Feeling lonely and struggling with ageism

Diane,  Age 71

Thank you, Jane and Ellen for allowing me to share.

First of all, my heart goes out to Lois (“My 70’s Story”) for what she was faced with and for her courage in dealing with it.

I feel that I identify with Ronne in England. Even though – thank God – I’m healthy, I, too, have literally daily unbidden thoughts of my own mortality. I don’t feel my age and am reminded of the saying, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” Honestly, I’d be in my mid 40s.

Since my husband and I moved to our current home ten years ago, I have found it quite impossible to generate any “genuine” friendships in spite of being involved in volunteer work for over seven years. Yes, I’ve developed acquaintanceships but have not formed any bonds (even among 70 somethings!) that I could call friendships. Are my standards simply too high? I hope not. I honestly feel that I have put genuine effort into the process with no results. I get a lot of, “Hey, let’s meet for coffee. I’ll call you.” No calls are received. And, when I take the bull by the horns, so to speak, everyone seems to be so “slammed.” I believe that I am a pleasant, interesting woman, and when I read or hear about other women’s “girlfriends,” (think Susan Branch, for example) I wonder, pitifully, how one acquires them. I joke to myself that Karma is biting me for sins committed in a previous life.

When I decided to join a book club 10 miles from where I live, I discovered that there is a “cutoff” age of 68! Apparently, even being 69, let alone 71, is “too” old. Are we septuagenarians offending the sensibilities of younger people?

I and many in my age group that I have known over the years had such respect for people in my parents’ generation. I was always interested in what they had to say and what their life experiences were. The fact that they were older than I made no difference to me. I don’t know about anyone else out there, but for the most part I don’t feel this is the case anymore. As I have previously mentioned, once you’re of a certain age, you’re simply invisible. I feel such a sense of loneliness. My husband loves me dearly, but we share no common interests (it’s not for lack of trying). He has his “guy” friendships to occupy much of his time.

All right then, enough of these depressing thoughts. I should pick up my needlework (challenging, not even close to Home Sweet Home) and my books (my “real” friends) and get on with it. Sigh. I don’t mean for this to be a complaint fest. Am I one of the few who feel this way?

Thank you again for the opportunity to pour it all out.


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12 Responses to Feeling lonely and struggling with ageism

  1. carroll says:

    I joined “Meet Up” on the Internet there are all kinds of activities to choose from in your area. I belong to a group who go out for dinner. There is a representation of all ages.
    There are lots of hiking/walking groups. French group, meditation group, yoga group, people who like to play games, etc. This site is great please try it you have nothing to lose.

    • Blog Mavens says:

      Elizabeth, turning 70 this month.
      Wow 7th decade and omg I have learned a lot and keep on learning. I don’t have the energy or time to do what I want to do, it distresses me that I can’t “push through” fatigue into socializing with people. In order to be included in conversations these days, I have to put forth much energy and that appears to be in short supply. When I project that energy, and dominate what’s happening then I usually get some attention. Otherwise, I agree, unless I’m with one of my friends over 60 I disappear. I try not to look homeless, but that doesn’t help as far as being part of the mainstream. I’m a widow with friends, live in a house with two other seniors which helps. I find working with young people as a mentor has been helpful to me, I am contributing knowledge that I’ve accumulated over time and assisting others in getting where they want to go. This gives me hope and a sense of satisfaction that I am being useful and using what I have to make life a better place for someone…..

  2. Patty says:

    Dear Diane,
    I agree with Carroll. “Meet Up” groups can be a great source of new friends. I am a recent widow and have found these groups most helpful. You can even start one for yourself based on your own interests. So go on line and try it. That said there is no doubt that friendships are important in old age. Unfortunately so many of us did not get the privilege of growing older. I have lost way too many of my life long friends in the past couple of years. I am 76. I think finding a friend is partly a serendipity kind of thing but if you put yourself out there in as many ways as you can handle and remain open to others chances are you will meet someone who wants to get to know you sooner or later. Don’t just say home and read although that is very tempting because it feels safe and you are not risking rejection. I have also found that one on one volunteer work is very gratifying. I am tutoring a young Afghani woman whom I look forward to seeing every week. Perhaps you could join a group that takes meals to people or visits older people in their homes. The big thing is to not give up here. Keep putting yourself out there, go where there are seniors. Congregate and I can pretty much promise you will meet some nice people. And keep writing!

