Call me old-fashioned, I prefer to be social face-to-face rather than on Facebook. But analog gatherings aren’t easy to come by, unless you already have an incredibly active network of friends.
There’s a website that can help. Meetup.com lets you search for groups of like-minded people based on common interests. These groups hold regular events—a.k.a. “meetups”—that anyone can attend. There’s a meetup for nearly every interest: hula hooping, Bible study, Language Exchange, even pet therapy, where children read to dogs. Most meetups are free or reasonably priced. And if there’s a group that you wish existed and doesn’t, the site makes it easy to start one of your own. Meetup.com’s slogan: use the Internet to get off the Internet.
You can find meetups in more than 92,000 cities and for more than 90,000 interests. Just go to the Meetup.com home page, click on the red “Find a Meetup Group” button on the top left and type in an area of interest and a zip code or town. A search for “senior” in “New York City” turns up groups like Savvy Seniors Who Like to Have Fun, the Senior Men’s Discussion Group and one for “senior brunchers.” Or you can join a group by interest; most are intergenerational and include seniors among their members: a Central Park sketching group, a digital photography workshop, an Astoria book club, a film & culture club…
Sift through the search results to find a group that’s right for you. If I’m interested in swing dancing, but want to avoid gymnastic gyrations, a search for “ballroom dancing” finds groups like Salsa New York that offer free basic lessons and Saturday night classes for beginners and intermediate dancers.
If you want to try a group, just click the Join Us button—joining is free. You’ll be asked to create a login and password (one password works for all groups). You can join with first name only or a nickname if you’re not comfortable revealing your true identity, though it is a good idea to upload a photo of yourself. You’ll also need to give your email address, but it won’t be displayed or shared. Some groups ask you to introduce yourself online or answer a profile question; most make these optional.
It might seem scary to join a group of strangers, but events are usually held in public places like museums or coffee shops, so there’s a built-in safety element. Check to see how many people are attending the event you’re interested in; unless you’re looking for a date, it’s probably not worth going if there’s only one other member attending.
When the group schedules an event, you’ll get an email invite. You’re not obligated to attend or even to decline – you can just ignore the invite. I RSVP if I plan on going. If I change my mind, I change the RSVP to reflect that, too.
Looking for the right group for you? Try these tips.
- Read the description well A search for “dining” and “New York City” turns up groups that indicate age ranges. Only you know if you prefer sipping Zinfandel with the New York Singles Over 40 Dinner Club or tossing back Jell-O Shots with 20-somethings at the Manhattan Happy Hour Social Group.
- Look for costs Even though joining Meetup is free, some groups charge a fee or hold events at a venue and expect you to buy something. The New York Investing Meetup charges $15 per meeting. New York City Atheists spend $20 for brunch.
- Check out the group stats A search for “knitting” and zip code “10000” finds about 60 groups, including Knit Together, which meets roughly every two weeks. Even though the group has 1,145 members, only about a dozen people generally attend.
- Read the reviews If you read the comments for New York Road Walkers, for example, you’ll discover that it’s actually a runners’ group. A member of the White Plains Tea Party writes that people over 65 should pay for private insurance and refuse Social Security. Good to know that before striking up a conversation.
- “Read” the photos, too A search for “hiking” and “Manhattan” yields outdoorsy groups like Northern Manhattan Outside. Clicking on the “Photos” tab lets me know that the terrain they travel is mostly flat.
- Check accessibility Groups list an address and phone number for a venue but often overlook accessibility factors. If you’re concerned, it’s best to call ahead and ask if the event is wheelchair- or walker-friendly. It’s perfectly fine to email the organizer with questions, too.
- Use Meetup on the road If I’m alone in, say, Philadelphia, Meetup allows me to find groups like Philly Museums and Technology so I don’t have to walk around a museum by myself.
I’m taking the plunge and joining the New York City Beekeeping Meetup—and RSVPing for an upcoming hive inspection… whatever that is. Soon, I’ll let you know how it went and report back with all the details.
What Meet new people and try new activities
Where Around the world or in your neighborhood
How Much Some meetups are free, others charge a fee or expect you to buy something at the venue, like lunch or dinner
Wheelchair Accessible? Depends on the particular venue. Contact the group’s organizer with any questions.
Senior Friendly? Very—several groups are specifically for seniors.