December 2, 2020
Maintaining friendships in retirement is great for mental health, social skills, and giving you a sense of purpose. Although it is common to socialize less later in life, friendship becomes even more important as you get older. The bond between friends provides many benefits that go well beyond filling up your calendar with fun activities.
Building and maintaining friendships during retirement - like Barbara and Nettie - can offer many benefits.
As people age, loneliness may increase if they socialize less. Loneliness may be linked to physical ailments such as lower immunity, increased inflammation in the body, increased risk of dementia, disturbed sleep, and more. Making friends in retirement can be difficult. To make it easy for you, read on for a few tips about how you can make friends in retirement.
How to Make Friends in Retirement
Expanding your circle in retirement is easier than you think. There are many opportunities where you or a loved one can socialize and meet new people, many with “virtual” options that you could still safely participate in during the COVID-19 pandemic. These opportunities include:
- Live in an active retirement community
Living in a community where everyone is taking advantage of social opportunities will encourage you to do the same. Whether it is an independent living, assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing community, there is an active social network waiting for new individuals. You may still move into a senior community during the COVID-19 pandemic - read our article all about that here.
Volunteering at a local animal shelter, food pantry, or church has more than just a positive effect on yourself, but also your community. During the pandemic, you may be able to initiate partnering up with an organization by phone or video chat, and participate remotely by serving on a committee, offering your skills writing, or doing tasks at home such as stuffing mailings that are dropped off with zero contact. By volunteering, you will meet others and make a difference in people’s lives.
- Join a club
Clubs are great, as they bring people with similar interests together. Join a club that interests you to meet long-lasting friends and bond with them over similar interests. This also allows you to show and grow your skills and expertise. Many clubs are still “meeting” remotely during the pandemic, so you could still participate fully.
- Be a mentor
Becoming a mentor for the younger generation helps them solve problems in business, society, education, and more. You will also create a bond during the experience. Mentorship gives you the possibility to connect, share your expertise, and help other generations in a meaningful way. An organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters offers excellent volunteer opportunities in this capacity.
- Attend local events
When it’s safe to do so, check the newspaper, watch Facebook, search on Google, or sign up for your favorite organizations’ email or mailing lists so you learn about upcoming local events near you. Attending fundraisers, performances, educational seminars, classes, or fitness activities will allow you to meet others in your area. Going to a community event will widen your network and possibilities for a new long-lasting friendship.
Attending programs, events, classes, fitness activities, and more are great ways to meet new people and build upon new or existing friendships.
How to Maintain Friendships in Retirement
Maintaining friendships is just as important as the initial step of forming the relationship.
“People who lift your spirits are worth the effort of nurturing the friendship to keep them around! Plus, it's these healthy friendships that can combat the negative effects of loneliness.”
Here are some tips on maintaining friendships during retirement:
- Take initiative
Friendships are a two-way street. Take the first step to reach out to others, plan an activity you both enjoy, and invite them to meet again.
- Pick up the phone
Even just a daily phone call to check-in, to talk about upcoming events, or to chat about what you did last weekend can go a long way when maintaining friendships. Keeping up with communication and checking how your friends are doing is extremely important.
- Plan monthly get-togethers
Plan a day each month to catch up with a friend in person when it’s safe to do so. You could go out for dinner together, go on a walk, grab coffee, or do something you enjoy together. During the pandemic, you might consider playing a game online together or video chatting over a virtual cup of coffee using FaceTime, Zoom, or a similar platform. This is an easy way to maintain connections and relish some time with one another.
- Use social media
Take advantage of social media as one effortless way you can maintain friendships. This is especially helpful during the pandemic as you maintain social distance, or with friends who live far away, who you don’t see as often, or who are extremely busy. Social media allows you to connect with simple actions like a comment on a picture, a quick message to say hi, or a “like” on a status post.
Video chats and social media are fantastic uses of technology to nurture friendships and relationships.
Making and Keeping Friendships in Retirement
To combat loneliness and isolation, stay active within your community, join clubs that spark your interest, or become a mentor. Most importantly, once you make new friends, stay connected. Don’t forget to call them to check in, take initiative to plan a day to meet, and take advantage of technology.
Connecting with friends does so much for your overall health. Healthy friendships will lower stress, boost brain health, and decrease the risk of cognitive declines such as dementia. Just like how diet and exercise are important for your health, socialization on a regular basis is great for your well-being. The benefits will lead you to a longer life through improved health.
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