    • Sandi says:

      Hi Everyone
      I find that meet-up groups become more acquaintances than friends for only that moment in time. That’s been my experience as I’ve tried a few.
      Also, I think it depends on what our expectations are. Do we want to meet people and make friends to socialize (movies, theaters, trips, etc), friends to chat with at a coffee shop, friends to visit in our homes? Sharing a specific interest in a class or meet up doesn’t necessarily make a friendship. That’s another question that we might ask ourselves. What does friendship mean to us. Also, it takes energy and patience, especially when we may strike out over and over again. Volunteer work is an activity of keeping busy, but again may not be what some of us need or are looking for, especially projects like meals or visiting elders. When I was a brand new 50, I did start a group at a bookstore about the transitions in life for 50’s . Little did I know or think about what was ahead! But it’s time consuming and not easy being the facilitator of a group. I do agree that we do have to keep putting ourselves out there where there are women of all ages. A younger woman may be looking for a older mentor and could turn out to be a good friend as well.

  3. Fran says:

    Dear Diane, you don’t say where you moved from, how long you lived there, and where you moved to. I’ll explain while that’s important as I go along here. 🙂 But for right now, suffice to say that some cities/towns are more open to strangers and some are not. Where we move from and where we move to really does matter.

    I always caution pending retirees not to move, if at all possible, to another place, in older age, because it’s so difficult to make real friends when we are older, retired and living in new place. There is nothing wrong with you — it’s just difficult, primarily for women, to make friends when we are older, are not working, and are living in a new place. You are not alone — not by a long shot. There are a lot of us — retired and married or retired and single — who are all in the same boat.

    It’s a bit easier to make good friends if we’re church attendees (I am not), but you don’t indicate that you attend a church. If you don’t have a big aversion to church, I’d start there. Meetups are good too. I’m just grateful that I’m introverted — I think being alone a lot of the time doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it would if I were extroverted. I don’t have a huge need to make friends and to stay busy.

    There’s nothing wrong with having daily thoughts of your mortality. 🙂 You’re old (and so am I). 🙂 You have far more days behind you then you do in front of you. 🙂 There is nothing wrong with spending some time every day thinking about and preparing for death. A good part of the reason your peers are so “slammed” is because keeping busy, busy, busy is the main way for them to not have to think about their old age and death. 🙂 I must admit — I just spent the last 9-10 months clearing out my stuff, giving things away to people who I knew would appreciate them, and getting my will made and everything in order for my executor. While it brought a great deal of relief and peace once it was all done, I admit it was a little ‘disconcerting’ — and, yet, at times, even fun — knitting up all the loose ends and preparing for my demise. 🙂

    I’ve even made a ‘bucket list’. There is one last big trip I would like to make. Books I want to read. An exercise program I am starting next month at a gym which is limited to people 55+. Even movies I want to see (or see once again). I’m in very good health for being 68, but, since last October, I’ve lost three friends or acquaintances who were in good health but simply didn’t wake up one morning. It was a big wake-up call for me: I may ‘feel’ 40 — but I’m not 40. I’m really living on borrowed time. 🙂 And the loss of those people — so suddenly and in such a short period of time — has made me appreciate every day of my life even more than before.

    I wish the best.

  4. Mary Lou says:


    This must be my day for acknowledging loneliness in my life and learning how to ride it through at those times when it hits. I just read this great article by David Goff https://changingaging.org/elderhood/making-solitude-out-of-loneliness/?utm_source=ChangingAging&utm_campaign=e22fe2a3ad-issue_008&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_10c6c015a2-e22fe2a3ad-57744349&mc_cid=e22fe2a3ad&mc_eid=9a07ebd975

    I love his writing. He’s a contributor for Changing Aging, Bill Thomas’ website.

    I’ve gathered a number of passions that I love to do during my alone time, hoping I can move through the loneliness and enjoy the gifts of solitude.

    I’ve joined the local fitness club which includes all ages and has lots of stimulating events/programs. I haven’t joined the senior center. We have a great one here yet I’m resisting isolating myself even more into one age group.

    Thank you for opening up this important discussion as I believe there are many who are looking for positive support networks.

    • Fran says:

      I love Dr. Goff. (I don’t know if you know this or not, but he suffered a very bad, debilitating stroke some years ago, from which he’s never fully recovered, and he spent at least a couple of years homebound.)

      My thought is this: We are old, and we are going to die. Of all the people born in 1938, only 12-13% are still alive (per The SSA). Of that 12-13%, half are in nursing homes, assisted living homes or living with relatives because they can no longer function on their own. In another five years, half of those 12-13% will have some kind of dementia, to a greater or lesser extent. Over the next decade (and the next 2-3 decades), more of us will be living but the percentage of us with Alzheimer’s will grow too —
      a lot. So, in the face of our own impending death, differentiating between age, old, elder, and elderly seems to be very frivolous. And, secondly, until we really think and believe that there is nothing wrong with being old, no one else is going to believe it either. Every time we buy into society’s mandate that only youth is of value and that we old ones have to look and act young to be acceptable, we perpetuate that illusion and lie. Being old is a wonderful time of life, and we should respect (and love) ourselves; and once we do, we need to demand that the younger ones respect us also.

