--Jen, Fremont, Cal.

I am 69. When I was young, I always thought I would be happy to live to that age and I no longer feel that because I could not cope with infirmity or other handicaps. But here I am, with so many ambitions and so much I want to learn.

Three years ago I decided that being alone for 32 years was long enough. I enjoy my own company but I do feel the need to be needed. My children are grown, and I have four lovely grandchildren. But my life seems without purpose. So I ran a small advertisement in our local magazine with the words "Anyone over 50, wishing to make new friends and improve their social life, please come to _____ for a buffet supper and discussion about forming a friendship group."

Sixty people turned up that night from miles around, and it was obvious that there was a great need for such a group, as this is a tourist area and therefore a shifting population.

It was a lot of work in the beginning, and it seemed that the only way to hold anything together was to take the reins myself and run a weekly 'What's On' in the local magazine. Three years later, I am still here, and many friendships have been formed. It is a commitment, and sometimes it feels like a thankless task, but for the people whose lives have been turned around it has been a blessing. It certainly gives me a purpose in life, trying to think of something each week, but the members themselves get involved and one or two people have opened their homes.

I am not suggesting that everyone should do this, but for those with special interests like art, embroidery, walking, or even just reading, it's possible you can find like-minded people to join you occasionally. It does help to have a computer, and I am lucky that I am able to use modern equipment.

I suggest to anyone in need of company: Seek out others in the same situation. It could change your life.

--Eileen, Algarve, Portugal