Dear Annie: I am 68 years of age and actually very lonely. Most of my friends have either moved on or passed away. I don't make close friends very often because I don't trust too many people. I guess I expect a lot.
Honesty, loyalty and caring. That's hard to find. I can only remember maybe four friends I had through life that seemed to be open, honest and showed a sincere wish to share our thoughts/fears/cares and be supportive through thick and thin.
I still work, but have no time at work to get to know anyone. I had what I thought were two good friends, but one always sets up lunch together and then calls to cancel for some reason. The other (close?) friend moved out of town and kind of has a self-centered attitude.
Do I expect too much? Or do you have any suggestions of places to go meet people? I am married to a good man, but he is not into making new friends. I don't get much attention from him. I've tried everything to get him interested in going or doing anything, even playing card games. I really hate being lonely. Do you have any suggestions? — Starlette R.
Dear Starlette: You might be lonely but you're not alone. According to data from the AARP, more than a third of people over the age of 45 regularly experience loneliness. And this epidemic has serious health consequences. A 2010 study from researchers at Brigham Young University found that social isolation increases mortality at a rate on par with smoking and twice as much as obesity.
The good news is that it's easier than ever to connect with people over shared interests, with websites such as Meetup specifically designed for this purpose: Visit Meetup.com to see what groups there are in your area, or you can start one of your own.
And there are, of course, plenty of ways to meet people offline, too. One great way is to sign up for classes around an activity that sounds appealing to you. Consider cooking lessons, a photography course or a fitness class. Don't be afraid to try something totally new to you: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. You might visit the library for a list of such courses offered in your community.
Lastly, don't write off the people who are already in your life. Ask a co-worker out to lunch. Call up your old friend who moved away, even though she might seem to have a self-centered attitude at times (a sin we're all guilty of). You might find you enjoy speaking to her more than you remember. Keep an open mind and open heart as you go about your day. Strangers and acquaintances are just friends waiting to happen.
Dear Annie: This is in response to "Big City Drinker," who wants to keep friendships he made at the bar while limiting alcohol intake. I would strongly recommend he switch to alcohol-free beer. It looks and tastes like beer, so his buddies will not feel that he is a "teetotaler." Most every restaurant or bar I've been to has at least one brand available. Some also have alcohol-free wine for those who want to limit or stop alcohol yet participate in the fun and friendship of drinking wine together. This is less commonly available, but private country clubs usually stock it, as well as some grocery stores. I know this has saved me when I stopped alcohol. De-alcoholized spirits (like bourbon) are available online, but are pretty expensive. But if you crave it and want to avoid drinking alcohol, it is worth the money. — Maureen
Dear Maureen: Cheers to finding a way to celebrate with friends that worked for you. Thanks for sharing the tip.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]