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Photo: Helmuts Rudzitis/Unsplash

Social connections are elusive for many women over 50, as their lives change and they are no longer bound by young children or demanding careers., new research shows.

According to the research, many women over 50 admit to a lonely truth: that friendships are harder to make then when they were younger (55%), with as many as one in five (18%) acknowledging they don’t have a single close friend they feel they can lean on for help. Almost half (48%) admitted that despite having friends, there are still times when they feel they have no one they can talk with.

The research was conducted by Connected Women, an Aussie organisation that provides a community for women over 50 who are most at risk of loneliness, to connect and build lifelong friendships via a range of online and in-person events.

The research aimed to understand the friendships of women over 50, and how they build and maintain social connections at a unique time in their lives – when school activities, children, or careers may no longer bring them together.

Interestingly, it found married women over 50 say they don’t have any friends to lean on (31%) compared to those who are single or divorced (23% respectively). When asked how they handle loneliness, one in two surveyed (50%) admit to muddling through on their own rather than reaching out to a friend partner or colleague.

“The epidemic of loneliness is nothing new, but it is worsening, particularly for women who traditionally tend to be the caregivers to so many others,” co-founder of Connected Women, Phoebe Adams, said.

“As women, we invest so much of our lives into our romantic relationships, our children, our careers, our ageing parents, that when we finally have time to invest in ourselves, we often feel those friendships have dwindled or disappeared.

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“Finding that close knit group of friends who can offer the support and connection to get you through different seasons of your life can often feel really overwhelming when you’ve spent the best part of 30 years taking care of others or building up a career,” she said.

According to Phoebe, as we age, it’s not uncommon to forget how to build friendships. “Unlike other times in our lives, where friendship is built on shared experiences – like school, university, work, or chats at the school gate, forming adult friendships can become more elusive the older we get.

"We also commonly hear of women grieving the loss of past friendships, which can in turn make them nervous to put themselves out there to new explore new friendships.”

All this said, Phoebe says the science is clear. “Friendship is essential for long-term health and wellbeing, which is why I was inspired to create Connected Women. As an organisation, we facilitate both intimate and larger style social events – both online and offline – to allow women to dip their toe at a speed and in an environment that suits them best. Connected Women is all about creating a safe space to foster connections be that over coffee or cabaret.”

For $15 per month, women are invited to engage in the online community and via meet ups in their local area. These could be simple coffee catch ups, or more involved activities such as a hike or visit to a vineyard. Members can join activities organised by Connected Women or schedule their own.

While the organisation now operates in Perth, Sydney, Wollongong, and Melbourne, it will be active in Canberra, Adelaide, and Brisbane by the middle of 2023 with plans to be fully national by the end of the year.

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