I’m a boomer who moved to a new community and felt lonely. I made friends by doing things I cared about and staying active.

I’m a boomer who moved to a new community and felt lonely. I made friends by doing things I cared about and staying active.
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Ellen Acconcia and her husband holding a notebook while outside in front of a mailbox that says "Kindred Spirit"
Ellen Acconcia and her husband moved to North Carolina early in 2020 and she had to find new ways to make friends.

  • My husband and I moved to a new community early in 2020 and I felt lonely.
  • I decided to take charge of making new friends.
  • To meet new people, I stayed active and pursued my goals, but I also didn’t force it. 

Two weeks after my husband and I moved to North Carolina, I ran down our front steps and landed in the driveway with a broken ankle. It was March 2020, and the world was shutting down due to the pandemic. Locked down and unable to meet neighbors or join community activities, I was now relegated to the couch in a cast.

My husband and I were both still working, so our days were filled with Zoom calls and not much else. I missed seeing colleagues on a regular basis in the office, where some of the day’s most important social interaction happened while zapping lunch in a communal kitchen.

This isolation led to extreme loneliness.

An insular retirement community is great for some, but not all

While many boomers — and younger retirees — are embracing active lifestyles offered within their neighborhoods, there are those of us who move to new places at or near retirement age who find that culture quite insular.

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Finding my place in a new community took time, especially during the solitary days early on in the pandemic. Not content to stay lonely, I took action to forge new friendships and build a fresh social circle.

How I took charge of making new friends

Before we moved, we had a large group of friends of all ages. I sought out ways to recreate that kind of camaraderie among new friends. I always liked yoga but found that, besides the community classes not meshing with my part-time work schedule, I didn’t want to limit myself to meeting only people in my age demographic.

By venturing outside my neighborhood’s clubhouse and signing up at a couple of local studios, I was able to expand my horizons — and my friendship pool. Sure, my community sessions are either free or less expensive, but being out in the world is worth more to me.

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Ellen Acconcia at a big lunch table with friends, there are food and drinks on the table.
Ellen Acconcia has now met many new friends in North Carolina.

I found friends while doing things I cared about

I love books, and searching for opportunities to help my wider community led me to our local literacy council. While representing the council at local events and giving free books to adults and children, I connected with many readers and other volunteers.

I stayed active and found friends who were staying active, too

After my ankle healed, I discovered a local gym offering a 30-minute daily workout. My husband and I are there at least four — and sometimes more — mornings a week. It’s good for our bodies, and with the many new friendships we’ve made there, it has been good for our souls, too.

Ellen Acconcia and her husband standing in front of the gym with towels over their shoulders.
Ellen Acconcia and her husband have met new friends while working out at the gym.

I made sure to keep pursuing my goals

I began to take writing classes and submit my work for publication in pursuit of my dream of becoming published. Now, as a member of a monthly online writing group formed after a recent class I took, I’ve gotten to know other writers from the US and Canada. There’s even someone who joins us from Spain!

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I didn’t force it

Instead of signing up for every activity my community offered, I was choosy. I’m not competitive, so tournament-level pickleball is not for me. I’m a novice in crafts and the fiber arts, so I’d rather keep my rudimentary skills to myself. Now, I play a very relaxed form of Mah Jongg with a group once a month — it’s mentally stimulating and something I have always wanted to learn.

Be patient

Humans have an innate hunger to forge bonds with others. Because much of our experience of loneliness is more about the quality of connections rather than the number of people we know, choosing events and activities strategically is an important element when battling isolation. Don’t rush the work of making new friends. By giving myself permission to go slowly, I found my place.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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