6 Ways to Make Friends in Retirement
August 12, 2015 | Enjoying Retirement
If there was one thing Steven Davis thought he knew for sure about retirement, it was this: After a highly demanding career, he was looking forward to having a blank calendar with no place in particular he had to be.
That game plan changed soon after Davis stopped working.
“After I retired, I slept in a lot, hung out around the house and binge-watched all the shows I missed while I was traveling on the job,” said Davis. “That was fun for a few months, but then boredom and loneliness started to creep in, and I became a bear to be around. My wife shook me out of my funk finally when she gently told me, ‘No, you can’t come out to lunch with me again; you need to make some friends of your own.’”
Retirement can be a challenging time, especially if your avenues for social interaction are reduced. It’s common to lose touch with office colleagues after you stop working or to grow apart from family and friends if you decide to move away. Yet research shows that family ties and friendships are crucial to healthy aging. In fact, staying socially active and maintaining interpersonal relationships may help to reduce the risk of dementia and other age-related illnesses.
What can you do to keep the bonds of connection strong and growing? If it’s been a while since you put yourself out there socially, here are six tips for making and keeping friends in retirement:
1. Cultivate friendship. Start by staying in touch with family and friends, and try to visit with them regularly. Phone calls, FaceTime, Skype, text messages and email can keep you connected and engaged in each other’s lives. Then look for ways to strengthen existing friendships by looking for opportunities to share activities and other interests. Rekindle old friendships that may have waned when you were working and had less free time. Networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn provide an easy way to reconnect with people whom you may have lost touch with. And finally, seek out ways to add new friends to the “mix.”
2. Be local and active. The first step in meeting new people is to think carefully about your interests; then look for opportunities to get involved. Check your local library, schools and universities, and community and senior centers for a list of upcoming classes and events—many of these activities may be free or offer a senior discount. Do a quick Google search or use an online tool such as Boomerly or Meet Ups to find clubs or organizations near you that focus on the activities you enjoy, such as hiking, travel, playing cards or gourmet dining. Joining one or more of these clubs will enable you to branch out and meet new people who share your interests and can keep things interesting. And if you live in a 55+ or senior community, take advantage of the activities they offer.
3. Do some good. Loneliness in retirement and a sense of detachment from the world often come from the belief that our talents and gifts are no longer needed or valued. That is often far from the truth; the world is looking for people just like you who are willing to donate their time and energy to help others. Try an online service such as Volunteer Match or Senior Corps to find a service opportunity in your town or city. Giving back to your community can brighten your life and put you in touch with like-minded individuals. Equally important, it can help spark a new sense of purpose in your life—something researchers have found can add years to your life.
4. Head back to school. Learning a new subject or skill can also be a great way to meet new people of all ages and walks of life. Today, many colleges and universities have programs designed specifically to meet the needs of mature learners, and often these classes are offered free of charge or at a discounted rate. Bestcolleges.com has a ranking of the best degree programs in 2015 for older students. If you’re looking for a less formal learning experience, Road Scholars offers fun educational and enrichment programs, both here and abroad, for people 55 and older.
5. Extend yourself. Often the hardest part of making friends is the first contact. If you’re new to an area or trying to re-establish yourself socially in your long-time community, host an open house and invite neighbors in for introductions and an afternoon/evening of fun. Similarly, when neighbors invite you over for a cup of coffee or a beer, take them up on the offer. You never know what interests you may share.
6. Think part-time work. Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to stop working. Taking on a part-time job can be a great way to stay active and engaged; it also can introduce you to new people you might not have otherwise met. Those co-workers may be in a similar situation and looking for new friends as well.
His wife’s words may have stung in the moment, but Steven Davis credits her for pushing him out of his comfort zone. “I was at loose ends when I first stopped working,” said Davis. “It took a little effort to jump-start myself, but it’s paid off. Retirement is every bit as rewarding as I had hoped.”
As Davis discovered, building and maintaining relationships are important parts of healthy aging. Reaching out to loved ones, friends, neighbors, colleagues and new connections can help you stay vibrant, active and as social as you want to be.