As you live in retirement, getting or staying connected to people you trust, can confide in, and adventure with becomes even more important. How that looks may differ for each person.
For many of you, family is the foundation of your community. You may have a spouse or partner and have children or grandchildren across town. However, among Baby Boomers, 47% of women and 18% of men now live alone. 20-25% of Boomers have never had children, and a growing number (approximately another 20%) find their families scattered about the country or the globe. So who are your people or who will they be?
The Power of Friendship
Friends are a wonderful complement in retirement, instead of or in addition to your family. The quality of friendships (or family relationships) becomes even more important in this stage of life. They need to be two-way supportive relationships and they need to be with people with whom you share interests, or you find their interests fascinating to hear about. Having one or more friends who will really be there when the chips are down is part of a healthy lifestyle in aging and is actually a predictor of longevity.
Friendships may change up in retirement and the research shows that as we age, we have a natural tendency to gravitate to relationships that are more life-giving, shedding what doesn't serve us.
I recently had a conversation with a woman about friendship in retirement. She told me of two friends she had had for roughly 40 years. She had retired early and had built the life she wanted while they continued working, so they didn't spend as much time together. Once they retired, she was hopeful they would have more time together. She found that they were out of sync with each other's priorities in retirement. It ended up not being a give-and-take relationship and without work as a diversion or unifier, that got magnified.
You may find that friends you have had in your working years have a different direction in the years ahead. Your address book may change up in retirement due to moving to a new neighborhood or part of the country, but it is important that you keep it active.
Transitioning from Work Connections
In a recent study, 17 percent of pre-retirees, when asked, predicted they would miss their social connections from work the most, compared to 38 percent who thought they’d miss reliable income more than anything. However, after retirement, twice as many people (34 percent) said they missed their social connections from work the most. Only 29 percent said they missed reliable income the most.
How is your retirement address book doing? How has that or is that changing with retirement? Do you have enough people that you can really count as deep friendships?
Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, said, "Loneliness is subjective. You can be lonely in a crowd, and you can be lonely in a marriage. It doesn't necessarily have to do with how many people you are with each day. It's whether you feel connected."
If you are finding yourself needing to build more connection into your life, where will you do that? Some people have the ability to walk out the door and attract people. Others have to be more intentional about how they cultivate new friendships.
You can join a group or create your own, go to church, spend time on social media (connecting remotely), volunteer, or get a job (something less pressure-filled that matches your interests). Whatever you choose to do, assure that it has these two components:
There are better health outcomes from doing so. If you are putting time and energy into friendships or groups that don't provide that, it may be time to reset your compass.
If you are an introvert, finding one to two deep friendships may be plenty. If you are an extrovert, you may enjoy having a bigger circle. The best part is that you can have a lot of fun while doing something good for yourself.
Questions for reflection or discussion:
There's More to Life.
I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment below. Part of my vision is to help create community around living a great retirement. In what ways would connecting with other people approaching or living retirement be helpful for you?
Ruth Tongen helps you take stock, plan and live retirement in a bigger, happier, healthier way. She can help you find an 'aha' and move that to an aspiration and then on to an action. Move past sticking points and begin living on purpose.
E-mail her: firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to explore how she can help you live a great next chapter.
Ruth Tongen helps people plan and live meaningful, fun and healthier retirements.