“Help me make new friends!”
Friends don’t just enrich our lives—knowing there is always someone to call, to confide in, to laugh and cry with literally helps us live longer. But what if you’ve lost track of childhood friends or moved to a new town? Is it really possible to forge great friendships as an adult? Yes, declare our experts! All you need to do to broaden your social circle—and boost your joy every day—is . . . 1 Meet up! Join the “Village Movement”!
You’ve heard it takes a village to raise a child. Well, a new movement is proving it takes a village to make friends, too. “More and more neighborhoods are creating ‘ village’ groups, which help seniors make connections in their community, sustaining them emotionally, as well as logistically,” explains psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph. D. “Members do everything from form walking clubs to swap rides for doctor’s appointments.” To find a village near you (or learn how to start one), just log on to Village Network (Vtvnetwork.org).
Be like Kevin Bacon!
It’s the first bit of advice friendship expert Christine Hoover gives folks interested in making new friends and here’s why: “At the end of the movie Footloose, there’s a dance, but everyone is just standing on opposite sides of the room not talking to each other— until Kevin Bacon’s character walks in and takes the initiative!” In other words, “be the one to take the first step, like his character, and don’t overlook the easy things that spark friendships, like simply saying hello or asking an acquaintance to have coffee or dessert with you.”
Pinpoint your people!
What makes your community unique? The answer can help you find friendship hot spots, says Hoover. “Ten years ago, when I moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, I didn’t know anyone. But I soon learned that Charlottesville is a real book-lovers’ community. There’s a book festival every year and so many book clubs. So I quickly found a club and began meeting people.” Bottom line: Pick up your local newspaper or head to your nearby Y to learn about clubs, classes and volunteering opportunities where you can meet like-minded folks.
2 Grow closer! Bridge long distances!
“Once a year, I get together with my old college friends,” says Hoover. “When we get together, we have something we call ‘purposeful share time,’ where we share challenges we might be going through. Over the years, we’ve helped each other get through so many ups and downs just by listening.” Too far away for in-person visits? “I talk on the phone with one of my oldest friends once a month. I put it right on the calendar. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation. Just being consistent helps you stay connected.”
A perfect way to strengthen the great friendships you already have? Do something new together! “Much like in a romantic relationship, it can help you forge a stronger connection,” promises Bonior. Simply set a specific, doable goal that you can help each other achieve, maybe signing up for an art class together, hosting a monthly potluck together or volunteering an hour a week at the local animal shelter together.