My husband and I made a decision five years ago to leave Florida and retire to North Carolina. Leaving friends was the hardest part of that decision. At 65 and 61 years of age respectively, we knew that we would have to be proactive about finding a new circle of friends in our new town.
As a couple, we like to golf, listen to live music, eat at great restaurants and go to (and host) parties. It was important to us to have some friends who enjoyed similar things.
At the five year mark (which we passed in October), we feel good that we have met a lot of interesting people and have developed a handful of special friends.
Initially, reaching out wasn’t easy. We knew only one person when we got to town – our real estate agent. It had been quite some time since we had needed to connect with new people. It felt like we were starting to date after going through a divorce.
But, we were lucky in several ways: Our neighbors across the street were especially generous with their introductions to new people. We joined a golf club and attended several events for newcomers where we met other newcomers to the area. Our real estate agent invited us to a couple of events where we met other friends and clients of hers. Ray re-connected with a grade school buddy who he hadn’t seen in 40 years and he and his wife have become friends. We reached out and reconnected with a former business colleague who now lives in Asheville with her husband. We contacted several people at the recommendation of other business colleagues and Florida friends. Through these connections, we then met some of their friends and acquaintances. It’s been fun and interesting.
It has also, at times, been challenging.
As we met people, we had to zero in on those that both Ray and I felt that we wanted to get to know better. Then we had to decide whether to ask them out to dinner, or to our home, or to a concert.
Once decided, we had to “put ourselves out there” and see if they were interested, as we were, in getting together. Then, once connected, we had to learn things about them to continue to test our mutual compatibility.
Finally, most difficult of all, we had to remember what we learned!
Let me digress. At this age, neither of us has a great memory. More than ever, if I don’t write things down, they are likely to disappear off my radar screen. And Ray’s memory is at least as bad as mine.
So, that means that we can have a nice time with new potential friends, enjoy our discussions, decide we’d like to continue exploring the friendship and then promptly forget things we learned about them.
It’s happened more than once – and it happens the other way, too, since many of our potential friends have their own memory challenges.
Here’s an example: While our husbands talked about golf, one woman and I spent close to two hours over dinner talking about our work lives and the fact that neither of us had children but shared daughters and grandkids with our husbands. We also talked about pets and what we like about Asheville. At our next dinner, about three months later, she asked what I did for a living, whether I had children, how long we’ve been in Asheville, and if we had pets. Déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would have said! I have to admit, I didn’t feel good on the receiving end of this exchange.
Since I’d rather not be perceived as a person who doesn’t listen or remember previous discussions, I am doing two things to help myself and Ray.
First, I hone in on four things to remember when I meet a new person or couple:
- What did they do in their careers? (Or what are they doing now for work?)
- How many children/ grandchildren do they have? (Separately or together)
- What do they enjoy doing for fun?
- Do they have a pet, and if so, what’s its name?
I think these are important issues to all of us baby-boomers and have found that using one or all of these pieces of information at the next encounter is appreciated – and often surprising. You remembered that? People seem especially happy if you remember their pet’s name!
Second, I jot down these few tidbits of information in a notebook as soon as I can. Of course, I then have to remember to pull out the notebook before seeing the person/couple the next time!
I don’t think it’s easy to develop new friendships in later life. But, as one of the many baby-boomers who has decided to retire to another city and state, I have come to appreciate how important it is to make the effort – even when it’s uncomfortable or when it takes some extra work and memory tricks.
For me, developing new friendships has been a large part of my journey to feeling connected and happy in Asheville. (Of course, finding the right hair stylist, nail tech and masseuse have ranked right up there too!)
PS: Here’s an interesting article I found called “6 Ways Friendships Grow More Complicated As You Get Older”.