As you get older, it’s given that the dynamics of your friendships change and social circles shrink.
Whether it’s due to distance, life changes, or even conflicts, some of your friendships fade away.
Even though it’s an unavoidable truth, it can still be difficult and heartbreaking to lose friends in your 50s, 60s, and beyond. There will likely be times when you feel overwhelmed, confused, and even frustrated.
(And, of course, there’s the devastating way to lose friends as people pass away – in case you need help coping, may this grief article help you navigate the monstrosity that is grieving the loss of your loved ones.)
As for outgrowing friends, we’ll help you understand the why, what, and how in dealing with losing your friendship bonds as you get older. Starting with the why…
Why We Lose Friends as We Get Older
Understanding the reasons why you lose friends as you age can help you cope with these changes more effectively.
Here are five common reasons why people tend to lose friends as they get older:
#1 Lack of Time
It’s common to hear people say that they don’t have enough hours in the day. We live in a time when productivity is highly valued, and we’re expected to be constantly busy. And yes — feeling rushed and like there isn’t enough time applies to retirees, too.
You may no longer be tied to a 9-5 work schedule, but the truth is that even in retirement, time is a precious commodity.
Sometimes it feels like there are never enough hours in the day to tackle all the tasks on your to-do list, feel productive and purposeful, still leave room for health priorities, self-care, and your current social circle — let alone catch up with old friends.
But a recent study has found that the key to improving your retirement experience might not be to focus on adding more time but instead on making the most of the time you have. And this also translates to friendships, but more on that later…
#2 Lack of Common Interests
We’ve all heard the saying, “Birds of the same feather flock together.” And it turns out, it’s not just a quaint saying — it’s actually true.
Studies have shown that similarity is the foundation of lasting friendships. People are attracted to those who are like them, who share their interests, values, and experiences. But as you get older, it can be harder to maintain those connections and common life phases.
After all, you’re designed to grow, evolve, and change at every life stage — retirement is no different. Your hobbies and passions may shift, making it harder to find common ground with those you used to be close to.
By seeking out people that fall into your Circle of Influence — those who share your outlook on life, who inspire you, who challenge you — you can continue to cultivate strong connections that evolve and grow as you do.
On the flip side, be sure to update your Circle of Concern and reduce the number of people in your life who drag you down or discourage your growth.
It’s never too late to adjust your tribe and discover the joy and fulfillment that comes from being surrounded by people who truly get the authentic you.
#3 Shifting Priorities
As you enter retirement, your priorities begin to shift. You may start focusing more on your family, particularly your spouse and children, and putting more effort into your personal interests.
But in all this commotion, it’s easy to let your friendships fall by the wayside without even realizing it. While it’s true that the hierarchy of relationships places friends at the bottom, studies show that they may actually be the most important of all.
On top of that, with age, you get a lot more picky about who you let into your life.
It’s up to you to recognize which of your friends are worth making an effort for and to make sure you’re keeping these special people close.
#4 Physical Distance
Whether it’s due to a job change or family obligations pulling you in different directions, physical distance can make it challenging to maintain close friendships.
Research shows that when it comes to long-distance friendships, proximity certainly plays a role in maintaining a friendship. In fact, for long-distance friends who don’t talk for 4.5 months, there’s a 40% chance the friendship won’t last.
Distance aside, it’s important to remember quality over quantity — it’s the level of connection, depth, and commitment that truly matters.
As you navigate the transitions and turns of life, it’s natural for friendships to transform. Rather than viewing them as something fragile that can easily be lost, consider friendships to be flexible and adaptable to change over time.
#5 Conflicts & Misunderstandings
It can be devastating to realize that someone you were once close to is no longer a part of your life. Unresolved conflicts, growing differences, or misunderstandings can often be the culprit, especially as our patience and tolerance decrease with age.
But if it’s someone important to you, don’t let unresolved conflicts or misunderstandings come between you and the friends you want to keep. Make the effort to talk things out and work through your issues together.
What You Gain When You Lose Friends in Your 50s and 60s
Life, with its unpredictable twists and turns in your 50s and 60s, can be a time of life-altering changes, from bidding farewell to work life and adjusting to an empty nest, to relocating for retirement.
These transitions can lead to relationships changing and parting ways with old friends, feeling like you’re losing a piece of yourself.
We get it. Your friends have been your go-to sounding boards, your cheerleaders, and your partners in crime. And if they fall in the besties category, they’ve laughed with you, cried with you, and been there through thick and thin.
So, naturally, when these friendships fade, it can leave a gaping hole in your heart.
But remember, life is about evolution. This isn’t a loss, but a chance to broaden your horizon and embark on exhilarating new adventures that better align with your new growth in your current life stage.
Yes, losing friends can disrupt your sense of stability, but it also offers a chance for self-discovery. It’s an opportunity to explore who you are beyond these friendships, to redefine your identity on more authentic terms.
It’s natural to grieve these lost friendships. But every end means a new beginning – and ideally, one that’s more aligned.
Research has found that while losing friends was associated with a greater sense of loneliness, it also led to a higher chance of reporting good quality of life.
This might sound counterintuitive, but it simply means that by letting go of the familiar, you open yourself up to a world of possibilities. So, don’t be afraid to embrace that important growth.
As you chart this phase of life, remember — you are resilient. Losing friends in your 50s and 60s may seem daunting, but it’s the beginning of a transition into a better version of yourself, a new growth chapter waiting to unfold. After all, the best might still be on the horizon.
