How To Stay Connected With Close Friends As You Age

We all know that keeping in touch with our friends is essential, but not many of us are aware of the positive effects that friends can have on our mental and physical health. Making the time to meet a friend (even if it's only virtually) isn't just fun; it benefits your health, too, which is why you should consider it as "self-care" time.

According to a New York Times article, a study done on 7,000 men and women in the '60s found that "people who were disconnected from others were roughly three times more likely to die during the nine-year study than people with strong social ties," regardless of their age, gender, of health. Another study done at the Duke University Medical Center confirmed this theory by concluding that those with stronger social ties are more likely to live longer even if they have serious medical conditions.

However, with age come numerous responsibilities, which is why we find ourselves running out of time on a daily basis, and meeting a friend just keeps getting postponed. Looking back, most of us went from being in constant contact with our besties to having a catch-up convo with them once a week, at best. Luckily, there are a couple of easy ways to stay in touch with friends that are not only fun but will also help you remain close to them without feeling overwhelmed.

Take advantage of social media to keep the friendship alive

In today's time and age, social media is a huge part of our lives. Luckily, it has made keeping up with friends much easier. Of course, there's always the option to message a friend directly but you might not always have the time for texting. However, instead of regularly liking their posts, try sending them a TikTok that made you laugh (and you know they will appreciate), or tag them in an Instagram post of that band you used to obsess over as teens.

According to R.I.M. Dunbar, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, "social media provides a very effective way of keeping old friendships going, so we shouldn't knock it" (via Healthline). Dunbar further goes on to claim that most people end up interacting with approximately 15 people on social media, but almost half of their attention ends up going to their five closest social media friends.

Most people spend a lot of time on their phones and computers. In fact, according to Forbes, the average American spends over 1,300 hours on social media per year, which is more than 3.5 hours per day! Considering that social media time is inevitably happening in all of our lives, we might as well try to make it a little more social by keeping in touch with friends.

Start a book/show/movie club

We've all been there: you just finished that new episode of your favorite show and are very eager to talk to somebody about it. However, you're not really up to date with what your friends are watching, so you settle on scrolling through Twitter and responding to peoples' reactions. Unfortunately, this doesn't quench your thirst for a passionate discussion, and it might even result in you feeling lonelier than ever.

The solution to your problem: a book/movie/show club! Agree with a friend (or more of them) to catch up on that latest episode of "House of the Dragon" this week, and then jump on a quick call to discuss it. Even better, grab dinner once a month and talk about just why the Targaryens are the worst/best family on television. You and your friend are surely able to find a source of entertainment that works for both of you, and talking about it to each other is bound to be something you both end up looking forward to. After all, obsessing over the same fictional story can only make you even closer.

According to Allwomenstalk, a club of some sort is a solid plan which lets you meet on a regular basis and not just one of those vague "let's meet soon" arrangements. The best part of it is that you make the rules. You pick the material you'll discuss! You choose how often you meet or call to talk about it! You decide who to invite to it! Frankly, we see no flaws.

Keep your friends up-to-date with your schedule — or even share your calendars

According to therapist and friendship researcher Miriam Kirmayer (via The New York Times), it's important to keep your friends up to date with your schedule. "If there are certain days or weeks where you are going to be less available, giving your friend a heads up can go a long way toward minimizing misunderstandings or conflicts where somebody feels left out or like they're being ignored," Kirmayer explains. Try to always let your friends know what your availability is like. There's nothing worse than feeling forgotten by a friend, but if you make sure to let them know you have a filled-up week ahead or simply need time for yourself, they won't think you've abandoned their friendship. Communication is key in all relationships, not just romantic ones.

If you are comfortable enough, share your calendar with them — that way they can check when you're free without having to ask you personally. If you're a busy person, this is a great way to avoid having to tell them that you can't meet multiple times in a row (something that can quickly look like you're avoiding them). Many apps make this easy, too, so it won't be a hassle!

Do a virtual night out on a random weekday

The older we get, the less likely we are to go out and party all night, especially on weekdays. Weekends are, on the other hand, often reserved for running errands and catching up on sleep, which is why it's sometimes difficult to find the time to see friends. Enter, a virtual night out. It can happen on any given day of the week and it does not require leaving your home. The best part about it is that it can be anything you and your friends want it to be. You can dress up or keep it casual, cook a meal at the same time, or order in — anything you agree to is possible.

