Finding your feet on new ground

Updated: 13 Jun 2023

Moving to a new town or city is daunting at any age, but when you relocate your entire life in later years, it can be even more difficult to find your feet. Check out Dr Wild's expert tips on how to feel more settled.

All change

Gone are the streets and shops you knew like the back of your hand, the reassurance of friendly and supportive neighbours, and the reliable network of friends you’ve built up through the years.

The good news is you’re not alone and, with a little ‘flexible thinking’ and proactivity, your new adventure can be something amazing.

Recognising loss

Headshot of Dr Jennifer Wild from Oxford UniversityDr Jennifer Wild, an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University, says moving to a new area – even if it’s for positive reasons – can trigger a huge sense of loss and even bereavement.

She said: “Relocating in later life is hugely significant for anyone, no matter what good intentions you may have with the move. There can be an element of loneliness at first, sadness at leaving your life behind and nervousness about what’s to come. And there’s likely to be feelings of loss, which can lead to a bereavement-type reaction for some people.

“This can be overwhelming and a move that was supposed to be for the better becomes the main focus of why you are unhappy or lonely.

“The good news is, by recognising these feelings and getting into helpful thinking habits, you can transform your mood, build your confidence and start making a new life.”

New opportunities

So what happens next? Dr Wild says that to move forward with loss we first have to be clear about what we miss.

She said: “Try to be specific about what you feel you have lost. Do you miss a friend in particular? What is it about the friendship that you miss? Is it the opportunity to share laughs or to feel heard? Then think through how to introduce what you miss into your life in new ways. So, in this example, you’d be thinking through how to create opportunities to laugh or to be heard in your new life.

“It can also help to shift focus from what’s been lost to what has not been lost and what new options may be available to you.

“Look at the advantages of your new home, can you feel safe here and are there new opportunities. It’s about shifting the focus to the benefits for your mental wellbeing and overall health.”

Once you have a grasp on helpful thinking you can start putting it into practice by trying something new, whether it’s going to your local church, finding a hobby group you are interested in or even giving an Oddfellows social event a try.

A group of 4 members sat on a bench having a nice time together
AT HOME: Oddfellows member, Julie Rudge (second from right), said the friends she has made at her local Oddfellows friendship group in Southport have helped her to feel like she belongs in her new community.

First steps

Walking into a room full of strangers is easier said than done, no matter how confident you are. Here are Dr Wild’s top tips on how to overcome any concerns and take that first step.

1) Find something that appeals to you. Don’t sign up for a rock climbing class if you’re not into heights. Is there a craft or gardening club linked to your own interests. Perhaps enjoying a coffee with an organised friendship group is a good place to start?

2) Give yourself permission to leave after five minutes – the idea of going into a room full of strangers for five minutes is much less daunting than staying for a whole hour. By focusing on a short time limit you are putting less pressure on yourself. Then you can choose to stay or choose to leave without feeling like you’ve failed.

Science shows us that 88% of our worries never happen.

3) Predict your outcomes – write a list of what you are worried about. Putting pen to paper will help you look at what’s really concerning you and help test whether or not your worries come true. Science shows us that 88% of our worries never happen. The best way to discover this is for you to note your worries and compare them to what happens. Be specific. Are you worried about people not liking you? How would people respond to you if they didn’t like you? Are you worried about sitting on your own – what do you think would happen?

4) Do make sure when you try your group activity that you shift your focus from your feelings to the outside world. Rather than focusing on how uncomfortable you may be feeling, instead look up and around. Look for signs that people are being kind and friendly. Try to get lost in your new interactions. This means, get out of our head and into the world!

5) And finally, revisit your list of concerns – whether you stay for five minutes or an hour, compare your list of predictions with what actually happened. Did someone respond well to you? Did you sit on your own or did someone join you? Make a note of what you learned and keep it. Seeing it in black and white will help you feel more confident and independent. You may like to refer to it before attending another event to boost your confidence.

Go easy on yourself

There’s no rush! Settling into a new home can take as long as it needs to, so don’t put pressure on yourself to replace your old life within a few weeks. Focus on the positives and take advantage of opportunities, it could be the best decision you’ve ever made!

Oddfellows friendship groups

If you'd like to meet some friendly people in your new area, we're always ready to welcome new members to our local Oddfellows friendship groups.

You can find your nearest by using our Branch Finder, or use our Events Finder to search for social events and activities happening near to where you live.

Give the Oddfellows a try. There's no obligation to join. Contact us to request your free information pack and local events diary.

Further reading

Read more advice on making friends and building social confidence in our friendship guides section.

Read real-life stories from our members about how the Oddfellows helped them to settle in a new area in later life in our 'new start' section.

Dr Jennifer Wild is a consultant clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Oxford. Her book, Be Extraordinary: 7 Key Skills to Transform your Life from Ordinary to Extraordinary, is about how to transition from ordinary to extraordinary. For more information go to https://www.beextraordinarybook.com/.

Disclaimer: Links to third-party websites do not constitute an endorsement by the Oddfellows and use of the advertised products and services is entirely at your risk. The Oddfellows does not accept any liability or responsibility for any third party material on other websites.