• Few or No Friends

Getting Older: Fighting loneliness in small steps

Published: October 1, 2012 | Last Updated: August 9, 2015 By | 30 Replies Continue Reading

Recently, a reader named Peggy sent The Friendship Doctor an email that explains how she combats feelings of loneliness through some of her interests. She challenges other readers to identify the positive ways they keep busy, get out, and connect with friends.  

You can read her letter (lightly edited) below. What are some ways you keep loneliness at bay?

Dear Irene,

I am 64 (almost 65) and I read about some of the messy situations of others in my age group. It seems there are a lot of people here who are depressed and say that others are mean to them.

I have lived through the death of my son at age 27, a revolution in Iran, and the alienation of my daughter. I created a new family, now grown up. My son is a lawyer and I would like to see him more but he has his own life. I don’t want him to be tied to me. I have created me own life through the years and have very few friends but that’s okay since I have hobbies. I knit, and have two dogs and four lovebirds.

Now the way I see it is I have two choices. I can do nothing or I can get on something like this and make new friends. I suffer from depression but I take my meds so that doesn’t get the better of me. My girlfriend and I clip coupons out of the paper so we can have lunch together, and we go to thrift shops and sometimes go on $25 a day trips on the bus.

I get scared, too, but I remember it’s only a feeling and I can change it. We all know what we feel and try to empathize but that only keeps you in the same place. So why not find out what positive things each person likes to do, let them post pics, and get some real positive feedback? I knit and live in Maryland. Who else does? What else do they do?


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Category: Coping with loneliness

Comments (30)

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  1. Luella Nicholson says:

    I am a 77 year old senior lady who has to stay at home a lot as I have health problems.

    They are osteoporosis, copd, and I have had a back injury and was in hospital for ten days. As a result of this back injury (osteoporosis), I am confined to a wheel chair when I go out.

    I walk under my own steam around my home, but I have
    such a problem breathing that I must sit down often to catch my breath what with my breathing problems.

    I am not complaining as I am so very thankful of the things that I can do.

    My son takes me out on Wednesdays to shop and have lunch. He also comes over and does the housework that I cannot physically do in my condition.

    My son is 58 yrs old, married, and he retired in January from a Government job that he had for 38 years.

    I mention him as he seems to be the only way I can get out, go to doctor, etc.

    But I so do enjoy reading the life situations of other people, and I find that I relate to them quite a bit.

    I have two other grown children, one lives in the States, I live in Canada. My youngest son, 50 yrs old, lives out here but is so busy with his job and his life that I do not see him that much, once every ten days or so.

    I really do wish that I had a friend that I could talk about things with. This is another reason why I enjoy your blogs.

    Bye for now.

  2. Irene says:

    It’s pretty complex to migrate the data from one platform to another and I have to depend on other people 🙂

    Best, Irene 

  3. Anonymous says:

    People are very dogmatic about certain things. Food and exercise are two big ones. Ever tell someone you are planning such and such diet plan? They will immediately tell you you should be following another plan. Ditto for exercise. It could be they worry you will hurt yourself somehow if you don’t exercise in the way they do. Now that I have seen several senior citizens who were long time runners have multiple surgeries, some pretty serious, and watched them limp around in their golden years, I am tempted to tell runners to look out. But I don’t. Thanks for your support! I am about to start on a new scarf, now that there’s finally a nip in the air. And thanks to this thread I am going to find another knitting class or group this fall and give it another try. Knitters have one thing in common, that’s for sure: the LOVE of creating things via yarn and needles.

  4. Anonymous says:

    when will it take place?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m intrigued when you say libraries don’t have book clubs for the books you like to read, but you don’t read garbage either. Right now I’ve got Mary Gordon’s novel “Final Payments” on my nightstand. I loved it when I read it back in the late 1970s, but have thankfully forgotten most of it. So it will be like reading it all anew. See, I care more about rereading an old treasure than reading some of these current books, such as The Help. I am not putting down contemporary books. I’m just saying I’m at the stage of my life where I want to read what I want to read. Of course in a book club I would try to read what the group wants. What is on your nightstand right now?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hello to the anonymous poster who mentioned working with homeless people and books. Will you please elaborate on this? I would love to know more. Is it some type of reading group you have organized with them? It sounds lovely.

