Once your children have grown and left you, their schools and extracurricular activities are no longer a good bet for meeting similarly situated adults. You may prefer not to rub shoulders with coworkers once the workday is done. Whether you are looking for a BFF, a moviegoing companion, or the next love of your life, you need more options.
Your best venues for making new connections will depend on where you live. Urban environments offer more institutional resources than rural ones, but in small communities people tend to have wider personal networks. In the dating world, the best source of a good match is someone a friend introduces you to. The second best source is, *sigh*, the online dating sites, which (IMHO) work best for younger folks.
But if you’re looking for good fellowship, some of the suggestions below should work for you no matter where you are in the States. You stand the best chance of finding like-minded people if you are doing something you are passionate about, because that’s where you will meet others who feel the same way. The tips I offer below are tailored to people who, like me, live in central Connecticut.
- Churches. It’s not just about the sermon. Nowadays churches are places where people gather for all sorts of activities. Visit different congregations to see where you feel at home. You can find musical events (folk music, concerts), yoga, Zumba, and book clubs in addition to the standard spiritual groups and rummage sales. The Universalist Church in West Hartford opens its doors for Buddhist meditation, Zentangle, and folk music concerts, among other things. Its social justice initiative is welcoming a Syrian refugee family into the local community. The Hartford Friends Meeting supports work in the prisons and has an Alternatives to Violence group and a Help Increase the Peace project. Consider volunteering to sing in the choir at the Asylum Hill Congregational Church (or elsewhere).
- Museums and nature centers. In the old days museums relied on bequests and donations. Nowadays they are raising operating funds by engaging with the community. At Noah Webster House you can hear historical lectures, participate in holiday celebrations, and attend “tavern nights” for food and puzzles. At Old Sturbridge Village in nearby Massachusetts you can learn how to make chocolate and shear sheep. At the Connecticut Audubon Society in Glastonbury or Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton you can take guided nature walks and listen to folk musicians on weekends.
- Art galleries. The New Britain Museum of American Art hosts First Fridays, which allow you to wander through the galleries with a glass of wine or beer, sampling hors d’oeuvres and admiring the art while listening to live music. You can also learn to draw, join a book club, or celebrate Mardi Gras. The Wadsworth Atheneum offers a film series and jazz brunches as well as lectures and docent-led tours. To see art on the cutting edge and independent films in Hartford, you can’t beat Real Art Ways, which also has improv and game nights and “creative cocktail hour” each month.
- Community gardens and farms. If you like to garden but have no land of your own to till, don’t despair. Urban Oaks, an organic farm that miraculously thrives in New Britain, is always looking for volunteers to help with the crops and staff the store. Holcomb Farm in Granby offers hiking trails, folk concerts, festivals, and art and yoga classes as well as work opportunities. Still stumped? Join the ranks of volunteers who help maintain Elizabeth Park. There are also community gardens on a smaller scale, where you can get a plot and pull weeds elbow to elbow with your neighbors.
- Volunteer opportunities. Want something more in the realm of social activism? Write letters for Amnesty International, build a house with Habitat for Humanity (or help in ReStore), reach out to children and single mothers at Hartford Interval House. Work in a shelter or soup kitchen or sign up at your local library to ferry books to the homebound. You could also join the Elks or the Lions, organizations that espouse particular causes. Ask about your town’s senior job bank or services network. If you can do some grocery shopping or drive someone to a doctor’s appointment you can benefit the elderly. To connect with the younger generation, try helping provide resources and services to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth at Our True Colors in Hartford. Not sure where to look next? For other possibilities, Google “volunteer” and “service organizations” in your geographical area.
- Professional organizations and associations. If you are self-employed, you might join Business Network International (BNI). You can also become active in the local chapter of the trade association for your profession (think: lawyer or social worker or accountant). SCORE is always looking for seniors with expertise they’re willing to share with younger professionals.
- Educational opportunities. Trinity College has a wonderful movie theater where Cinestudio brings you fine films and broadcasts of theater productions from the Old Vic and the Bolshoi Ballet. (Go to DigiplexDest.com if you want to view productions of the Metropolitan Opera locally in HD.) The University of St. Joseph has drama and dance programs. The University of Hartford offers concerts and other events through the Hartt School and even has an educational program—the President’s College—designed especially for seniors. The University of Connecticut in Storrs is a hub for people with highly varied interests. Do you know about the internationally renowned Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry? It offers lectures, courses, and fabulous performances. For events in the Hartford area generally, visit Hartford.com. Also, most towns have continuing education programs listed seasonally on the town’s website. There you can take minicourses on bread baking, weaving, foreign languages, financial planning, swing dancing, and other subjects. Most courses run for fewer than half a dozen sessions. The continuing ed sites also list low-cost town-sponsored day trips to notable museums and attractions in nearby states. You can check out West Hartford’s offerings here.
- Clubs. There are groups of Egyptian cat owners, pug owners, dulcimer players, Francophiles, and people seeking to improve their public speaking skills (that’s Toastmasters, an international organization with chapters everywhere). And these are just a few of the possibilities. Consider joining Women Outdoors—or Winding Trails in Farmington, where you pay an annual membership fee to enjoy the beach, the concerts, the cross-country skiing and hiking trails, and the camping opportunities. Winding Trails also lets you rent sailboats, canoes, paddle boards, and kayaks for a small fee.
- Meetup.com. This website lists groups by location. You can sign up to learn about meetings of groups that interest you. Go rock climbing, bowling, knitting, or drumming. Look up Gail Fuller’s Singles Social Connections. Or grab your axe and your dancing shoes and go to Bethany Music and Dance (on Facebook: BMAD: Bethany Music and Dance). If you don’t find anything that sounds promising, you can start your own group and list it here.
- Local government. What’s happening at town hall? In your town there are almost certainly people disputing policies or arguing for new services or the purchase of centrally located and available land. Some towns also have groups that meet to discuss touchy topics like race relations. And don’t forget: this is a presidential election year. Our political parties are fairly panting to win your money and your energy. If you want to help get out the vote or promote your favorite candidate, pick up the phone and offer some time. People on the other end will be thrilled to hear from you, and you are guaranteed to meet lots of people.
Did I miss your favorite club or get-together? Wing me a comment on social media. Tell me what great stuff I left out.