Reconnecting With Old Friends – The Ultimate Guide
When the memories of good times spent with old friends surface, you can’t help but give in to the warm waves of nostalgia that sweep over you. For most people, nostalgia hits harder during the golden years. At times like these, you probably wonder what your long-lost best buds are up to or how you can go about finding an old friend to relive those days of years gone by.
And why should you not? After all, there is nothing more comforting than catching up with old friends and learning about their lives. Here is your sign to do that if you have been thinking about reconnecting with your best pals or old classmates.
Reasons to reach out to old friends
Human beings are social creatures and “born with an innate capacity for forming social connections.” We require authentic, emotional connections to navigate our lives. The need for this connection, or reconnection, in this case, becomes more palpable during senior years for various reasons: you might have decided to let go of grudges, want your travel buddy back, or simply wish to catch up with someone you lost touch with.
Reflecting on the past can help you figure out how you want to live your life now. In fact, research suggests that looking back on old memories improves your emotional well-being. If reminiscing can do that, imagine the joy that reconnecting with friends, who were a part of these happy memories, can bring. We have a few tips on how to reconnect with old friends, but before that, here are a few reasons why you should reach out to long-lost friends:
Old friends can give you a sense of belonging
You might feel like you have lost touch with a part of yourself over the years; you are no longer the person you were when you were younger, and you long to find an anchor that helps you put your life in context. Haven’t we all felt this at some point or another? So at times like these, finding old friends is immensely uplifting, as they give you a sense of belonging. It feels nice to catch up over a cup, regaling each other with the colorful moments of your shared time.
You will have enriching and silly conversations
The great thing about old friendships is that you don’t have to start from scratch; you don’t need to indulge in small talk and niceties to acquaint yourself with one another. So when you find a lost friend, you get to skip over the awkward, hesitant conversations typical of people who have just met. Since the foundation of your friendship has already been laid, you can start right where you left off. Your conversations can be intense or silly; no rules or inhibitions exist. For instance, who else can randomly chime in while watching a baseball game on TV and say, “Remember when you started snoring in the middle of the math class, and we all thought an animal had gotten inside the classroom?” Only old friends can do that!
Friendships can help you manage isolation and loneliness
According to the CDC, approximately one-fourth of older adults over 65 experience social isolation and loneliness. This might be because of empty nest syndrome, changes in family dynamics, retirement, or health conditions that affect mobility or cause physical impairments. While this may sound alarming, there’s no reason to worry.Rekindling old friendships is one of the best antidotes to managing loneliness and social isolation. When you find an old friend and interact with them, you experience more joy than with family members. In fact, research concludes that relationships with friends are more fulfilling than those with family. Old friendships can help alleviate isolation and satisfy our perennial need for people who know us well, value us for who we are, and bring us unmatched joy.
Your physical and mental health will improve
Friends are your chosen family. That said, sometimes life gets in the way, and you might lose touch with your friends despite wanting to nurture that relationship. Drifting apart from your friends can affect your emotional and physical well-being. Perhaps, this is why studies have repeatedly proven that maintaining social connections with friends is good for your health.
Meeting up with an old friend, even once a week or two, can boost your emotional well-being. Regularly visiting a friend, catching up over a cup of coffee, or running errands together can invigorate you and bring about an improved sense of satisfaction in your life. Not only that, it can positively impact your physical health.
You will learn to manage stress
Health problems, financial issues, or a lack of structure can be stressors that recur as you age. While these stressors, especially health problems, are not atypical, the resilience to deal with them can diminish. As a result, your body’s cortisol levels, which are stress hormone levels, increase, consequently putting your body and mind in a constant fight or flight mode. This stress can manifest as physical symptoms like headaches, indigestion, heart palpitations, poor concentration, sleep difficulties, anxiety, irritability, or loss of appetite.At times like these, what you need is the company of an old friend. Catching up with someone you have been close to is one of the most effective stress busters. When you sit down with them, your brain receives signals indicating that you are in your comfort zone and everything around you is safe. Your mind is no longer in the fight or flight mode. Talking, laughing, walking, having a drink, or doing any of your favorite activities with them releases oxytocin and serotonin, or happy hormones, that counter the effects of the stress hormones in your brain.