  7. Anonymous says:


    I just want to say I think incorporating a reading forum would be a great idea. Some of my most longstanding online connections have been made as the result of connecting over books.

    This has been true even in the work I’ve done which has been working with homeless people for many years.

    Thank you.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’ve heard good things about THE HELP, but the best judge of what appeals to you is you.

    I do have an email address I can be reached at (not under my actual name, for anonymity purposes):

    [email protected] if you’d like to try reaching me there.

  9. Irene says:

    Let me know when you want to contribute a humor column 🙂

    Best, Irene 

  10. Anonymous says:

    Here at The Old Folks Home we have old computers and thus slow processors and thus dated versions of browsers. So the more you update your site, the less likely we at TOFH will be able to navigate it quickly. And with Old Folks, time is, you know, of essence. 🙂


    I like the current blog’s look and give kudos to your son. I don’t think it looks dated. It is very user friendly. Sometimes "new" isn’t always better." I hope you will continue to put up images and headlines that sometimes give some of us pause and make us laugh. As for the internal changes YOU need to make, as the Wizard of Oz behind his curtain, I know nothing about that and realize that from THAT end you gotta do what you gotta do. I hope I am still able to visit the site. I have no plans to upgrade my computer. I am using up all my money for rent at The Old Folks Home.

  11. Irene says:

    I hope it will make the user experience better! Don’t think it will require any different computer or browser because it will be optimized for most.

    It’s now on a Drupal platform and I want to have it switched over to WordPress so it is easier for me to make changes.

    Also, I want to switch from a chronological organizations, purely, to categories so it makes it easier to read and post under various topics.

    Finally, I want to make it prettier and more contemporary. This site was developed by my son, when he was in high school, five years ago and looks pretty dated by today’s standards.

    Keep your eyes open for the announcement. Should be ready in about a month.

    Best, Irene 



  12. Anonymous says:

    Irene, why are you redesigning the blog?
    Will it require a fast computer and browser?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I responded to you, but didn’t type it in the right place on the page. It was about not knowing why I like a book. I might be too scattered to be a big contributor, but I could add a comment or two about something that struck me about a book, if there is a book club thread here. I hate even thinking about Weight Watchers points. It exasperates me to even hear the term Weight Watchers points, so I promise there will be none of that from me.
    🙂 I’m too shy for Facebook, though. Won’t go near it.
    Speaking of books, I picked up The Help at the library recently. Cannot get into it. The dialect throws me off. It seems so tedious and contrived when author’s do that, and they can’t carry it off consistently. I get distracted by the contracted words and the apostrophes.
    Also, I would prefer reading a nonfiction account of that era, from someone who lived during that time. I’m wondering if I should give this book another shot, though.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I am not always able to pinpoint why I like something. I think I bring too much personal stuff to my reading. I like to read about humans trying to get along with others; people who struggle. I often don’t remember all the details, even if it’s a book I’m currently reading. I have an “ADD” type of personality, jumping from one book to another. I am pretty busy and scattered. My coffee table is filled with books with bookmarks. When I’m in an organized book discussion the “intellectual” part that alienates me is when they start comparing the author’s work to other works, works I may have read but don’t remember; or haven’t read. The others in the book club always claim they are unassuming and are just reading for pleasure. They don’t always really get into symbols, metaphors, and themes. But they do turn out to be quite intelligent and educated, and they seem to have a concentration ability that I don’t have. They seem to have been able to read deeply and widely and solidly, and can draw on that for discussions. Whereas my comment tends to be a rather superficial detail I noticed and was intrigued by. I cannot always put it into a context that lends itself to a group discussion. That’s why the spontaneous chat with a coworker about a book is more up my alley. If I were in a club that actually did bring up the terms themes, symbols, and metaphors, I’d just curl up into a fuzzy ball of yarn==was that a metaphor? not sure … 🙂

  15. Irene says:


    Your timing is perfect! I’m just finalized the redesign of The Friendship Blog and migrating it to a new content management system. I will see if there is some what that this idea can be incorporated.

