DEAR ABBY: I am 74, and my wife is 71. We are lonely. All of our friends have died, and we have no relatives in this state. We both have health issues that keep us mostly housebound. That leaves out volunteering and sports, and the high cost of gas is a factor.

We live in our own home and want to continue living here. Our home is in a development consisting of busy families involved in their own lives, or too young to bother with a couple of older people. We tried church, only to find that everyone there is as involved in their own lives as our neighbors are.

I fear the thought of one of us dying and leaving the other to possibly die alone in our house, not to be missed or discovered until much later. How can we have friends like we used to have, and not shallow acquaintances? -- FRIGHTENED OF THE FUTURE IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR FRIGHTENED: If there are senior citizen centers in your community, I recommend you contact them. That way you can meet new people and form relationships with contemporaries. Also, these centers usually have geriatric specialists or social workers on staff with whom you can discuss your concerns.

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That said, it's important to remember that the kind of friendships you and your wife used to have take time to develop -- they don't happen overnight. Another thought: You say most of your neighbors are busy with their children. Perhaps you could reach out and offer to baby-sit for some of them in your home, if the parents would like a night off.

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