Many of us fear growing older because we are worried that when we are older we will be lonely. We often see older people sitting in shopping malls who seem to have no friends and nothing to do. We hope that won’t be our fate. What can we do to make sure we still have some friends and a good social life when we are older?

Not all older people are lonely of course. Some older people continue to keep on making new friends and acquaintances no matter how old they get. These are the people who seem to find it easy to talk to anybody about anything.

For every lively, outgoing and friendly older person I know, there are probably three or four who are socially isolated and withdrawn.

For many older people, the descent into loneliness and social isolation starts with a loss. This loss could be the death of their longtime spouse, or it could be the loss of identity and social group that comes with retiring from a long time job. Perhaps their children have moved far away and rarely call.

One reason why many more elderly people have a hard time making new friends is that they are often far less mobile than they used to be. It can be hard to get around when you can no longer drive, and you have to take a walker with you everywhere you go.

Depending where you live, the public transportation system may not be very good, and in the winter time you may not relish the thought of waiting half an hour at a bus stop during a blizzard just to catch a play downtown.

In addition, many older people are on a fixed income and can no longer afford to attend events such as ball games, concerts or movies that they formerly enjoyed.

When I watch the people in my mother’s nursing home, I realize that one of the factors that keeps those elderly residents from making friends is because many of them no longer hear very well. After trying to make conversation a few times with someone who can’t really hear them or understand them, many give up trying.

Another factor that increases loneliness in older people is depression. Depression in the elderly can be triggered by social isolation, poor nutrition, and the emotional reaction to the loss of loved family members and friends. Depression in the elderly can make them withdraw from all social contact.

As you get older, if you think you can only make friends with people who are your own age, you will gradually have fewer and fewer people to choose from. After all, once you are 85, there will be far fewer people your own age, unless you are living in a retirement community or nursing home.

So, what can be done to prevent social isolation when people become older?

If you don’t have much money, look for things you can do that are free. Here is a short list of things you can do to meet new people even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend.

• Look to see if any local colleges or universities offer free classes for older people in subject areas you have always wanted to learn about.

• Volunteer your time. Every community has lots of unmet needs. There are many official volunteer jobs available, and in some cases you can create a volunteer job to fill a need.

• Check out the opportunities at your local church.

• Join a political group and help with their campaigns and fundraising events.

• Join a campaign to save some endangered animal that is important to you.

If you want to grow older successfully, don’t live in the past. To make new friends, you need to live in the present. Never stop developing new interests.

The time to start to creating a social life for your old age is right now. Don’t wait until you are elderly and starting to feel lonely. Start right now to put a social network in place consisting of friends, family and acquaintances.

Author's Bio: 

This article was written by friendship expert Royane Real. To learn more ways to improve your social life, get her popular book “Your Guide to Finding Friends, making Friends and Keeping Friends” at