Colorado Springs - After his divorce, Bob Matulovich, 32, took comfort in raising his young daughter as a single parent. Three years later, he felt isolated.

Tammy Hall, 31, moved to Colorado from Kansas to be closer to her parents. But 2 1/2 years later, she still could only count her sister as her closest buddy.

Demanding 80- to 100-hour workweeks left Glenn Thayer, 33, with a nonexistent social life.

Like many adults, Matulovich, Hall and Thayer acknowledged they needed something else in their lives. They told themselves they needed to make "social contacts," "business associates," and do some "networking."

What they really needed was a friend.

The trouble is that once we reach adulthood, having and making friends for some of us can be a trial. Back in elementary school, lifelong friendships were spawned by sharing a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich with the kid sitting next to you. In college, cold pizza, test anxiety and a good beer-drinking game were enough fodder for intimate bonding.

But when you near 30, or are solidly in your 40s and 50s, how do you make friends - despite fear, cynicism and busy lives?

Concentrate on making acquaintances, not deep friendships, advises Debbie Mandel, author of "Turn on Your Inner Light," a stress-management tool for relationships.

Letting relationships unfold naturally will help you find the friends you will treasure. Out of 20 acquaintances you may make, she says, one or two could grow into a lifelong friendship.

"We want immediate gratification - that best friend right now. But it doesn't work that way anymore for us once we reach adulthood, once we leave the innocence of playing in the sandbox," Mandel says. "Don't make it a burden to meet people, and don't expect too much right away. Start getting acquainted and making time to put yourself out there. Friendships have to be natural and have an element of fun."

Some adults may be quick to whine that it's hard to meet people, but that's not true when they are all around you. According to census data, 136,720 people migrated to Colorado between April 2000 and July 2004, making bumping into new potential friends that much easier.

You just need some strategies to make a connection.

Work always is a good place to start. But if you want to branch out beyond the pickings in the break room, be proactive about making friends without coming off as pushy.

The brave take a leap instead of trusting in serendipity. They take risks, like inviting someone to have coffee or lunch. But if the thought of doing that scares you, Mandel suggests taking advantage of natural settings that make it easy to spark a conversation about a shared experience. Take an aerobics class or attend cultural events.

You also can Google a Newcomer's club or Linkup organization in town. Firinn Taisdeal, founder of Linkup Central, says a new Denver Linkup group started four months ago and already has a few hundred people involved.

If you go this route, at least you know everyone you meet will be open to new friendships, says Marla Paul, author of "The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making and Keeping Friends When You're Not a Kid Anymore."

"Your most fertile area to look for friends is among people who are also new," Paul says. "You have the same needs and can bond around the same issues such as adjusting to a new town."

Experts say the key is to re-create the kind of structured environment that easily fostered friendships as a child and as a young adult. For example, in college, you attended classes with the same people, gathered at the same watering hole or may have had the same dorm roommate for four years.

As an adult, you have to throw yourself into a group setting where you will have that consistent interaction.

Attending the two-hour socials held twice each month by the Colorado Springs Young Professionals group gave Matulovich, Thayer and Hall the forum they needed to work on social skills, make business connections and develop friendships.

"When you go to a (night) club, you lack a common denominator," Thayer says.

Matulovich, who grew adept at meeting people by attending the monthly events, says: "There's an element of comfort when you are surrounded by people in your own age range who are motivated and ambitious like you."

If you don't like the idea of mingling in, say, a nightclub, simply live your passion. But avoid the mistake experts say many singles make: Don't engage in those favorite activities alone.

"Committees that meet once a week, discussion groups - all of these are great ways to meet people in a setting where personalities can be revealed and connections can be made," Paul says

Whether it's scrapbooking, bridge, cycling, athletic leagues or the religious group of your choice, if you are doing something you are passionate about (and commit at least one day a week to it), you will meet people. Your common interest will be a foundation for friendship.

"More and more, synagogues, private clubs, businesses and organizations are reaching out to singles," says Toni Coleman, a psychotherapist and relationship coach. "It's become almost an industry because people realize they can make money off of the tons of single people out there trying to make a connection."

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce was one of the first places Bruce Hunter, 41, hit up for business contacts who later became friends when he moved to Denver 2 1/2 years ago. He offered to help members with projects in the community, volunteered, and took advantage of the captive audiences of 400 to 900 people in attendance at association award receptions.

"If someone wasn't speaking, I would get up and introduce myself around the table and spend time walking around the room," Hunter says. "I see so many people at events who want to network but end up sitting down and eating their salad or meal instead. I say: You only have a couple of hours, so take advantage of it to meet people."

Above all else, remember to be yourself, experts say.

"A lot of people tell me they are stressed, unhappy and want to take Prozac," Mandel says. "I tell them they are just lonely and need a friend."

Staff writer Sheba R. Wheeler can be reached at 303-820-1283 or