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5 Reasons You Might Have Fewer Friends

Between kids, smartphones and other responsibilities, today’s 55- to 64-year-olds mix and mingle less

illustration of busy older adults

Illustration by Brandon Loving

En español | Stanford’s Center on Longevity analyzed surveys about family and friends, as well as civic organizations, work, volunteering, worship services and other connection sources. The findings reveal a 5 percent drop in social engagement for adults ages 55 to 64, versus that of their peers 20 years ago. Research scientist Tamara Sims, who helped direct the study, theorizes why.

1. You’re looking after Mom and Dad.

Providing or arranging care for aging parents decreases the time available for socializing. 

2. You haven’t retired.

Even well into their 60s, workers are more likely to stay on the job longer than was customary with earlier generations. Still, non-retirees are apt to have fewer same-generation peers at work than they’ve had in the past.

3. Your children are living with you again.

Millennial boomerang kids may consume resources, finances and time.

4. You’re always on your phone.

Social technology is replacing some of the ways people used to engage face-to-face.

5. You’ve uprooted.

Older generations tended to live out their lives in the same town. Research suggests, though, that boomers may be more mobile.

Sims’ top tip to buck the social-retrenchment trend? Volunteer. Why? Bonds are best made between people who regularly do meaningful activities together.