Friendship after 40

Having meaningful connections helps people to live longer

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Having good relationships and good friendships is the best thing you can do to live longer.”

That’s according to Sue McGarvie, an Ottawa clinical sex and relationship counselor. “Study after study indicates that people who live the longest have a community and friends they can rely on,” McGarvie says. “Basically, loneliness kills.”

The pandemic just magnified how lonely people really are, says McGarvie. “People got used to being alone. Then inertia set in and isolating became easy. And if you aren’t using your friendship skills, you’ll lose them.”

Sue McGarvie. Photo Credit Sue McGarvie

Her own clients were talking about how lonely they were, so McGarvie’s solution was to set up the website She realized that single adults over the age of 40 were facing roadblocks in creating relationships. Some of it was the fear of going out again and others had lost a partner. “It’s hard to make friends,” says McGarvie. “You really do have to work at it. But from what my clients were saying, they wanted something that wasn’t flaky, where they felt comfortable and had the possibility of meeting someone with similar interests and maybe starting a conversation.”

McGarvie writes a piece every day for the blog on the website with tips for a healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships, as well as other topics.

Ottawa is different, McGarvie says. “I know Ottawa has a reputation of being boring,” says McGarvie. “We’re not. But we’re not like ‘howdy partner’ Calgary or east coast easiness. We are a bit more buttoned-down discreet, and we get a lot of people who are new to the city and find making friends difficult.”

McGarvie has kept Over40Connect local and kind. She understands that many people are introverts and the idea of hanging out in a bar or going to an expensive organized event is frightening, so she created something in the middle. “I get that if you’re not an extrovert, it’s hard,” says McGarvie. “And my volunteers get it too, so I give them a job at my events — like putting name tags on everyone. And the name tags have stickers — like a boat, or a dog or a guitar to show what you’re interested in. It’s a great way to start a conversation.”

At one event, it didn’t take long for the guitar-stickers to discover each other and get engrossed in guitar-talk. “And if I hear mean talk, any kind of snark or bashing of anything, you’re out.” McGarvie says her group events are a safe way for people to find friends. She is surprised by the number of millennials that attend. And she realizes that it’s often even harder for men.  “I know how hard this can be,” says McGarvie. “I’ve signed up for dance classes, but I’m kind of nervous for those first classes, so I asked a friend to come with me. But I’ve taken that first step.”

Socializing after your 40s is not a given, confirms Tania, whose last name was withheld for privacy reasons. “It’s hard to find meaningful relationships either online or at your workplace. These group get-togethers are kind of like a playground where you can meet, mingle, and connect with other like-minded people in a comfortable environment.”  

For Cathleen (last name withheld), it was about finding a sense of purpose and belonging. “This amazing group of people did really help me feel like I belonged,” says Cathleen.

Finding other people who are at the same stage of life and single has kept Tina (last name withheld) with the group for over two years. She now volunteers at events put on by Over40Connect. Volunteering, she says, is “also a great way to meet new people and welcome them and put them at ease,” says Tina. “This has just created a new world of openness that’s hard to describe.” Tina says she had many questions answered about dating at this stage of her life. “I’ve now got good friends outside the group and as an unexpected bonus, I met a wonderful man through the group. I’m so grateful that I’m never bored or lonely.”

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Yvette says she’s met incredible people that are wonderful to socialize with and inspire her to enjoy life. She sums up her experience this way — “I joined because I did not want to die alone.”

“We meet weekly all over town at various locations,” says McGarvie. As each week is different, there is something to interest everyone, and many people who have met someone in her groups still want to keep coming because they’ve made so many other friends. “It’s about kindness and being friendly and making friends,” says McGarvie, “and yes, dating differently.”