- By Sue Campbell
We need a new way to make friends in our 50s and 60s. Blogger Margaret Manning came to that conclusion after creating and running her sixtyandme site focused on boomer women.
She didn’t set out thinking loneliness was an issue for this age group — it seemed more part of an elderly isolation problem. But then she noticed discussions springing up on her site. People would talk about losing work friends as they slowed down or retired, and about no longer crossing paths with other parents as their children graduated and left home. Divorce or a spouse’s death created devastating loss.
Manning noticed another problem in how some responded to these transitions and changes. “At the heart of it was somewhere along the line they’d stopped reaching out to the world,” she told me recently.
We don’t just want more people in our lives. We want the right people in our lives. We want intimacy, not interaction.
— Margaret Manning, blogger
That realization led Manning to delve deeper into her readers’ experience by surveying them (more on that in a minute). Based on what she found, she decided to launch a messaging site called Boomerly, which just went live. Unlike Match, OKCupid or OurTime, romance is not the end goal of this new service. Boomerly aims to help users find like-minded friends, travel companions, activity buddies and roommates.
Illuminating Survey Results
Boomerly grew from a survey taken by more than 1,000 sixtyandme users — almost all female and between ages of 55 and 69.
Seventy-five percent of them said they felt lonely.
“When we got these answers back, we saw a lack of connection to meaningful relationships,” Manning said. “It wasn’t about just having friends or girlfriends, but intimacy in relationships — having people that really know you.”
As she wrote when blogging about the survey results: “We don’t just want more people in our lives. We want the right people in our lives. We want intimacy, not interaction. We want true connections, not just surface level contacts.”
A Positive Approach
Boomerly set out to help people find happiness and break through loneliness. When you sign up — and you do so through Facebook — you can say which type of relationship you’re looking for. A tennis partner? Someone to share a European vacation? A roommate?
Then you go through lists of personality traits, hobbies and interests you’re looking for in someone else and that describe you. Are you more of a hippie/free spirit? Adventurous, wacky or warm? Do you like knitting or skiing or both?
You can then start online conversations with those who match what you’re looking for.
Manning’s son, Nathan, built the website keeping security issues at the forefront. You’re asked to use your real name (last initial is OK) and Boomerly’s verification system. “We hopefully strike the right balance of making it safe for users but not asking them to share more information than they’re comfortable with,” said Nathan’s mom.
For now, the site is free of charge and Manning is open to feedback.
“Boomerly challenges you to stop blaming the world and to change your mindset,” Manning said.
She encourages women who feel lonely to start reaching out to others. “Find friends you can talk to about the tough questions, not just about whether you dye your hair or not,” she said. In the end, she hopes her new project will make those deeper connections easier to find.