While social connectedness is heralded as a key enabler of positive health and social outcomes for older people, rarely have they themselves had the opportunity to express their views about the concept. Working with a diverse group of Pacific, Māori, Asian and New Zealand European older adults, this paper explores what matters to older people when discussing social connectedness? We draw from individual, in-depth interviews with 44 older adults, and three group interviews comprising 32 older adults. Data were analysed using thematic and narrative analyses. The three themes identified were: getting out of the house, ability to connect and feelings of burden. Fundamental to social connectedness was participants’ desire to be recognised as resourceful agents able to foster relationships on the basis of mutual respect. Social connectedness was conceptualised as multi-levelled: relating to interpersonal relationships as much as neighbourhoods and wider society. Alongside these similarities we also discuss important differences. Participants preferred to socialise with people from similar cultural backgrounds where they shared taken-for-granted social customs and knowledges. This is in the context where racism, poverty and inequalities clearly impeded already minoritised participants’ sense of social connection. Key structural ways to improve social connectedness should focus on factors that enable cohesion between levels of connection, including stable neighbourhoods serviced with accessible public transport, liveable pensions and inclusivity of cultural diversity.