For some of us, making friends comes as easily as making a cup of tea, but for those who need a gentle shove in the right direction it can be a daunting task. Whether you've moved to a new area, are feeling lonely, or find yourself needing to rebuild a circle of trusted pals, it may not be easy but it can be done. We've gathered the most useful pieces of advice from the collective wisdom of over 300,000 gransnetters to help you feel confident making friends later in life.
"Smile. Smile at everyone. And eye contact. Eyes and teeth!"
It might seem obvious, but the simplest solutions can be the most effective. Putting yourself out there can be nerve-wracking, especially if you're feeling a bit lonely. But a friendly, warm smile will make you not only look more approachable, but feel it too. Evidence suggests that smiling can trick your brain into lowering your stress levels, helping you feel more at ease when meeting new people. Besides, a person with a smile on their face is a much more appealing friendship prospect than someone with a frown. So grin and bear it, no matter how nervous you are.
"Over the years I have joined many established classes and groups - choirs, art classes, writing groups, theatre study groups, etc. - and have always found people to be welcoming and friendly."
By finding something that you enjoy doing, chances are you will naturally meet others who approach it with the same passion, and you'll already have some common ground to start with. Useful, eh?
The internet is your greatest tool when it comes to seeking interest groups in your local area. Search engines and social media sites can help you find activities that are accessible to you. Meetup is also another way to arrange gatherings with people who have the same interests as you.
So whether you're a baking aficionado, want to join a heated book club or love a good ramble in the countryside, there are plenty of groups to pique your interest while helping you meet new people.
Why not try setting up a special interest group of your own on the Gransnet local forums? That way you know everyone is in the same boat and no-one's coming into the group as the new person.
"Don't be afraid to start something and drop it if it doesn't suit you- sometimes it takes a while to find a niche. Lots of people enjoy U3A as it offers a good range of activities."
While you're out there making friends, you may as well have the added bonus of learning a brand new skill. From art to zoology, and just about everything in between, U3A (The University of the Third Age) offers a range of activities you can try your hand at in a friendly and informal setting.
Struggling to think of what conversation you'll strike up with your new friends? Fear not, as you'll already have your course as a starting point, and it's likely that others will be there with the purpose of meeting new people.
“This website has brought people into our lives who we share common bonds with and help along life's rough highway, giving companionship, support and love to each other."
Not only is Gransnet a great way to make virtual friends, many use the site to arrange meet ups with others in the same area. Organised by gransnetters for gransnetters, the meetups are a great way to make friends with people in your community. They're also a great way to consume cake. Lots of it.
"I've made wonderful friends over the years through volunteering, in fact one of my best friends of 25 years came through us volunteering together."
Through volunteering, you're also likely to encounter a wealth of people of all ages and backgrounds which, coupled with the altruistic nature of giving up your time for a cause, makes for a wholly rewarding experience.
Note: Small animals in baskets do not come as rewards unfortunately.
"Our local gym does great daytime classes. People trot off afterwards for coffee all the time. You feel quite different after a class I assure you. Say yes to lots of things and friends emerge."
Let those endorphins inspire you and become a member of your closest gym. Exercise classes in particular, from the high impact to the more restorative, are a great way to strike up a conversation.
Plus, it's a well-known fact that exercise keeps you fit and happy at the same time. Just remember the golden rules: smile, engage... and don't forget to pack a clean gym kit.
Don't expect to meet your new best friends on your first trip though. It may take a few sessions, but you will start to see the same faces and get more comfortable speaking to them with each class you attend.
If you're worried about getting active, try a gentle tai chi class - it's a great way to meet new people while also scoring a multitude of health benefits too. Win win.
If you've lost contact with someone and would like to get back in touch, we also have plenty of tips on how to reconnect with old friends...