How to Deal with Losing Friends as You Get Older
#1 Be Open to Change
According to research, one of the top obstacles preventing people from making new friends is a lack of trust. This can be especially true as you get older. We’ve all been hurt, after all, and it’s not easy to put yourself out there.
But if you want to make meaningful connections with others, you have to embrace change — even if it sometimes feels uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind — just moving forward through your fears.
As you transition into a new period of life, be open to welcoming people in. On the other hand, be willing to outgrow and let go of relationships that no longer energize you.
Rather than stay in draining friendships for the sake of not being alone, go inward first to connect with yourself at a deeper level – and then cultivate new friendships that better align with your authentic self.
These will be the most authentic and meaningful connections.
Think of change as a chance to discover your authentic self through the eyes of others in this new life phase, and expand your horizons.
#2 Nurture Existing Relationships
Yes, it’s important to welcome new people into your life, and nurturing the relationships you already have is equally important. After all, these are the friends that have stood by you through much growth and change already.
When life gets busy, make sure you’re making time for them. Schedule regular check-ins over coffee or lunch, or on the phone if long-distance, and let them know they’re still a priority in your life.
According to research, quality matters more than quantity when it comes to friendships. So, focus on those special people that bring out the best in you — your cheerleaders, your confidantes, the ones who encourage your growth and also make you laugh.
These are the friends that will help you weather any storm. Tell them how much they mean to you and just how deeply appreciated they are.
#3 Seek New (Authentic) Connections
If you’re in your 50s or 60s and feel like you’re losing connections with old friends, it can be tempting to avoid social interactions altogether.
However, a recent qualitative study on lonely older adults found that fear plays a big role in this decision. Specifically, fears of social rejection or exploitation, or losing important aspects of one’s identity.
It’s understandable to feel hesitant, but avoiding socialization altogether can lead to isolation and worsen feelings of loneliness. So, if you’re feeling a bit isolated due to losing friendships, make time to meet new people.
More specifically, the people who align with your authentic self.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that the first micro-step is always the hardest. Once you make it out of your comfort zone and continue to align with what energizes you, you may be surprised by all the amazing opportunities that come your way.
#4 Reach Out to Old Friends
And if you’d rather not start from scratch, why not reconnect with old friends?
Having meaningful conversations with your former pals can help you reconnect and pick up where you left off — or, better yet, forge new ground together.
Maybe you’ve been thinking about reaching out to that roommate you haven’t talked to in years, but the thought of it is daunting. The fears of rejection, awkwardness, them not remembering you, or distance can be paralyzing.
But what if you take that leap?
The truth is, your friendship mattered, and it still does. You can regain that connection and maybe even create something new. The beauty of life is in the relationships you form, so don’t let fear hold you back.
It’s time to take a chance and make that first step forward. And research shows that your friend will likely appreciate it more than you think – responders appreciate initiators in both weak and strong ties.
You never know — sometimes old friendships have more staying power than you think.
#5 Practice Self-Care
Losing a friend can be an emotional roller coaster — one that leaves you feeling rejected and sad. On the other hand, if it’s a draining relationship, letting the friendship go may feel relieving.
As you ebb and flow through the emotions, it’s important to practice self-care and make time for activities that truly bring you joy. Whether it’s reading a good book or going on an outdoor hike, find something that makes you feel alive and connected to your true self.
A survey found that Americans who practiced self-care:
- experienced a self-confidence boost (64%)
- increased productivity (67%)
- and more happiness (71%)
And a rising tide lifts all boats — so don’t forget to give yourself the same love and care you’d give a friend.
#6 Stay Active & Engaged
The greatest tragedy in life isn’t death — it’s disconnection.
And there’s no denying that the world can feel overwhelming and isolating at times, but research shows that engaging in meaningful activities can work wonders.
Taking up a new hobby, joining a sports team, or doing charity work can help to reduce loneliness and boost positive emotions. Not only that, but you’ll have the chance to meet new people and collect important life experiences.
Challenge yourself to find something that truly captivates your interest and go out of your way to try new things. The benefits are endless if you keep an open mind and a curious spirit about what intrinsically motivates you.
Growing Older, Growing Wiser
The journey of life is filled with inevitable changes and challenges, including the loss of friendships as you age.
While this can be a deeply emotional process, it’s also a powerful opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery.
It’s a chance to grow, redefine yourself, explore new interests, and form fresh authentic connections.
The feelings of loneliness are real, but so is the potential for a richer, more fulfilling quality of life.
There are plenty of ways to deal with losing friends as you get older, including:
- #1 Be Open to Change — embrace change and be willing to put yourself out there with the right people, even if it’s uncomfortable and even if it means letting go of draining friends
- #2 Nurture Existing Relationships — invest time and effort in strengthening your bonds with your remaining friends that still energize you
- #3 Seek New (Authentic) Connections — put yourself out there and make new friends who bring out the best in you in this new life phase
- #4 Reach Out To Old Friends — reconnecting with old friends can help you practice bonding again
- #5 Practice Self-Care — take care of yourself and make time for activities that bring you joy
- #6 Stay Active & Engaged — challenge yourself to stay active and engaged with the most aligned activities and people
Losing friends as you get older can be an opportunity to make new connections and create more authentic meaningful relationships. You are resilient, and the best may still be waiting just around the corner.
Be true to YOU, embrace the journey, and look forward to the adventures that lie ahead…