Dilemma: struggling to make new friends

Katharine Whitehorn / 19 January 2016

Agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn hears from a reader who has struggled to make new friends since moving to a new town.



Dilemma: struggling to make new friends

I am 72 and moved to a small town a few years ago. I have a few women friends now, widows in their seventies, but have realised that they will never be “friends” in the sense of my old friends (who do not live nearby).

They are companions for various events and no more. 

Although I have remembered birthdays and always make a phone call when they are ill, this interest is not reciprocated. I am very disappointed, as friendship is important to me. 

Do you think older people are instinctively more wary of new friends? Or have I been unlucky? 

I do have a sister and her family who live near me and I am close to them.

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

I know what you mean: there are people you’ve known all your life who go on being important to you, however different your lives may have become. 

Maybe older people who have plenty of friends but less energy don’t go out of their way to make new friends all that eagerly – as you might not have done yourself if you’d not moved to a new town.

But I’m quite sure you can make very close friendships however old you are: I would say three or four of the people I now most value are women I hardly knew 10 years ago.

Maybe we oldies have to try harder to listen to people, to be amusing, to be good company than we did when we could – well, sometimes anyway – just lay on the charm.

The big question with new people is always: what do you have in common? I think women are quite good at making friendships at different stages of their lives: the ones they meet at the school gate, the ones they share a late hobby with or collaborate with in a charity.

I’ve always, perhaps unfairly, thought that men were more likely to have bonded forever with their schoolmates or the ones they did National Service with and don’t necessarily bother with later additions.

So perhaps you have been unlucky – but maybe, let’s hope, your luck will turn as you get more involved in local concerns.

Read our guide to making new friends.

Our readers say...

We also asked our Facebook followers for their advice...

"The lady is quite right: you will make new acquaintances but they have no shared history with you, eg you can't have an evening reminiscing about the time you did x/y/z. It's very hard."

" Look out for The Oddfellows, they are a friendly society that usually hold lunches and social meetings. Always a lovely group of people. Book clubs as well at the local library."

"Go to about 6 different groups. Go once or twice to each to see what you like best. Aim to then become a regular at 2 or 3 of them. Chat to everyone you come across. If you seem to hit it off with someone, suggest a coffee or a cuppa. Be bold and Good luck! The world is a friendly place."

"Join a U3A. Details of where the nearest one is can be found on national U3A website."

"Volunteer somewhere like a charity shop or maybe join an evening class."

"The church, all denominations."

"Join a local community Centre, they have lots of activities and usually an over 60s day."

"Join the W.I."

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