Besides the regular catching up with a drink of choice, Oprah Daily suggests adding a fun virtual game to spice the night up. From Quiz Up to Cards Against Humanity, the internet has a multitude of fun games you and your besties can play virtually. If there's anything that the coronavirus pandemic has taught us it's that it is possible to socialize long distance, even though face-to-face hangouts will never be replaced. However, having a virtual get-together on a random Tuesday night is not only fun but also allows you to stay in your pajamas and have an extra glass of wine without worrying about how you'll get home.

Don't be afraid to try out new things together

Whether it's as elaborate as visiting a new country or as simple as following a new recipe together, creating memories by exploring new things can only make a friendship stronger. Per Thrive Works, Psychologist Dr. Wyatt Fisher reveals that having fun is the "essential ingredient to a strong relationship." Of course, friends can have plenty of fun doing the good ol' things they like, but often branching into the unknown will result in a stronger bond.

According to Psychology Today, there are four things to remember when you're trying to convince yourself (and your friend) to try out something new: trying something new requires courage, it opens up the possibility to enjoy something new, it keeps you from becoming bored, and it forces you to grow. Keeping this in mind might motivate even those who get anxious about switching up a routine to take a leap. And as previously mentioned, you don't have to go bungee jumping together — a simple thing like going to a pub quiz might just do the trick for now. Just like romantic relationships, friendships can also fall into a rut and fun new activities are the best way of preventing that. And no, that doesn't mean you aren't allowed to continue your traditions. (They're traditions for a reason, after all.)

Make your friend your accountability partner

We all know that getting things done is much easier if someone holds us accountable, and who better to do that than an old friend who has known us for years (maybe even decades)? Whether you're trying to hit up the gym regularly or you plan on going to bed earlier, having a friend help you keep track of it will not only keep you connected but is bound to end up in you achieving greater success.

According to Psychology Today, having a friend cheer you on is likely to help motivate you. The best part about a buddy being your accountability partner is that they will celebrate your triumph with you, and experiencing the journey together is going to make your friendship stronger. However, as Forbes notes, make sure you pick the right friend — you need someone who understands your goal and who won't hold back when it comes to calling you out.

In an interview with The New York Times, author of "Better Than Before" Gretchen Rubin stresses the importance of finding an accountability buddy. Rubin claims that the best route to success is finding a friend who has the same or a similar goal — that way you can hold each other mutually accountable.

Send them a postcard from your travels

It doesn't matter if you're traveling for work or going on a family vacation; there is no excuse for not grabbing a couple of postcards at the nearest shop and mailing them to your closest friends. Yes, postcards are so yesterday, but there's something undeniably personal about sending them anyway.

As travel bloggers Megan and Mike Jerrard pointed out on their blog, Mapping Megan, postcards are great souvenirs that you can gift your friends. Apart from their decorative value, it is also the fact that you thought of someone who is miles away from you and decided to write them a little old-school message. Maybe you ate a meal you know they would enjoy or you passed by a store they would definitely go into. Whatever it may be that made you think of them is worth noting down on the postcard. This is not to mention that if you do this regularly, both you and your friends will have a lovely collection of personal postcards to reflect on when you're old. They won't only remind you of the places you've all been but also of how much you've always meant to each other.

Don't hesitate to ask them for help

Everyone wants to feel helpful, especially in a friendship, which is why going to your friend for emotional or physical support isn't only going to benefit you but also them. From crying on their shoulder after getting dumped to having them roll up their sleeves and help you move apartments, true friends will always be happy that they can be there for you, even if age has made your friendship harder to maintain.

CNBC reports that we should ask our friends for more favors, at least according to Nicholas Epley, a social cognition professor at the University of Chicago. Epley claims that we are a "pro-social and collaborative society" and that we end up feeling better after we help someone because we "created a moment of social connection." Apart from this, helping someone makes us "feel valued, needed, and competent," and who doesn't want to feel that way?

So, next time you think you might need help reach out to a friend because you're not only doing yourself a favor, you're also making them feel better. Of course, being there for your friend is just as important. Don't ever allow yourself to forget the kindness and support a friend has given you when you asked for it. Make sure they also know you're there for them whenever they need you.

Create a friendship playlist on Spotify

Thanks to streaming platforms and smartphones, music has become accessible everywhere. So, while commuting to work, why not listen to a playlist you and your friend (or a group of them) curated together? From songs you used to dance to in your bedrooms as teens to those that have marked your summer nights together, a nostalgic friendship playlist will remind you both of just how much you've been through over the years.

