We spend most of our adult lives working and, as a result, most of our social connections and interactions are related to our careers. Whether we like it or not, we spend most of our time with co-workers, customers, and clients, and that often provides plenty of human interaction for people.
When we retire, this part of our life starts to become smaller and eventually disappears entirely. We may have a social circle outside of work, but when everyone has their own families, careers, and hobbies, and as time goes on, they might move away, become unwell, or even pass away, this social circle becomes smaller. Retirement can mean that a person has fewer opportunities to be social, and over time this can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection from society.
In addition, there is a school of thought that believes we become more ‘set in our ways’ and judgmental about others, making it more difficult for us to look past differences and idiosyncrasies in new people or to tolerate habits that irritate us.
However, if we want to continue being social after we retire for the good of our mental and physical health, we have to take a more proactive attitude and be open to meeting new people from all walks of life.
Why it is important to stay social in retirement
Maintaining some level of social life is important at every stage of life for several reasons, but it becomes even more essential as we age. Being part of a social circle provides us with a sense of belonging to a community and enhances our personal identity. This, in turn, gives us greater self-esteem and a sense of purpose. In addition, when we run into problems or are feeling stressed, friends provide support and advice. Friends also encourage us to be more active as we have someone to do activities with and more confidence to try new activities.
There are also several physical health reasons why it is important to maintain a social life. People who are isolated are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and to develop a coronary disease and/or suffer a stroke. The less we interact with others, the faster our cognitive skills will decline, which can increase the likelihood of dementia and functional skills. Loneliness, anxiety, and depression can also weaken the immune system.
How to stay social in retirement
To maintain a healthy social life during your retirement, you may need to think creatively and step outside of your comfort zone. Here are some ideas and tips which might inspire you.
Widen your social circle before you retire
If you are someone who does not socialize much, it is important to put some groundwork in before you retire, as maintaining relationships is often easier than starting new ones. If most of your social life relies on your work life, you may find it difficult when you retire and find that both your professional and social lives disappear almost overnight. Start making connections with people outside of your work as soon as you can to widen your circle.
Meet with existing friends regularly
When we are busy with work, and we have some friends outside of work as well, it can feel like we have an adequate social circle. In some cases, we may even begin to feel like maintaining a relationship with the friends we already have is a burden. Especially, for example, if we have some occasionally irritating friend. However, taking friends for granted is a surefire way to lose touch, and even occasionally irritating friends will be having a positive impact on your life in some way. Nurture your existing relationships by keeping in touch and meeting up regularly.
Track down old friends
The internet and social media platforms have made it easier than ever before not only to stay in touch with friends and family wherever they are in the world but also to track down people from our past. Using social media platforms or websites designed to reconnect old friends, you can reach out to people you have not spoken to in years.
Join clubs and groups
Do some research into clubs and groups in your local area which you could become a member of. There may be a theme such as playing a sport, card games, fine dining, wine tasting, reading books, or anything which interests you. At the club, you will be likely to meet others with similar interests who are possibly at the same stage of life, and this is the perfect foundation for a new friendship.
Think carefully before moving home
Some people take advantage of retirement as an opportunity to move to a new area, but this is not a decision to be taken lightly. Moving away from a place where you have friends and are familiar with the local amenities and a support network might be risky, as you might find it difficult to make new friends. Alternatively, if you are interested in a new beginning, you might want to consider assisted living programs, which provide senior citizens with a place to live independently but also attend organized social events and therapeutic activities. These facilities can also provide medical care and well-being support if required in later life.
Take a class
Learning a new skill is a fantastic way to keep your mind and/or body active, but it can also open up new social opportunities. Find out which courses are available at your local college or community center, and book yourself a place. During the course, you will have the chance to meet people with similar interests and may even be able to work together on projects.
Volunteer for a local organization
Retiring from your career does not necessarily mean that you need to stop working, as there are plenty of worthwhile organizations and charities which are on the lookout for skilled volunteers. Volunteering will not only give you a purpose and some structure but will also introduce you to new people in your community.
Repair and maintain family relationships
If you have lost touch with relatives whom you used to be close to, it may be time to consider the matter as water under the bridge. Obviously, every situation is different, and this might not be appropriate in all of them, but it is worth considering whether historical problems are still relevant today. If you have children and/or grandchildren, nurture those bonds and maintain an active role in their lives as much as you can. Your younger family will be a much-needed source of emotional and practical support as you age, and it is hugely beneficial for your grandchildren to know you as well as they can.