It’s been a busy retirement week for me in my efforts to get involved and make new friends here in Florida. Pete and I celebrated our birthday with a barbeque at our house with new friends Sunday. We golfed on morning, went out to see a band with neighbors Wednesday night and then out to dinner with family last night. I played cards, Bunco and Mahjong with new friends. I sat through a volunteer meeting on how to read books to kids in a local elementary school and walked dogs at the local animal shelter. I wrote a blog post and even worked at the beach with the horses one afternoon.
I’m reminded of a Brady Bunch episode where Marcia is a freshman in High School. Her friends all went to different schools so she needs to make new friends and humorously signs up for all the clubs offered at her new school. She signs up for Karate, yoga, ceramics and even the Boosters who are a bunch of snobby girls who adhere to strict social rules.
Somehow I have begun to get involved in so many different groups that it’s time to reflect and prioritize.
Like Marcia, I left many friends behind when I moved to Florida and worry I will not have friends in my new environment. Research says that having friends is good for your physical health. Friendships can decrease your risk of health problems like diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Making new friends is important and keeping busy doing fun activities is enjoyable too.
I often hear people talk about how hard it is to make new friends. A lack of friends can lead to loneliness and depression and that is something I hear quite often from widows and widowers after they lose a loved one.
Here is what I know:
1. You need to get involved
This is where the internet can be such a big help. Is there a newcomers group in your town? Just Google “newcomers group near me” and see what shows up. Florida has so many newcomers arriving each day that groups are sprouting up all the time. Some may have a membership fee and some are just trying to coordinate get togethers. I am in several widow and widower groups, Manatee married meet ups and Beautiful Aging Girlfriends or BAGS. As the groups get more established, a calendar filled with events will become available. Sign up and try one out. The more you show up for these events, the more comfortable you will become with the procedure.
2. Join a gym
A great place to take classes and see the same faces over and over again is in a yoga, exercise, or dance class. Exercise will do all kinds of wonderful things for your mental and physical health, and you just may meet your next good friend in that class.
3. Get a job
Even though many of us moving to Florida may have retired, getting a job is a great way to meet people. What if you get a fun job with like minded people. You will have people to talk to and make some extra money. Win win!
I’m thinking that something like Habitat for Humanity would be a great place to meet new people who have similar interests. You would be helping someone get affordable housing and maybe learn some new skills. Volunteering in a senior citizen center or nursing home would be a nice place to help older folks struggling with loneliness or physical limitations. Schools are often welcome to having helpers read with children in the classroom. The Rotary club often coordinates partnerships with schools. Museums, parks, and theaters look for volunteers and of course animal shelters are always looking for people to walk the dogs or spend time with the animals.
5. Play cards or Mahjong
Never thought I knew how to play any of these games but within one year I’ve had multiple opportunities to play cards and games with like minded people in my neighborhood. These games can be fun and strategic and seeing the same faces over and over brings a new comfort level to all.
6. Book clubs and Libraries
If you like to read, finding a local book club is great. If you can’t find one, the library can help you with the many different activities available. Book clubs, classes, one-on-one tech help and even memoir writing are popular activities offered in libraries.
Get a copy of my memoir here:
So, if you follow these ideas you will be so busy in no time at all. Just like me and Marcia. You will have clubs and events scheduled nonstop.
What did happen to Marcia you ask?
Well, those snobby girls came to her house to see if they approved of her home and lifestyle. Marcia was trying hard to impress and told her brother Peter to not set up his model volcano at this time. Peter insists he won’t be any trouble and hooks up the volcano to an old car battery. Smoke billows and mucky mud soars into the air landing on Marcia and the Booster club members.
The girls scream and slip all over the place and Marcia realizes that this is actually pretty funny and laughs. The girls promptly de-invite her from the club and walk off in a huff. Marcia learns that it’s no loss to her, and narrows down her commitments to only the ceramics club which she was really interested in after all.
So, once you have opened yourself up to the many different opportunities to make new friends, it may be time to deepen the casual acquaintances. This step takes some work and may be a time to realize like Marcia did that not fitting in with every group is OK.
How to initiate a deeper friendship?
- Suggest doing something outside of the group. Did you meet someone who likes to take walks for exercise? Find some different parks or neighborhoods to explore and walk and talk.
- Is someone interested in playing pickleball or golf? Maybe elephant yoga? An art exhibit? Make a date and stick with it.
- If they are part of a couple, suggest going out to dinner as couples to a local restaurant. Everyone eats so think of a place you’d like to check out and go.
- Send a text or call to find out if new friend will be at an upcoming event. “Are you playing cards tomorrow?” opens up an opportunity to carpool or meet for lunch before the event.
- Show up. Be present and engage in conversation. Ask questions and be interested in the other people.
- Remember names!! This is so hard, but if you remember someone’s name and something about them it could be the beginning of something wonderful.
Making friends as an adult can feel awkward, but lots of people are in the same boat. Busy parents who now find themselves as empty nesters and weekends suddenly free from the sports and activity overload their kids had them involved in will wonder what do to with themselves. Everyone has a story and while some are similar, as an adult it can be very interesting to engage with new people.
Sometimes you may encounter that Booster club that Marcia had to deal with.
It reminds me of how my mom felt about joining a golf league when she moved to Florida for the winter months. She had been playing for many years so joined the group thinking it would be a fun way to make new friends. My mom loved to laugh and I am sure she was out there with a simple goal of having a good time. Unfortunately, the group of ladies she played with did not love to laugh as much and took the game very seriously. After a few weeks of playing with them and then stressing about playing, she quit. It was not anything that brought her joy so as Marie Kondo would suggest, she kissed it good bye.
As for me, I do enjoy meeting new people but am also beginning to make some friendships with people I like spending time with and realizing that other groups may not be my cup of tea.
Have a great week and keep moving forward my friends!