How to Foster Meaningful Friendships in Retirement
At Seniormark, we talk a lot about health insurance and other financial concerns, which makes a great deal of sense. Medicare, Social Security, and 401(k) planning are all essential parts of a successful retirement transition. But I also think it is beneficial to discuss cultivating meaningful relationships in retirement.
Because when you leave work, you aren’t just leaving behind an income stream and your employer health insurance. You are also leaving behind a day brimming with social interactions: chit-chat at the water cooler, lunch in the teacher’s lounge, everything from light office banter to the deep bond of team goals and shared achievement.
And if there is one thing we know about these kinds of social interactions, it is that they are vitally important to nearly every area of your life. In fact, consider how low social interaction affects just one of your major life domains: your health. Cited by a Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, low social interaction is as bad for your health as
- Smoking fifteen cigarettes a day
- Being an alcoholic
- Never exercising
And it is also twice as bad as obesity!
It’s like all of the worst possible things you can do for your health are not nearly as bad as being friendless.
So, that leaves you with the challenge: how are you going to fill the gaping social hole left behind after you exit full-time employment? Well, to get you started making friends that last, here are some helpful pieces of advice:
- Recognize Other Retirees Want Strong Friendships, Too!
According to agingcare.com, 43% percent of seniors report feeling lonely. And I am not talking about once in a while, like when a spouse is gone on a fishing or shopping trip. I am talking about persistent loneliness that drags a person down week after week. The people who comprise that 43% figure are all around you. They’re the neighbor you see on his front porch on your daily walk, the woman behind you in the checkout line at the grocery store, the man who sits in the back pew at church.
Don’t you think they want to make a connection with you, perhaps even more than you want to make a connection with them?
Why is it then that we always think our company will bother, inconvenience, or disinterest others? The thoughts are pervasive and often keep us from taking that first step: She is probably too busy. Why would he want to go grab lunch with me? They’ve got plenty of friends; why would they take the time to make any more?
Luckily, those thoughts just aren’t true. Many retirees struggle to make friends and desire to develop close relationships. Others, although they may have lots of friends, have plenty of room in their life for more. After all, friendships aren’t like marriage; they aren’t exclusive!
- Reconnect With Old Friends or Distant Family Members.
Friends move away. Family members get busy with their own lives. And the next thing you know, the only time you see these people is at class reunions and for a brief moment at Christmas or Easter.
But in all of this lies an opportunity. One invitation to go get drinks or coffee could start up a thriving friendship once again. You must remember that these are people you have a history with. It isn’t like striking up a random chat with someone on the street. You have common ground, a place to reconnect.
Now, you might not be able to “pick up exactly where you left off” with everyone, but maybe that’s not always the goal. You can talk about old times to break the ice, but perhaps the relationships will start afresh, not from where you left off, but from where you are right now.
So what are you waiting for? You probably still have their contact information in an address book somewhere or in your phone. Think of the things you used to laugh about together, the things you may still have in common. They are only a call away.
- Reach Out to Others In Your Community
As I soon as I decided I was going to write a blog post about the topic of friendship, I knew I had to speak to my mother-in-law to get her two cents. As we discussed, she kept coming back to two simple words: reach out. I think it’s because those two words mean so much to her.
Although she lost her husband recently, she has managed to avoid the isolation and loneliness that often comes with that kind of deep grief. She is now in a small group of widowed women who share life together. They travel—to places like St. Louis and San Antonio. They see movies and visit fireworks shows. But aside from the flashy stuff, they often just sit around and talk.
How did she get so lucky?
Someone reached out to her. In her grief, the group decided to call her up, to comfort her, to invite her to join them on their adventures.
What made them think of her?
She reached out to someone else. When her neighbor, one of the ringleaders of their small gang, lost her husband months before, my mother-in-law decided to visit and comfort her. When the same thing happened to my mother-in-law, you can guess who was the first person on their minds and in their hearts.
The moral of the story is that showing yourself friendly is always the best way to make friends. So volunteer at a blood drive or soup kitchen. Serve in a women or men’s group at church. Go visit the widow across the street who needs your few words of comfort.
In other words, in the wise words of my mother-in-law, reach out.
Seniormark Wants to Reach Out to You During Your Retirement Transition!
Confused about Medicare? Unsure of when and how to take Social Security? Wondering what to do with your 401(k) at work? Seniormark’s staff handles all of these weighty concerns with patient and friendly guidance. Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation and receive the help you need.