Dear MJ,

My friend likes to take the bus trips to Reno for a fun time out. We live in an assisted living complex so I like to get out too but I don’t always like to go on bus trips, especially when it’s always to go gambling and have a few drinks. I wouldn’t mind going with her sometimes but when I ask her to do other things with me she says she’s too busy. Is she really my friend? What should I do?

Sincerely, Not a Good Date

Dear Not a Good Date,

You’re probably are a good date, and I bet you’re a lot of fun to be with on the bus trips, otherwise she wouldn’t keep asking you. In any friendship, the hardest thing to do is talk about things that might make you or the other person uncomfortable. You need to change the way you think about “uncomfortable situations” and realize that “fact finding” conversations don’t have to be uncomfortable at all. First, it’s important that you come up with more than one thing you like to do so you can offer your friend a “menu” of other fun activities.

Maybe you like longer trips but not always to Reno or the other casinos. If so, go to the Elderhostel website, or ask someone who manages your complex to find the site for you on the community computer, so you can look around at the various trips, some are very short and some are longer. No matter what kinds of activities you like you will probably find something at Elderhostel.

If you aren’t particularly interested in a trip but would like to attend church services and would like your friend to go with you as company, or maybe take walks in a community park or along waterfront trails, or perhaps you’ve spotted a one day crafts fair in a nearby city, or your senior center is putting on something you’d like to go to or maybe a movie or a play are things you’d be more interested in, then list those things before talking to your friend..

Once you’re armed with a list of things you’d like to do, the odds are greater that something on your list will appeal to your friend. Ask your friend if she would like to do any of them. Explain to your friend that you would like to do more things than just bus trips, that you like the trips but you’d like her to share some other activities with you. If your friend says, “No” to every suggestion, then ask your friend “Why?” and this is the part where it can get uncomfortable unless you think of yourself as someone who is just on a fact finding mission, not someone who is mad or hurt or upset, but someone who really wants to know. Explain to your friend that you feel like there are many other things to do that could be fun, not to replace the bus trips but to have fun in other ways as well.

If you have been friendly and honest with your friend, it is likely she will choose to do something with you as long as you know what, when, and where and have the information about how to get there, get back, etc. If you don’t have those answers, your activities director can help you. If your friend flatly refuses and doesn’t have any good reason why, then perhaps you are just a “friend of convenience,” and you should begin looking around for a real friend, someone who believes in the give and take of friendship.

P.S. For those of you who don’t live in assisted living centers, the same suggestions apply except you can ask someone in your family or call an assisted living center and see if they can still provide you with the information you need for your activity of choice. Be sure to ask for the activities director though as someone just answering the phone might not be able to help you.