Relocating, at any age, is a stressful time in one’s life. Whether you are moving across town, across the country, or across the pond, change is difficult. While children have a hard time with moves too, they at least get the opportunity to make new friends at school, in the neighborhood and in after-school activities. That takes care of the young, but what about the “young at heart?”
Move.org reports that roughly 35.5 million (or 11 percent) Americans moved in 2017 (July 6, 2018), so you are far from alone in your quest to meet new friends and settle into a new community. The top five reasons to move are as follows: to relocate to a new or better home (16 percent), to establish their own household (11.5 percent), for “other” family reasons (11.3 percent), for a new job or job transfer (9.9 percent), and to find cheaper housing (8.3 percent).
The logistics of moving are tricky enough, but there can be emotional struggles along the way. Anxiety and depression are common. Psychologists* recommend three first steps to help you feel better and adjust, 1) get out of the house, 2) accept and extend social invitations, and, 3) do the things that made you happy in your old place.
Making friends as a grown-up offers some unique challenges, but it’s not impossible. Taking the above recommendations a step further, here are some tips to make meeting people and trying new things a bit easier:
GET OUT OF THE HOUSE
Do you have a hobby? Want one? Taking a class is a great way to meet new people in your community and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Local colleges and school districts have community education classes (time to brush up on your French or figural drawing?) and libraries have lots of opportunities for learning with classes and programs featuring locals who can inform you about places to visit in your new community. Over 50? You likely have even more options to meet people. Senior centers, universities, and AARP offer an array of classes for varied interests.
Raise a glass! With the popularity of micro-breweries and wineries, the traditional “bar scene” is shifting. Check in advance for special release evenings, tastings, and concerts at your local vineyard or taproom. You can mingle in a relaxing environment and grab a couple of bottles to stock your new kitchen.
Patronize me, please! Do you love art? Museums? Baseball? Consider becoming a patron at a local museum or buy season tickets to a sports team. You’ll be supporting local institutions and meeting like minded people. Museums have programs including lectures, films, gallery talks, and member only events. A great chance to share your love of Monet! Buying season tickets to a favorite sport will give you a season’s worth of plans, and your seat mates will be able to offer up tips on the best players and the cheapest beer and hotdogs.
Put yourself out there — outside that is! Is running, hiking or sunrise yoga your thing? Look online for groups in your area to join. Local stores can help you make connections while you shop for a new yoga mat or that perfect jogging hat. Many parks have programs (often free) and guided hikes. You’ll get your exercise, meet new people, and discover nature in your own back yard.
Volunteer! Do you love dogs, cats, hamsters, parrots, rabbits, horses, and more? Animal shelters often need volunteers of all sorts. From cleaning up, to fundraising, to helping with adoptions, to fostering, the needs are great. Smaller communities often have historical societies or houses that could use a hand on weekends or perhaps you are a wizard of the web and can lend your talents to their social media. Hospitals, political organizations, schools, the performing arts and social organizations have a wide variety of volunteer needs. Soon, you’ll be helping to not only fill your planner, but you’ll be filling your heart and your friends list in no time!
Did you move for a new job? Perhaps your Human Resources representative can provide some contact information about groups who specialize in your field of work. It may serve two purposes: it will give you a chance to network and meet people with similar interests. You might also find that some companies have a mentoring program and/or a new colleague may be willing to show you around town and introduce you to others.
Looking for a job? Moving to a new area provides new opportunities to network. Look online for meetup groups, update your Linkedin and any applicable social media platforms to indicate your new city and highlight your skill set. Check out temporary opportunities, part-time and seasonal employment while you look for your new position.
Throw a party! Invite your new neighbors for a drop by meet and greet. Maybe you don’t want strangers in your house, does your community have a pool or a club house? Perhaps there is a homeowners meeting or social event coming up.
Get schooled. If you have a child in school (or are in school yourself), coordinate study groups in your home (church groups too), invite your children’s classmates over for supervised playdates, or volunteer for your school or church.
Do you have a secret talent? Maybe you are a pet sitter, great with gardens, or are handy with a hammer. Check local regulations first and offer your services to your neighbors. This will open the conversation and perhaps help your fill your wallet.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE
Make your favorite comfort foods. Maybe you are from an area known for chili and you are suddenly in chowder territory. Make yourself a pot (and perhaps invite a new friend to share). The holidays also offer up a great chance to make your traditional treats and introduce them to others.
Continue your hobbies. Before the move, do some internet searching and find out where you can practice Thai chi, skeet shoot, or horseback ride near your new digs. Or, maybe actual digging is what you dig! Those amateur archaeologist skills could prove a handy way to volunteer and help introduce you to those who came before.
Did you enjoy decorating? You have a blank canvas and the perfect opportunity to create your new nest. Check out the local antiques and boutiques and combine regional items with those you brought along with you.
Are you a reader? Join a book club or maybe even start one in your neighborhood at home. You could use this opportunity to trade some books or try out local authors.
Invite friends and family to visit! Spending time with loved ones can go a long way in helping you feel confident in your new environment and it lends the opportunity to be a tourist and play tour guide in your new city. Invite new friends or co-workers to join in and explore together!
While moving as an adult and making new friends does have challenges, it can also open you up to experiences and friendships you may never have imagined!
*Martijn Hendriks, Kai Ludwigs, and Ruut Veenhoven, “Why are Locals Happier than Internal Migrants? The Role of Daily Life,” Social Indicators Research 125 (2016): 481–508.