Now that you know how finding an old friend can do you a world of good, you should proactively reach out to a friend to rekindle your friendship. At the end of the day, it is not just about thinking about your health but also how you want to spend the golden years of your life. And being with the special few who knew you in the past will enrich your days.
How to reconnect with old friends
Now that you are versed in the ‘whys’ of reconnecting with old friends and classmates, you might wonder how to go about the ‘hows’ of finding and getting in touch with them. After all, reconnecting with old friends might seem easy in theory, but taking the initiative to reach out might feel difficult. If this is how you feel, you need to know that it is a perfectly valid feeling. What if your old friends didn’t want you to contact them? What if they think you are being intrusive? Will they readily respond? Let’s look at what science says!
According to a recent study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, just sending a “Hello!” to someone you have not connected with for a long time has a more positive reaction than you would have anticipated. In the study, 5,900 people wrote a note and mailed it to someone they lost contact with. The sender and recipient of the note were then asked to rate the level of appreciation they experienced after sending and receiving the note. This rating was on a seven-point scale. The results will surprise you. While the average appreciation rating of the senders was around 5.5, the receivers’ ratings were as high as 6.1!
Thus, that proves that if you contact an old friend out of the blue, they will appreciate it more than you know. No one can deny how vulnerable it feels to reach out to a lost friend. But it helps to know that they will appreciate the gesture.
If this isn’t motivating enough, perhaps what A. A. Milne wrote in Winnie-the-Pooh will inspire you to take the first step toward finding an old friend. “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” To help you get started, here are a few tips on how to find old friends and classmates.
Tips to finding old friends and classmates
Here are a few tips to help you find old friends and classmates:
Before you start the search for an old friend, get to know a few tips and tricks for organizing the information you will gather about them. First, decide whether you want to note things down electronically, take printouts of the information you have collated, or write everything on paper and keep physical folders and notebooks.
Whatever method you pick, plan ahead about the types of information you expect to find. This way, you can have different categories of information, such as your old friend’s different addresses and contact information. This will make it easier to sort through as your search progresses.
Now start compiling all the information you already have about your long-lost friend. You can also start making notes about what you remember about them; this can include their full name, nicknames, birthdate, approximate age, old schools, past addresses, phone numbers, and employers. Essentially, you have to recall everything you know about them. After all, the search for an old friend is like putting pieces of a puzzle together. You already have some pieces, and you have to find the rest with the most definitive piece of information in hand.
Use online sources to gather leads
Knowing how to find an old friend online for free can be handy. Seek help from your family’s younger members to learn how to use online sources like search engines and social media. While getting the hang of all the different websites is overwhelming initially, navigating through them becomes relatively easy. In most cases, knowing your friend’s first and last name can help you track them down. But sometimes, you might have to follow a trail of websites to locate them.Additionally, it helps to use different combinations of the same information for accurate results. For example, suppose you want to look for your friend Julie Smith from Boston, who went to the University of Colorado. These are the combinations you can use: “julie smith,” “julie smith” boston, “julie smith” university of colorado, and “smith julie” boston university of colorado.
Reach out to those who may have more information
While you have lost touch with your friend, it may happen that you are still in contact with a few mutual acquaintances. They might still talk to your friend and be able to help you contact them.
You can also reach out to other people, like extended family members, coworkers, or your friend’s associates, who can help you in your search. If you are feeling awkward about contacting them, here is a simple template message you can use: “Hello, [their name]. I’m looking for my friend [friend’s name] from [name of high school/university], whom I haven’t met in years. I was wondering whether you were in touch with them. Any information will be helpful and appreciated.”
Make it easy for others to find you
While you’re on your quest to find long-lost friends, it can quite possibly happen that they are also looking for you. Wouldn’t receiving that out-of-the-blue message or phone call from your oldest friend be wonderful? So make it easier for them to reach out to you. First, create your profiles on social media. Second, search for yourself on search engines such as Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. Third, check whether your social media profiles appear in the search results.Finally, create a blog or website wherein you regularly talk about your favorite topics. Of course, this is optional. Have a contact form on your blog to make it easier for someone to contact you. What’s more, blogging or maintaining a website is like hitting two birds with one stone: you make productive use of your time while providing a channel for old friends to contact you.