  5. Emma says:

    Loneliness, to me at least, is a lack of meaningful friendships/relationships, and also a lack of intimate, deep, meaningful conversation. It sounds like you view loneliness this way too, Diana.

    Loneliness, or at least real loneliness, will never be solved by surrounding oneself with more and more people. It can distract from loneliness, but cannot resolve it.

    It’s about finding that one special person who you can develop a close and meaningful friendship with – this is what I understand you are saying too, Diana.

    I hope you manage to find that special friend soon.

  6. Maureen Diem says:

    Emma, I totally agree with you. One is a lonely number but two has so many possibilities.
    I have never been a joiner, and never had lots of social friends, just one or two deep friendships and that is where I always enjoyed spending my time and where I felt fulfilled.
    It is hard to find that again at our age, unless you have still the ones from earlier years. One year ago, I moved from Dallas where I was for 40 years, to Austin to be near my sister and brother who live here. I have no children and they each have two, living in other parts of the country. My sister may move “back home” to be near her daughter and grandkids, and long-distance boyfriend (a relationship unproven while living in the same vicinity). I have stopped trying to convince her one way or another and will just let fate take it’s course. Right now she is my best friend.
    My brother and his wife are close, but not the same as a sister, tho a very good relationship.
    But had I stayed in Dallas, things are changing there too. Older friends getting older and passing on. My circle becoming smaller. My energy less.
    I think this is a time when we have to learn how to do it all over again.
    I am single and trying that “dating scene” is very tough too unless God just smiles on us, and let’s us have a serendipitous meeting at the grocery store. Acceptance and doing what you can.
    I was also a formidable working woman, and my work was many times my salvation. Though I still have it, as I own my own small company, it no longer fills the place it did before.
    So I am on this site to try and find out how others feel and to know that I am not crazy or unique, and that this is another passage in life to be navigated as best we can. And to learn more as we head deeper into the waters. I never felt this so much until I moved to Austin. I guess after the fact, I realized that I was entering the final stage or passage of my life, and now I don’t know what to do.
    But I know I have been here in other stages of my life, different issues, but still challenges and i handled it and came thru the darkness. And I will do that again. Somehow. Thanks for all of your sharing.

    • Sharon Sadler says:

      Maureen, thank you for sharing. I really empathize with your dilemma and hope and pray that it will work out for the best for you!

      My sister (almost 70) is my best friend too. I thought that she would move when my partner and I moved five years ago, but she didn’t. She does the 5 hour drive to visit us several times a year, but is finding it harder each year. Partner and I joined a couple of groups, but as Sandi mentions, friendships did not evolve from those. He has no male friends here either. I sometimes do feel lonely, but as Elizabeth says, it is difficult to push through fatigue to socialize. My two kids live many hours away, and they visit occasionally, but have no children. Most of my time is spent cooking, shopping, cleaning, doing gardening and yardwork, and discussing ongoing renovations with my (younger) partner, so I keep very busy. But I also keep reading that we should have friends and socialize in order to stave off dementia, but I find it too stressful to do the work that it takes.

      My mother, grandmother and great grandmother all had vascular dementia and lived the last decade of their lives in a vegetative state. It begins in early 70’s and death in the 80’s. Doctors say my sister and I have a greater than 50% chance of getting it. So at 71, I feel that there is very little time left and am anxious to figure out a way to obtain assisted dying when I lose my mind and speech and memory.

      It’s criminal to keep a person in that state alive all those years, but that’s what our system does, and it makes me panic every time I think about it. My doctor is sorta sympathetic and he gives me mini-mental tests each year. This year I drew the hands on the clock wrong, so my panic is increasing. This horror hanging over one’s head makes life a living hell, overwhelming everything else. My only goal now is to get rid of my stuff and get things organized for those who will have to deal with it all.

  7. Bunny Withers says:

    I am 73 years old and would love to sell my home and move to the Southeast. Since I live in California I have lots of equity and could pay cash and live like a queen off of my retirement. I’m afraid that I’ve waited to late. I’m a breast cancer survivor of 10 years, but I have some trouble with aching knees and an aching back.
    I have plenty of friends here and four different groups of close friends. One group I play games with every Thursday night. I have a group of high school girlfriends that I keep in touch with and a base group of girlfriends that I have had for 50 years. I also have a church family. I belong to two senior groups and a book club too. My Sister and brother live nearby. You would think with all of this I would be happy, but I am not. My two adult children and three grandchildren have moved in with me. Now my lovely 3 bedroom + den home is crowded and my retirement budget is stretched. My peaceful retirement that I had planned is no more. I love my children, but it is just too much. I feel like running away, but at this age I’m afraid to start new somewhere else. I have had friends die within the last year and have become aware of my own mortality. That frightens me.

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