How to make her a social butterfly?
June 3, 2007 12:26 PM   Subscribe

My mother will be living alone in DC next year. I'm worried that she's going to spend her evenings alone and depressed. Help me think of stuff for her to do.

My parents have lived in DC for probably 20 years, but, starting in the fall, my dad will start working out of state and come home only on alternate weekends. I'm moving out of the country around the same time. So my mother will be on her own without my dad and me as resources. We've talked about ways to get her more involved and more out of the house (she tends to spend most evenings in bed watching TV or reading; no, she is not depressed). I've been full of encouragement but short on concrete ideas.

A couple of the things I think she might like: classically-minded book clubs, volunteering (ESL in the evenings somewhere? women's advocacy?), sewing classes, exercise classes (not sure she would go for that last one). I'm really looking for activities that will allow her to meet people and make friends. Do people have other ideas or recommendations for stuff in the DC area?

(As background, my mother is mid-50s, fairly traditional, fairly quiet, likes reading, gardening, sewing; does not like exercise, large animals, or popular culture, is generally a homebody and will sometimes stop things before they have a chance to work out.)

General advice or insight on managing solitary parents would be appreciated as well.
posted by bluenausea to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hi bluenausea -

Two subquestions:

1) Does your mom have a degree? If she doesn't, it might be great for her to head (back?) to college. Lots of universities have "continuing"/"adult"/"reentry" programs for learners past traditional college age; my mom (who sounds eerily similar to yours) is looking into a bunch right now, but in a different part of the country. It'd be useful if she decides to start and then continue working in the non-profit/volunteer/education sectors too, and it's a complex/big enough place that there's lots to get involved with besides classes.

2) Where in DC is she? W/r/t volunteering or something, do you think she'd be willing to commute across the city or take public transit if the position was on the other side of town?
posted by mdonley at 12:40 PM on June 3, 2007

Best answer: I think volunteering is the way to go.

I know a woman in a similar situation who decided to be a Big Sister. She found it to be very rewarding for a solitary type of person-- you are only interacting with the one younger person, which can be a normal fit for anyone who is a parent. It's also potentially less intimidating than joining a big group of some kind. is a great way to find volunteer opportunities in general. Here is a listing of all the volunteer opportunities that have been posted in DC
posted by paddingtonb at 12:58 PM on June 3, 2007

I don't understand why you're worried, you said she's not depressed, has hobbies, she sounds like a normal woman in her 50s. Isn't she capable of finding things to do if she wants to do them? Are you worried she can't shop for herself, or get to appointments, is in some kind of danger...
I'm almost 50 and am so relieved to finally have an empty nest I LOVE TO VEG- the house is quiet after almost 30 years of loud ruckus, messes- I can actually do what I want at home for once.
posted by bkiddo at 1:12 PM on June 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

For exercise, she could do something like a ballet class - my mom goes to one, once a week, that is what she calls "the fat old ladies' class", and she has a grand old time with her buddies there. A slow yoga class might be good in a similar vein: not super-taxing, you don't break a sweat, but still a nice thing to get out and see people once a week. Both of these would be quieter and more tranquil - no loud dancey pop music - than other exercise classes. Maybe she could go with a neighbor or friend on Saturday, and then go have lunch together?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:29 PM on June 3, 2007

Best answer: Volunteering is certainly the easy answer; there are plenty of opportunities for that in DC, with hundreds of elected officials if not with a charity.

Between Olsson's and Politics and Prose, there are book readings just about every weeknight in DC.

DC has more thinktanks per capita than any other city in the US; get on the mailing list of four or five or six of the ones she feels sympatico with, and it's like a great college seminar in public policy issues without the grades, and with people who actually know what they're talking about--events just about every day of the week (though, like college, it's slower in the summertime).

The Smithsonian has lots of interesting programs.

DC Film Society.

Join and go out for lunch at the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants in DC with a big crowd of foodies.
posted by commander_cool at 1:44 PM on June 3, 2007

My mom joined a quilting circle that met once a week. She joined it for strictly quilting-related purposes, but she ended up making a bunch of friends, because you naturally talk to people while you're sewing. I don't know very much about the D.C. craft scene, but it might be worth calling a fabric store and asking if they know about such things. (That's assuming that quilting appeals to your mother. One look at all those little pieces makes me want to run away screaming.)

You didn't say if your mom likes to knit, but there are definitely similar things for knitters. There's probably a local knitting store that has an in-store knitting circle one evening a week. You might offer to accompany her a couple of times before you leave so she can check it out and see if it's her scene.

The Smithsonian offers classes through their resident associates program. Maybe she could get a catalog and see if there's anything that looks appealing.

When most people think of volunteering, they think of social service type gigs where you help people face-to-face. If that sounds appealing, there are probably a ton of opportunities to do that, but it's not the only kind of volunteering out there. Is there a local gardening society at which she could volunteer? How about some sort of sewing for charity thing? (There are a ton of knitting for charity organizations that do things like knit caps for premies or people getting chemotherapy.) If she were looking for a weekend activity, I'd say to look into being a docent at something like a historic house, but I doubt that would work for evenings.

I'm sure she'll be fine, for what it's worth.
posted by craichead at 1:45 PM on June 3, 2007

Does she actually _want_ to be a social butterfly? This may sound obvious, but make sure that she actually wants to participate in these activities.
posted by JDHarper at 1:57 PM on June 3, 2007

A book club sounds like something she would enjoy (from what little we know about her). I also think some sort of adult enrichment class would be a fun way to meet new people (may I recommend a foreign language? that opens up a whole new nation of potential friends!).
posted by ilsa at 1:59 PM on June 3, 2007

All the above suggestions are great, I'd like to add one more.

Get your mom a Metafilter account and show her AskMe.
posted by fiTs at 2:18 PM on June 3, 2007

The Kennedy Center has some interesting classical music related programs. So does WETA. She could also become a WETA volunteer!

Would something like DAR appeal? My MIL, a pretty traditional southern lady, has made a lot of friends in her local DAR chapter (southern Fairfax County).

How about religion? If your family attends or is active in a faith, there are always opportunities there.

Or, you know, she might be happy the way she is. I don't know. It's sweet of you to worry and you definitely know your mom better than we do, but be sure you aren't worrying unnecessarily.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 2:50 PM on June 3, 2007

Contra dancing. My SO's mom lives north of DC, in Columbia MD, and she has a whole social group thing going on with the contra dancing. It's not couples dancing, I think, but big group-type line or circle folk dancing -- very fun.
posted by amtho at 5:41 PM on June 3, 2007

Have you tried checking out
posted by hannahq at 9:01 PM on June 3, 2007

The Newseum will be reopening in the fall and is looking for volunteers.
posted by stevis23 at 9:35 PM on June 3, 2007

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