    Best, Irene 

  16. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry you havens been able to find a book club that would welcome your comments. The book clubs I’ve known haven’t been limitted to just intellectuals, and what you want to say about what you read sounds intelligent as well.

  17. Anonymous says:

    That’s exactly what I meant. I don’t mind if the conversation becomes intellectual, but it’s this forced intellectualism over something that I do for enjoyment that I find off-putting.

    Quite often I think people invent these interpretations over symbolism, themes, metaphors, that the authors never intended — just for the sake of seeming intellectual.

    I’d rather discuss what a great job the author did of building suspense or how s/he created such a powerful female character, how the author managed to inject some humor in the plot. That’s what makes reading a pleasure.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your reply. I like to stay anonymous on here, too, but I am on Irene’s page on Facebook. I wonder if there’s a way we can connect without revealing our identities here.

    Yes, the best book discussions I’ve been involved in are the ones that are spontaneous. Libraries generally don’t have book groups over the types of books I read, although I don’t read garbage.

    I, too, have been involved in online book groups and agree that they often end up discussing everything but the books (like how many Weight Watchers points they used that day — it’s an okay discussion if that’s the function of the group) or they deteriorate into cliques. You’d think that wouldn’t happen online, but it does.

    I think it’d be great to have a Book Lover thread.

    And thanks for the validation of my thoughts about this sense of alienation being due to the economy in part.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I love to read, too. I love to read what I want to read, when I want to read it. I will suddenly get a yearning to read something or someone in particular and will go with that. I always wish to find someone to talk to about the book. Like you said, not to prove what an intellect I am. Just to share my enthusiasm or interest in the book. I have been to book clubs where I felt cowed. It wasn’t enough I liked the book. I had to then answer “no” to a barrage of “Have you read this and this and this and this?” My best discussions of books have been those “out of nowhere” ones; where you are talking to someone you know and a book comes up and you both start talking excitedly about it. A spontaneous chat. Once you are in an organized book club, you can feel like you have to “prepare,” as if you were in school. I went to one at the public library and it was brutal in that way. I was always feeling over my head. I have gone to online book clubs, too, only to find that the comments fall off for months at a time, or else everyone talks about everything but the book itself, sharing instead details about their personal life. That’s nice, if that’s what you want. I’m too shy for that. I have heard that goodreads is a good site to just jump into and mention a book you’ve liked. Maybe we could try that. On second thought, maybe there could be a “book lover thread” on Irene’s friendship blog? My name is AnonymousAnnie. What is yours? (P.S. I agree the economy has been a negative factor on friendships.)

  20. Anonymous says:

    I think her comment wasn’t that she couldn’t find a book club. She was saying she wanted to find a book club for people who read for pleasure. She doesn’t want an intellectual book club. I know just how she feels. I too have been to book clubs where I felt I were in a graduate school seminar rather than a place where you could just discuss a book you enjoyed.

  21. Anonymous says:

    There are book groups at most libraries. Give it a try 🙂

  22. Anonymous says:

    My favorite hobby is reading and there seems to be a lack of groups really devoted to reading for pleasure. I don’t read to prove what an intellectual I am. I read to be entertained.

    Also, connecting with people online is good, but it’s not the same as face-to-face contact. Most of the friends I used to rely on were connections made through work, and that is no longer part of my life, so neihter are most of them.