Get the help of a professional
You can also seek a private investigator’s help to find your long-lost friends. Hire someone who is an expert in this area. A licensed investigator will have access to several information resources that are otherwise not available to everyone. Moreover, their methods are far more meticulous than what you can do by yourself. Before you hire someone, make sure they have a valid license. Verify their credentials and ask for signed contracts before making any payments.
While all the tips above do not require you to spend too much money, you may need to shell out a considerable amount depending on how challenging the search for your old friends is. But, in the end, the money spent may be worth it.
Platforms you can use to find lost friends
With the number of seniors using social media growing multifold, the best and easiest way to find lost friends for free is by being online. There are several platforms available for use, from social media websites to directories. All you need to do is learn how to navigate and use them. Here’s a list of a few platforms you can check out; most of these are free, unless stated otherwise:
A whopping 3 billion people use Facebook, which means your chances of finding lost friends are high. All you need to do is create your profile, upload a profile picture, and enter a few basic details, such as your age, gender, email ID, the school or university you attended, and your current location. Send friend requests to the friends and family you know are on Facebook. Ensure your profile is private, and check all privacy settings to safeguard your personal information. You can regularly share updates about your day or life and upload vacation photos. You will most likely find your lost friends through mutual friends. In fact, Facebook also shows you a list of people you might know.
Like Facebook, Instagram has become a popular social media platform. While younger adults commonly use it, a certain percentage of users belong to the 65+ category. You can also create your profile here. Unlike Facebook, you can’t put up many personal details, such as the high school or college you attended. Instagram is more of a photo- and video-sharing platform. Nonetheless, you can follow people who have also made their profiles on Instagram. Moreover, you don’t have to pay a penny to create an Instagram account.
LinkedIn, which is made for professionals, is another excellent free platform you can use. It has been designed to help people network and find opportunities in their professional domain. It is requisite for members to include their education details, such as the school and university they attended, and work experience details, such as their past and present employers. This detailed information makes LinkedIn quite a useful tool for finding your old friends, classmates, and coworkers who were once close to you years ago. Moreover, you can become a premium member if you wish to pay a monthly fee of around $25. This will give access to extra features, such as sending messages directly to a LinkedIn member’s InMail, seeing more profiles when you search, accessing premium search filters, and getting detailed profile information.
School alum websites
You can check out your high school’s alum website if you are thinking about how to find a childhood friend who went to the same school as you did. You can search for your school’s alum website through any search engine. Just type in the name of your school, the city, and the state. Although not all schools have their own sites, most have set up online alum networks on social media platforms and messaging app groups, such as WhatsApp and Telegram. You can tap into these channels to find old classmates. Furthermore, you can try out websites like alumniclass.com, which hosts thousands of high schools in the country.
True People Search
You can also use people search websites like True People Search. You can find anyone whose home phone number, mobile phone number, or address you know through this website. You must know that this website scans the Internet for publicly available information. So, if your friend’s information is not available in any public record or on social media, your chances of finding them are low. Moreover, the website might ask you to provide your own personal information in exchange for its services. So ensure that you read through its privacy terms and conditions.
USA People Search
USA People Search, a website with a simple interface, makes it easy to find someone, whether it is an old childhood friend, a schoolmate, or a friend from university. You only need to enter your friends’ first and last names; the website will generate relevant results. If you need quicker results, you will have to provide extra information, such as your friend’s phone numbers and email addresses. Using all this information, USA People Search works like a search engine in reverse. To generate the search results, you may have to pay a fee. You can pay for a single report or a membership fee for three months, during which you can search for as many people as you wish. You can also opt for a limited-period trial membership.
This lost friend finder is quite popular since you can use its features through its website and mobile app. The app is available for both Android and iOS mobile devices. Through these, you can search for old classmates and long-lost friends by entering the information you have about them, including their name, phone number, email address, or location. BeenVerified will scan publicly available records and social media accounts to give you more information about your friend. To access the data, you must sign up for BeenVerified subscription options starting at around $7 per month, billed annually.
How to nurture the friendship
Now that you have found your friend and reconnected with them, time has stood still; you are both the same, yet different. The most apparent difference is your age. Therefore, you need to find new ways to nurture this second chance at friendship. Here are a few tips to do just that:
Call each other regularly
Pick up the phone and call all your old friends as often as possible. Some friends love it when you check in with them daily. Others will want to talk to you once a week or in a couple of weeks to discuss upcoming personal events, what they and you did the weekend before or plans for the future. A phone call lasting just about five minutes can go a long way toward maintaining a friendship. Keeping communication channels open is one of the simplest ways to remain connected.
