As you age it can be quite common to have fewer friends than you did in your twenties or thirties. Family commitments, distance and health issues can all play a part in the changes to your friendships.

So it’s more important than ever to nurture and develop the relationships that you do have.

1. Keep it real

Instead of texting or emailing, try to make a point of calling a friend to catch up or ideally meeting up regularly. Nothing beats face to face communication for strengthening bonds. If they’re too far away, try to arrange a time to meet up in the future so that you both have something to look forward to. Why not send them a letter with an invitation – it’s much more personal than an email.

2. Always be honest

If a friend is bothering you or you just have a lot going on and can’t catch up – always just be honest with them. Saying something like ‘I have a lot on my plate this month, can we catch up another time’ is a lot better than ignoring phone calls and being aloof. And remember that nobody is a mind reader, so tell them how you are feeling if something is not quite right.

3. Be there to offer help when needed

If a friend is sick, bereaved, or just seems down – be the first one to step in and offer a hand. Dropping off a meal or a cake, offering to walk their dog or collecting some groceries for them is a great help that will be appreciated. Know that they would do the same for you if the roles were reversed.

4. Keep a diary

Sometimes friends can get frustrated if they feel that they are doing all the organising for catch ups. Why not keep a diary and make notes for yourself for when you should contact someone to say hello or to plan a weekend away. It will stop you from double booking yourself, and will also help you keep track of birthdays and special anniversaries.

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This article first appeared on Over60.