook connections you already have - even if you have lost touch and believe them to be part of your past. You may find that they too are looking to build relationships and increase their social circle, and they may be very grateful for you taking the first step that they feel too awkward in doing themselves.

If you’ve lost touch with friends from the past, you may be amazed at how easy it can be to discover them once again these days. Social media websites such as Facebook can be a great place to start - people of all ages use Facebook to keep in touch with what friends and family members are up to and, according to Age UK, social networking is increasingly used by all generations. So think about giving it a try if you haven’t already done so… you can always call upon a family member for help, if you need to!

Two women and a man, arm in arm on a high street, laughing together

It can feel strange and nerve-wracking, getting back out there in later life. Challenge yourself to say yes to any invitation that comes your way. Be open to every opportunity, and remember that while you won't click with everyone, you might bond with someone when you least expect it.

And remember that while you're out making new friends, your MedicAlert ID and membership is there for you when you need it. Click below to find out how our unique service will keep you safe.


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