How to make new friends when you're all grown up?
January 9, 2011 12:50 AM   Subscribe

Asking for mom: how do you get back out there and form close friendships/relationships after you've already settled down, raised a family, and devoted yourself to work?

My mom is a pretty amazing lady. Incredibly creative, self-sufficient, thoughtful, hard-working, intellectual, attractive, blah blah blah. But since I've fled the nest, she's been realizing that she has less and less connection to where she lives (Los Angeles) and her friends here, and is feeling like she really needs to get out there more, get more active, and meet more kindred spirits. Problem is, she doesn't know how. She's spent the last 20 years raising her kid, putting herself through school, and working her ass off, and has become something of a workaholic. And I think she's come to feel really alienated from her life here and the people in it. I know she'd love to get involved in some more creative things (i.e. taking a class in an area of interest such as sculpture, gardening, cooking, doing volunteer work or a book club, etc.) but would also like a forum like this in which she could meet some like-minded people around her age, and make some real friends who she connects with. I know she would also really love to do some dating, but while she's tried the online scene for a while, she consistently feels like the people in her age range are looking for someone younger (she's 60, and while she's attractive and looks about 10 years younger, the unfortunate fact is that it seems in this town, no one really sees you past 30. At least this has been how she's felt). Her mom recently moved out here, but she has a rough relationship with her and has no other family anywhere nearby.

So, I guess what this long-winded praise of my mother is meant to ask is: what are the options for an amazing 60-year woman to get out there and meet other active, creatively engaged people of her age range who would also be interested in forming friendships/relationships? I know this is terribly vague, and that there is by no means a prescription for friendships or relationships (at any age), but it kills me to see her lonely and somewhat lost. And while I have every faith that she'll get through it and figure it out, any suggestions of places to start/personal experiences would be enormously appreciated. Thanks so much for taking the time to read (and post)!!
posted by Amaranta to Human Relations (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think her instinct to go and take classes/join groups is spot on. In terms of finding close friends, it may take trying lots of different groups, and giving each of them a while to 'take', but sooner or later she'll hit on one where (regardless of the 'reason' for the group - sculpture/writing etc) she hits it off with other members and makes real friends that go beyond the hobby. I'm not her age, but I've moved around a lot and this has worked for me in a new city, and I think worked for my mum too in her retirement in a small town.
posted by penguin pie at 1:55 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Would she consider taking up dancing lessons? Los Angeles has an extremely rich dancing scene and she could simultaneously find a community, meet more men, learn a new skill, and get out there and feel that youth again.
posted by shazzam! at 3:06 AM on January 9, 2011

Join or start a group! If she doesn't see anything she's interested in, she can always start one. I've seen lots of quite specific groups on there, she might be surprised at the number of other people out there in the same position. Or she can join a church, volunteer group, walking club, etc. - all the usual things. Maybe she needs to redefine her purpose in life - if she was devoting her life to raising you and providing, then you moving away changes things for her fundamentally. I know that it did for my parents after both my brother and I left home younger than they expected. It took them a couple years but now they're busy and involved, and much happier than when they had kids in the house.
posted by meringue at 4:32 AM on January 9, 2011

As people above have said. Join, join, join. It sounds like she's interested in a range of things, and there are bound to be groups of people both online and IRL who are interested in the same things.

There are internet forums for every interest under the sun, so finding stuff on that side of things shouldn't be a problem. Those forums often have links to real life groups. Also on the real life side (at least in my town) local libraries, community centers, notice boards at community colleges, etc, are often hubs for info about groups of all kinds. So that might be another good place to start.

I guess I'd suggest that her age isn't really relevant, partly because her interests are likely to get her meeting people of a similar age (just on the basis that that's often the way it goes), and partly because if she does enough joining, she will come across at least some people in her age range.

I'd also suggest that a dating or starting new relationship shouldn't be a primary goal. That might be overreaching a little. Rather, if she sets out to find people who share her interests and passions and creative spark, finds them, spends some time doing what she's interested in with them, then it'll be straightforward enough to start asking them out for coffee and so on.
posted by Ahab at 6:26 AM on January 9, 2011

Los Angeles Master Gardener Program! It's through the cooperative extension; you take a series of classes with horticulture professors and soil professors and bug professors and whatnot through the state landgrant university, and earn the title of Master Gardener, and then provide service through various service projects to gardens and gardeners around the area. (They do everything from answer the helpline for local gardeners wanting to know why all their tomatoes are dead to hands-on projects; mine was as the horticultural adviser to a low-income Girl Scout troop that was starting a raised-bed vegetable garden on some unused public land as a teaching tool to help other low-income families learn to grow their own fresh produce at an affordable cost.)

In my state, there's a mix of ages in the program, but most are 50 and older; I'd say a slight majority are retired or semi-retired. She will meet a lot of awesome people of all ages, but definitely many near her age.