Sometimes mere phone calls are enough. You want to talk to your friend face to face. But it might not be possible for either of you to travel or visit to meet each other. In times like these, video calls are very useful. These will not only bridge the physical distance between you and your friends but also make you feel as if you are in each other’s presence.
Use social media to keep each other updated
Get on social media to stay connected with all your friends. When you can’t do regular phone or video calls, you can share updates about your life and learn about what is happening in your friend’s life. For example, you can post pictures of your holidays, a book you read, a new plant you just potted, or a recipe you tried to tell your friends what you have been up to. You can also comment on the posts and photos they upload.
Take the initiative to plan meetups with your friends. Call your friend and check when they are free. You can plan coffee, lunch, golf, and spa dates with your old friends. You can catch up with a different friend every week or month and do something you enjoy together.
Sign up for events that interest you both
Talk to your friend and ask them if they would be interested in attending an event you plan to attend. Take them along as your plus one, be it for a lecture series by a favorite speaker, music concert, play, line dancing event, or game night in the local club.
Bond over activities you both like
Let’s say you are retired, have a week or the weekend off, or have taken a sabbatical. So why not take up activities you have been putting off for years? There is probably something you have always wanted to do but have not tried because of your busy schedule. Make a list of the activities you both want to do and pick the common ones from both lists.
Activities to do
Now that you have rekindled your friendship and promised to catch up regularly, you can take up activities you both like. This will help you stay active and provide you with an opportunity to nurture your long-standing friendship. Here are some ideas to get you started:
You both can volunteer and work for the community. It is a great way to keep busy while spending time with each other. You can pick a common cause and sign up for activities at whatever time suits you both. For example, you can lend a hand at the neighborhood soup kitchen, work at an animal shelter, mentor local youth, or assist in local initiatives. You can also sign up with nonprofit organizations like the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross Society, and Meals on Wheels America.
After following all the steps to find your old friends, you have found a shared interest in gardening. So there’s no question about what activity you can take up to reconnect with one another. You can work in each other’s gardens turn by turn or join a community garden. This will give you a chance to have fun while positively impacting your community.
Joining a book club
If both of you are avid readers or have recently taken up reading, joining a book club is a good idea. You can catch up with one another, read a new book, and make new friends. If you don’t have a book club in your neighborhood, you can start your own with a few friends. It’s a bonus if you have different tastes in books, as it keeps things interesting; you get to step outside your comfort zone and explore new genres.
Joining a fitness class
Did you and your friend love sports in high school? Or were you both fitness enthusiasts? You can sign up for a fitness class as a fun activity together. Several offline and online video classes are available for restorative yoga, aquatic aerobics, functional fitness, Tai Chi, and fall prevention activities. Look for the ones specifically designed for seniors, and have an instructor guide you through all the routines. With an instructor to help you, you will have a safe and informative environment with minimal possible injuries.
Traveling is the best way to spend some quality time with your pal. All you need is a destination and the enthusiasm to explore the world. You can sign up for group travel tailored explicitly for seniors. You can also plan road and camping trips if being outdoors is what you and your friend have always liked in your younger days. Besides, if you love driving, you can rent RVs, drive cross-country, and live the best days of your senior year.
Take up a new hobby together
Taking up a new hobby is a great way to spend quality time with an old friend. This is because learning something new is always exciting, no matter how old you are. It gets more enjoyable when you have someone to do it with you. Discuss with your friend and find out about a shared activity you both have been planning to take up for years but couldn’t. Perhaps you wanted to take up photography, knitting, crocheting, painting, learning a new language, or golfing. Pick up a hobby that will keep you both engaged as you reminisce about the years gone by.
Reigniting old friendships is like riding a bicycle after several years. Once you get on it, you remember how to paddle, balance, and maneuver it. You may have to put in some initial effort, but the struggle only lasts a short while. Similarly, once you reconnect with old friends, every subsequent meeting or phone call becomes easier and more familiar. So overcome your inhibitions and reach out to that old friend with whom you want to reconnect.