Apart from songs that mean a lot to the two (or more) of you, there are plenty of famous BFF anthems that belong on every friendship playlist. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, "It's Nice to Have a Friend," by Taylor Swift, and "Time After Time," by Cyndi Lauper are only a few of the best. But really, there is only one rule to collaborative friendship playlists: they need to be filled with music that you love listening to together (via Business Insider).

You don't need a reason for a phone call

In today's busy world, getting an unannounced phone call seems to be mostly unwanted, but friends surely shouldn't feel that way. Try ringing your friend while you're on a treadmill or cleaning your home. If they pick up, you can have a spontaneous over-the-phone hangout session, and if not, they'll likely call you back at some point, so it's a win-win.

Etiquette expert and president of The Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training Nancy Friedman says that making a phone call (not an e-mail or text) with nothing in mind but to say hi to your friend is the best way to positively surprise them. "It can make someone's day. And you'll feel glad you did," Friedman reveals to Bustle.

The fact that Americans younger than 50 prefer sending and receiving text messages, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, makes a phone call that much more special and intimate. Of course, if a friend's anxiety or other mental disorder prevents them from picking up, respect that that friend might not be the right choice for a phone call.

Introduce your friends to each other

Once they enter their 30s, a lot of people are scared of making new friends or even think that they are "cheating" on their close friends by creating meaningful bonds with new people. However, no good friend will ever stop you from making new friends. In fact, making new friends is a great way to spice up an old friendship. According to Flash Pack, the skill set of making friends even improves in our 30s and 40s, which means that there is no excuse to meet your friend's friends at any age.

However, Social Self lists several things you should know before introducing two friends to each other, and the perhaps most important one is that you (as the mutual friend) need to move the conversation along. Whether you're mingling at a pub together or introducing your work bestie to your high school bestie, allowing your friends to become friends is a beautiful thing. This is not to mention that you can now see each of them twice instead of having to plan separate things. A quick disclaimer, though: not all of your friends will work well together. You shouldn't value them any less because they might not match with each other as well as you do with each of them individually.

Take a trip down memory lane together

It's normal even for the strongest and closest of friendships to occasionally weaken and for friends to drift apart. And sometimes all it takes is spending a couple of hours reminiscing with your friends about old shenanigans and adventures to remind you just how valuable your friendship is.

According to Good Housekeeping, research shows that remembering the good ol' times will boost your happiness in the present. Because of this, keeping things like photographs, scrapbooks, souvenirs, and other memory prompts is worth the space (and effort of making/buying). Next time you invite your friend over, try to go through some kind of memorabilia. Of course, you earn extra points if you have some old hard drives or actual photo albums with embarrassing photos only you and your friend are ever allowed to see. And if you happen to be someone who doesn't collect sentimental things, just take a trip down memory lane with your buddy and remember all the fun stuff the two of you used to do.

If you live in the same place, run errands together

Scary Mommy calls it the "errand hang," while some might call it an "errand date." Whatever you call it, running errands with friends is the modern-day equivalent of adults making the time to see each other without getting overwhelmed. This one only works for those friends who live in the same towns and cities, so if you're one of the lucky ones, don't miss out on an extra opportunity to hang out with a friend.

Doing something boring like dropping off a package at the post office or returning a clothing item at the mall quickly becomes fun if you're accompanied by a friend who also needs to run that errand as well (or one nearby). After all, supermarket aisles are perfect for deep conversations, and sitting in a car while going through a carwash is great for blasting that Spotify friendship playlist you were supposed to curate. Errand dates are a great way to still see your friends even if you're super busy, and at the end of the day, you will feel very accomplished because you ended up doing both things.

Accept that life changes and so do friendships

Of course, no one wants to grow apart from their close friends, but sometimes people and their lives change, and staying connected with a friend might seem more of a chore than something you really want to do. If this happens, accepting that the two of you were only meant to be close friends for a period of your life will help you stop feeling guilty.

In her piece for The New York Times, author Lauren Mechling explores how to end a friendship. Mechling says that while some friendships end because of betrayal or scandalous transgressions, the ending comes more slowly for others. It usually starts with a change in the atmosphere and what used to be an enjoyable hangout becomes a catch-up session you feel a duty toward. Slowly but surely, the only mode of communication becomes social media and with it, real-life friendship ceases to exist. "Out of respect for friendship's sanctity, when the magic dims, the best thing to do is let go," Mechling says, and she couldn't be more right. Always prioritize yourself, and if a friend doesn't feel right for you anymore, don't be afraid to let them go.