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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Creating a Vital Social Network: MeetUp for Women Over 50

One woman found a creative way to expand her social network with new women friends and prevent loneliness from settling in.

When Dale Pollekoff, 71, moved to Los Angeles after retirement for the weather and a panoply of lifestyles, she found it hard to make new friends. “When you’re middle-aged, you make friends in your job,” she says. “After that, it’s very, very hard.”

She looked online to help solve the problem, but although there were many groups for varied interests and particular activities, and general meetups for those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, she couldn’t find one for women like herself.

MeetUp Group Solves Need

So she started one. Finding Female Friends Past Fifty was born. The MeetUp group had about 200 members after only a few weeks; currently, it’s 800 members strong and growing.

The group’s first event was a happy hour, and 20 people showed up. “Everybody had a fabulous time, and everybody got along,” Pollekoff remembers. Two women were sitting next to each other and “it turned out that they lived within two blocks of one another. They are best, inseparable friends now.”

As might be expected, members have a wide variety of interests and backgrounds. Thus, the activities cover a broad range, from a screening of the documentary film “Free Solo” to a “carb crawl” focused on local bread makers. Art museums are a common destination, often followed by a meal out together.

Varied Members

New members constantly come into the group, attracted by the wide variety of events or simply the opportunity to connect with peers. Julie Khalis, 62, was looking for a group to join after her son suggested she find hiking buddies.

“I feel like women have a lot of commonality that we don’t realize,” Khalis says. “I’ve learned that at this stage in life, after years of putting our careers and families first, we are looking for a deeper type of friendship than we’ve had in the past.”

Fifty-six-year-old Flor Covel joined the group a couple of years ago after the break-up of a long relationship. “I thought, now I have no friends and no one to hang out with,” she remembers. “It was very lonely.”

Solution Has Limitations

However, because the group draws on such a vast area, it can be hard to nurture relationships.

“I’ve met a lot of wonderful women,” Pollekoff says. “Most of my members I really, really like and I’ve made a lot of friends who are more than acquaintances, but less than besties. But I’ve made one really good friend that I know is really there for me. A friend that lives in Santa Monica or Malibu, I can’t see much.”

Important Role

Still, the group fulfills an important need. Studies show a significant relationship between loneliness and depression. Although we hear a lot about the vital need to eat well and exercise, less is said about keeping and forming friendships, which are just as critical to good health, especially as we grow older, according to research.

“At this age, you are who you are,”  says Pollekoff. “You’re not looking over the horizon for the next best thing. So there’s no jealousy or competition. The struggle is over, you [accept] who you are...” And what an invaluable state of being that is.  

Click below for the other articles in the February 2019 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors