There is a paradox to finding friends during later-middle age: at age 55, there is little time; at ages after 65, there may be fewer people. Seeking active, fun- loving friends as you transition between middle and older age leverages both the social networks you have built in life and the social smarts that come with greater maturity. Finding fun-loving, active friends during later-middle age or younger-old age will bring you many moments of immediate joy and set your feet on the path to active, healthy aging.
Schedule and spend several hours per week building and maintaining friendships. You can find pockets of time that are already available to you, such as mealtime of a weekend. Perhaps you could adopt a rule to spend at least one meal daily with someone with whom you want to develop a relationship. Your consistent investment of time and effort will make you a specialist in the area of finding and keeping friends.
Transform some of your relationships with current networks of friends, coworkers and kin into active and fun-loving close friendships. A well-known theory in social psychology,"proximity theory" asserts that friendships are most likely to come from people who are accessible and may already be involved in your life. This strategy is particularly useful if you have limited time to venture into unexplored pockets of people.
Look for friends among people who are similar to you. Perhaps they like what you like. Or they may go to your same church or share your political beliefs. They may have similar tastes in music, art, or television shows. A large body of psychological research shows consistently that people like others whom they perceive to be similar to themselves.
Build a reputation as an active, fun-loving person. Bring humor to your environment, and limit your time behind the desk and on the couch. Instead, make a practice of doing activities that excite you and could potentially excite other people. Active, fun loving people will find you intriguing and similar to themselves, and will seek your friendship.
Doing social activities with friends on a regular basis seems to protect brain health. In a large study of Chicago residents reported in the November 2011 edition of Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, older persons who were socially active several times a week or month had a 70 percent decreased rate of cognitive decline compared with peers who were rarely or ever socially active.
You may need the support of friends more than ever as you progress through older adulthood. Typical losses that older people go through include the death of a spouse or the need to provide caregiving for an ill family member. In addition to finding friends who can provide activity and fun for the present, is important to find friends who have the qualities to see you through difficult times.
Katrina Miller is a medical writer specializing in behavioral health. She has been published in "Family Perspectives" and the "Salt Lake Tribune." She has a doctoral degree in Family and Human Development from Utah State University.