Finding friends in Fresno?
September 20, 2014 11:04 PM   Subscribe

My mother moved to Fresno 4 years ago, to be near her sister. She likes it here, more or less. However, she is 65, single, bored, and I have run out of suggestions. Can you help?

Recently she has been bringing up how she would like to have more friends and go out more, but she doesn't know what to do to or where to go. She spends time with her sister and her sister's wife, and has a few friends who all live way out of town. She does not work, and doesn't want to. Her hobbies are fixing up and decorating her house and gardening. She collects shells and other beachy-type things. She does not like taking classes, book clubs, 'mainstream' religious groups, meditation groups, or the local Unitarian church, which she describes as 'too cliquey'.

She also likes to walk, and we have looked for meetups in the area but we can't find any that are at her level of fitness: not serious hiking, just walking on easy trails or on foot paths near the city. Surely there must be some group near Fresno that does this? Or some spiritual group that is open minded, tolerant of the skeptical, and welcoming? She doesn't have a lot of money, so anything expensive is out. She really wants to take vacations and things, but can't afford it. I can't help with this right now, though I hope one day to have money to give her for things like this.

Also relevant: She struggles with lifelong depression and anxiety and will not go to any more therapy. She has been on medication for over 20 years, and is doing better since she moved here and changed meds and doasges, but she is far from happy. I know she thinks of herself as 'unfixable' and incapable of feeling happiness. It just breaks my heart. I am concerned that without a better social network she will fall into a deeper depression and isolate herself further. Suggestions of support groups are welcome, though I doubt she would actually go. I think she needs something light and fun to do that is not physically taxing. She will occasionally try something I suggest, but often she says she wants to and then doesn't do it. I have run out of ideas. I wish I could visit her more often, but I only see her for a week or so a few times a year, as I travel extensively for work and don't live in the area.

Has anyone dealt with this kind of situation? What did you do?
posted by ananci to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there a Red Hat Society near her?
posted by chaiminda at 4:17 AM on September 21, 2014

Start a meetup group for her that focuses on light walking.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 5:20 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Libraries are a source of information about community events. Has she checked out Fresno's Senior Resource Center Library/Services to Seniors and its monthly calendar of senior-oriented events?
posted by Carol Anne at 5:29 AM on September 21, 2014

Have you thought about helping her find volunteer opportunities? If she can read, she can read to children, teach adult literacy, or even shelve library books. She might want to help out at a local animal shelter or even volunteer to work at a local thrift shop that supports a cause she is interested in. Shinzen Garden appears to take volunteers to do easy outdoor work (planting, pruning). Might she might enjoy that? And any volunteering will offer the chance to meet new people.

There must be a senior center nearby that has free/cheap senior activities. In my city, the senior center visits museums, takes short day trips, has decent senior exercise classes, and so on.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 8:20 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

I hate to say it but she's made her decision. She's tried different things and has found them all wanting. You could suggest 700 different things to try, and you may get the same result.

Until your mother changes her attitude and opens herself up to change, I'm afraid there's not going to be a huge shift in her life.

Did she have friends where she used to live? What did she enjoy there? Did she go out with folks, and have the types of connections you expect her to form in Fresno?

I'd suggest on-line dating. Having a partner/companion is nice and will help her not be so all alone. If she finds someone to date, he may have a friend group she can become a part of.

But, you may have to accept that this is how your mother wants to live her life.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:29 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: There are some great suggestions here, everyone. Thank you so much! A few extra details to help guide this:

She balks at the idea of "seniors" groups and "senior" activities. She is a youthful 65, and likes to be around younger people.

She loves animals and children, but she is not interested in volunteer work. I'm not sure why. She doesn't have 'causes' or any strong interests that would motivate her to get involved, I suppose. She does babysit our neighbors' new baby occasionally, which she loves.

No, she did not have friends where she used to live. She was in an 11 year relationship with an alcoholic after she divorced my father (after 26 years) moved out of state with him, and was very isolated. She had a few friends when I was growing up back in Virginia, but they were mostly the wives of my fathers coworkers and some neighbors. She has never really had a lot of friends that she really likes, and says she has a hard time getting along with people.

She tried online dating when she first moved here and was really unsatisfied with the results. She says now she feels 'gun shy' of relationships because she doesn't feel she makes good choices of partners. She has a very codependent relationship pattern, so I hate to say it but I agree with her about making bad choices. She really does want a life partner, though, which is sad.

I know this makes her seem defeatist and resistant to making changes which could help. But I know from my own experience that sometimes all it takes is one little spark to help things begin to shift.

Thanks again :)
posted by ananci at 9:19 AM on September 21, 2014

Would she consider providing temporary foster care to animals in her home? Most animal shelters are always looking for people to do this.
posted by gudrun at 10:58 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing gudrun. She has the perfect schedule for fostering a dog. Some rescue organizations will even help foot the bill for any shots, food, toys, etc.
posted by invisible ink at 12:35 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you enlist your aunt in this project? My mom is more open to suggestions from her peers.
posted by MichelleinMD at 1:07 PM on September 21, 2014

Sierra Club may have hikes for elders.
posted by lathrop at 6:01 PM on September 21, 2014

There is a group called Volkssport which organizes walks. The Fresno chapter is here -- they say their walks are typically 5k and 10k. Perhaps that would be of interest.
posted by elmay at 7:38 AM on September 22, 2014

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