This week marks the 50th anniversary of losing my brother, George, in Vietnam. My family's world changed that day. My siblings and I still talk about that time all these years later. There could be volumes I could write about the wondering we have done about what might have been for a life cut short, about loss and grief, about what it must have been like for him, or even pondering the politics of that particular war. But the point of why I'm writing about this on this page isn't about any of those things. It is about what was and is woven through those memories and all of the years since: the power of community.
Nearly every snippet I remember about that time all those years ago involved the support of community. People showed up with food, to answer the phone, to visit every day for several weeks as we awaited the funeral, to serve coffee to guests, to drive cars for us, sending us hundreds of cards and letters, and countless other ways I was too young to understand. That was the beauty of living in our small town, where community was knit all around us.
The Benefits of Community in Retirement
Who do you have in your village, symbolic or literal, for the days ahead? Community is crucial every day in retirement, not just during times of crisis. Having enough social interaction and support during retirement is known to:
Where Are You Putting Your Intention?
As you move into and through retirement and shape your life for the next chapter, where are you putting effort into making and maintaining friendships? Filling the space that co-workers have consistently filled in the past will call for more intentionality in retirement. What of your activities pulls you into being an integral part of a social community? If you have your community established, how are you showing up for them?
If you have a spouse or partner, what are you doing to assure that you don't place all your social expectations on them? Who are the other people you can share experiences and time with?
In retirement, our participation in communities will shift and change shape as our health changes, as some of us travel more, and as our daily routines change. Most of us will live long enough that our interests may change, more than once. Are you building community that will be consistent regardless of life changes? Will your golf buddies show up if you can't golf any more and vice versa?
My mother often talked of how life-changing the time after my brother dying was for her. She never forgot how people took time to show up and help. It shaped a new dedication in her to do the same. That commitment connected her and carried her through the remainder of her life. Who might need you to show up today?
Ruth Tongen helps people plan and live meaningful, fun and healthier retirements.