    People just seem to be getting colder and more distant and loyalty seems a hard quality to come by. I don’t know how much the economy might have to do with it, but I think it’s a factor.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Keep knitting those scarves! I only knit scarves also! I have had a similar experience of goung to the gym. My workout routines have vacillated but i have my things i like yo do. It’s one of the best things i do for myself, and friends havecriticized me saying i should jog or walk or not take the classes that i do but other ones? What’s it to them? I don’t tell them to stop jogging and go to the gym, but affirm people for exercising in ways they enjoy. Strange….. If you’re a worker bee be a worker bee 🙂

  24. Anonymous says:

    I’m hopeless, I’lll tell ya. I even felt awkward, inept, and left out when I have tried to join knitting groups. I am not a master knitter, despite classes and years of experience. I have limited interest in doing intricate things. I just enjoy creating easy things and love the look and feel of beautiful yarn, the colors. I guess my “laziness” about “advancing” drives most people nuts. I went to one free knitting group at our local park and listened for half an hour to a woman criticize me for saying I liked following patterns, telling me that was indicative of how I approached life, always needing to follow the rules and guidelines and that I’d never grow mentally if I didn’t stretch myself to do something without following “patterns.” She would have died if I’d confessed I also love cookbooks and following recipes rather than just making things up in the kitchen.
    I went to a local yarn store’s free knitting bee and everyone there was so talented and good at knitting, they inspired and challenged each other and got on well. And I sat there with my scarf, which I was so happy to work on, but which I’d made hundreds of times before. And they couldn’t believe I had been knitting for years. They even have a class there pushing people to “knit more than a scarf.” I feel sometimes we have become a very demanding society. We don’t seem to care about those of us who are content to be the worker bees, not the leaders; the envelope stuffers, not the canvassers who brilliantly convince the undecideds to vote for our candidate of choice; the students and not the teachers of life. I go to events or activities where friendships might be found and have to answer questions about myself, and when people find out what I do,they think I am or “should be by now” an expert, the expert. I feel what I have to offer is just me as me, not as an accomplished “do-er.” But that is not enough, is it. I guess the simple truth is, I’m boring. But I don’t feel that’s right, and I frankly kind of resent it. Anyone at all ever feel this way?

  25. Irene says:

    Can you talk a little more about "what goes on" at Toastmasters?

  26. Anonymous says:

    Interesting post, Irene.

    I think it’s really important to have hobbies that can take you thru your older years. My husband had a lot of hobbies in his younger years but they were all really active (motorcycling, snowmobiling, etc.) Now that he’s had a bypass and isn’t nearly as active, he just watches a lot of TV. He used to enjoy reading but as his eyesight is going, he’s turned to audio books which are great. But he doesn’t do much to stay active.

    Joining service groups (as someone mentioned” is a great idea. I always recommend Toastmasters as it’s non-physical and really makes you feel good.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I really appreciated Peggy’s post and her attempts to find solutions for those of us wanting to find friendships. I have a hard time doing anything right now but putting one foot in front of me and getting through a workday. I am exhausted all the time and no longer try extracurricular things. I will think hard about anything I have done or can do that is a positive step and will post it here. I encourage others who have more on the ball than I do right now to post their ideas, too. I had never heard of Soroptomists, but now, thanks to Anonymous’s reply to Peggy, I have heard of it and will explore that. Thank you, Peggy.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I have recently joined the Soroptomists, which is a service group for women. The group exists to do charitable work to support women in our local community, and throughout the world. I have met many friendly women since joining the group while working on charitable projects and committees. I can’t say I’ve made close friends yet, since it’s only been a few months, but I certainly know and see regularly a lot more people than I used to.

  29. Anonymous says:

    It is great that the letter writer knits1 Knitting clubs are very poular, like book clubs but with knitting. Some do both! It can be a small group if you like, with sharing ideas and helping those that need a hand. The letter writer had some wonderful activities with her friend. Thank you for the suggestions and the letter.

  30. Anonymous says:

    some ideas

    – Take part in online communities at yahoogroups.com
    – when i go walking i only walk up and down my street (it’s a cul-de-sac) because I “know” the people behind the houses so I don’t feel quite so lonely as I walk around
    – i keep the TV on while I’m doing lots of things – just because the TV and sound stop the heartbreaking “silence” around the house/room
    – I fall asleep listening to light talk-back radio

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