It looks like she'd have to request the link for that application by TOMORROW to do this spring's training; if she's not ready to make the leap into such a commitment or doesn't get in this time around, county extensions put on a ton of programs related to cooking and gardening, everything from garden walks to salsa canning classes. A lot of the same people attend those sorts of classes so if you're not the sort to hit it off with someone right away, you'd probably get to see them a few times if you went to several different classes. (and you can attend classes in other counties too, no problem, if a nearby county has more stuff she's interested in.)

Also book clubs are awesome and I know some older women who've done "investment" clubs, but that may be a little passe, I don't know. That seemed to be more for women who were housewives through their adult lives, not working women, who encouraged each other to be more financially educated and invested as a group with a certain buy-in. But maybe that's still a big thing; anyway, the women I know who did it really enjoyed it and made great friends.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:37 AM on January 9, 2011

Just another thought. Maybe she join a group that's a bit outside her usual areas of interest, in a field that tends to have a few more men than women involved. I'm thinking this because I get the sense that older guys who are really into something (wooden boats, birdwatching, model trains, whatever) often love to explain it. If your mom could also find something that has some connection to what she likes (eg she likes painting, group likes building model boats), there might be a synchronicity of interest that lets her be a bit of a star within the group.
posted by Ahab at 7:10 AM on January 9, 2011

Would your mother be interested in a Red Hat Society chapter or Raging Grannies? She may also enjoy peer mentoring or youth mentoring :-) I think it's so lovely of you to post this question here. My Mom retired this year and I have been trying to find something for her to do as well.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:14 AM on January 9, 2011

It's not for everyone, but having dogs and going to the same dog park for years has brought me the added bonus of having a circle of friends with similar values, but very varied ages, interests and careers.

For the last four or five years, we have become quite a social dog park and have drinks on Fridays, catch up for coffees in our local cafes when we are free during the day, or drinks in local bars for special occasions. In summer we have barbecues and parties for birthdays at the park. Sometimes with pinatas and elaborate sport games. The other bonus of 'dog park friends' is that we all live close to each other and don't have to factor in driving, making dates and appointments etc. Because of this it is easy to organise meals and events at night - we've had heaps of nights at various people's homes,as well as helping with babysitting, house-sitting etc. There's a splinter book club and hell, we've even gone on road trips with all the dogs. As well as exercising our dogs we are also learning so much about a lot of different things in industries or activities way outside our own experience. There's writers, politicians, artists, local council workers, psychologists, managers, teachers, builders, geologists, students, retirees, engineers, designers that make up the mix. There's so many interesting things that people are doing and you rarely find this kind of mix in your work, family, social, sporting, political etc life. I really feel that my years at my local dog park have added a great deal of stimulation, happiness and connection to my life.

Again, it's not for everyone but certainly a dog has not just been a loving addition to our home life, but has been a key way we have branched into different and new friendships. It's nice because it's regular and social without being obligatory.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:59 AM on January 9, 2011

Adult Education programs have great classes in cooking, painting, gardening, etc. Volunteering as a tax preparer, political campaigner, visiting elders, etc. She could am for 2 events/week out of the house/office. It will stimulate her creativity and she'll meet new people.
posted by theora55 at 8:41 AM on January 9, 2011

Try this maybe? Also, my parents in law have made a lot of friends of all stripes in their retirement community (for anyone over 55) by joining the photography club, the democrats club etc.
posted by bananafish at 9:25 AM on January 9, 2011

She needs to join the local political party of her choice, then get active helping out in the campaign of someone she likes. She will meet vibrant, active, intelligent, interesting people no matter which group she joins!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:50 PM on January 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ten years ago my mom (roughly the same age as yours) got divorced. At the time she didn't really have any close local friends, but now she's got a packed social calendar and lots of great friends in her life. How she met people:

- Al-Anon (obviously not necessarily applicable for your mom, but it was wonderful for mine. Nonjudgmental people who understood things; a chance to meet new faces. Good training wheels for the bike ride of making new friends.) She's since moved on from Al-Anon but has found a similar sense of community and welcoming at a church.

- Accepting invitations to lots of things she wasn't necessarily super gung-ho about (card games, crafty workshops, watching hit TV shows with coworkers, one-off volunteer events, lectures or games at the local college, etc.). Sometimes the things she wasn't really interested in turned into longterm hobbies, like

- Rowing. She lives near a river and there are lots of rowing clubs; she was never particularly sporty, but there were/are a lot of people her age at this particular club. Because there are a lot of multi-rower boats (I still don't remember all the terminology, sorry Mom!) it's really a team sport, so there's a lot of scheduled interaction and opportunities to work with people. It's been great for her physically and socially.

And speaking of team sports: when I worked at a gym, the tennis courts were ALWAYS booked by people in our moms' demographic; it seemed to be a pretty social scene.
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered at 1:34 PM on January 9, 2011

posted by jvilter at 12:23 AM on January 12, 2011

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