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Whether you’re six years old or sixty, you’ll probably agree that you need a support network of friends in your life. Think of the school child walking into that huge school building for the first time with one or two burning questions on his mind. The first one is all about the teacher and the second one surely is “Will I make new friends?”

Adults are much the same way. We treasure our long-term friendships, but for many reasons, such as moving to a new location or taking on a new job, we may need to make some new ones too. Often as we grow older we lose some of our most precious relationships through health conditions or even through the death of one dearly loved. And, it’s harder to make new friendships as we age for many reasons.

The old Girl Scout adage: Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold, is so true. Human beings are relational by nature—we need others to make sense out of life, to enjoy new experiences, to remember special times shared. Friends give perspective to our life journey. Friends make life richer and fuller.

If making friends is a problem for you or someone you know, no matter the person’s age, there are ways to change behavior and make the search for meaningful friendships a successful one. Here are some ideas that may help.

1)  Find people with similar interests and strike up a conversation. Make it a habit to introduce yourself when attending an event. Whether you’re at a sporting event or attending a community meeting, be bold enough to reach out to those around you. Often others are not speaking up because they are rather shy—don’t be afraid to make the first move, but in a polite and friendly manner.

2)  Think of the natural ways your lifestyle interfaces with others. If you have young children you may find new friends through daycare centers, through school events, or through meeting others for play dates, etc. If you have an interest in music you may find others who want to attend a concert with you. If you’re an older adult you may find that there are people at church or at the Senior Center who would enjoy having a nice meal together.

3)  Join a club or an organization. There are endless opportunities to meet with others who enjoy the same things you do. Try gardening clubs, book clubs, take a cooking class or attend a lecture on a favorite topic. Take a class to write your memoirs, try a new sport such as golf or tennis. You’ll meet some nice people at the meetings or classes.

4)  Volunteer in your community. There are again, countless opportunities to give of your time and abilities. You don’t need to be skilled to volunteer in your local school, hospital, or outreach to the poor. You’ll find like-minded people who are also giving in this way.

5)  Smile and be friendly when you meet people. Look people in the eye and be willing to share a few words with them. Try to improve the skill of remembering names so you can call people by their own name—a sure way to compliment them and engage them in further conversation.

6)  Stay well-versed on current events or topics of interest to others. Take an interest in the likes and dislikes of those you meet. Ask about their children or their pets. Ask about vacations or hobbies they enjoy. People love to know you care about their lives.

7)  Take care to protect yourself from dangerous liaisons, whether meeting in person or online. True friendships take shape over time, so be patient with both yourself and others. Just be yourself and remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

8)  If you are over fifty and looking for online friendship opportunities look at these sites in both the U.K. and the U.S.

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