During retirement, socializing might not be enough to grow your circle of friends.
Changing lifestyles can mean changing friends
Friends come and go throughout our lives, changing as we move to new addresses, become empty nesters, divorce and retire from careers.
Friendships require common ground, after all. When it’s lost, we quickly drift apart.
We carry a few of them along for the ride as the decades fly past and our lifestyles change, but it’s a challenge.
We tell ourselves platitudes like “friends come and go based on what we need at the moment,” and “good friends will pick up where you left off no matter how much time passes” but the truth is that we need friends who live nearby. We need friends we can spend time with on a regular basis – ones who show up with chocolate and wine, and aren’t content to let time pass by without connecting.
Friends who actually have time to just…. be friends.
If your circle of friends has become smaller than you’d like during retirement, perhaps it’s time to help it grow.
Find the motivation. Are you willing to take risks and try something new? Look past the obvious suggestions about WHERE to find friends, and think about what is holding you back. Perhaps that’s what needs attention before you can find the motivation. Are you willing to get out of the house? Make the effort? Be vulnerable to someone new? If you aren’t willing to let someone in, you’ll never find that common ground.
Explore your own interests. What are you most passionate or curious about? Finding some kind of activity or interest to pursue will help you naturally surround yourself with others interested in the same thing. It’s certainly easier to find those with common interests, because you’ll have a natural connection on which to build a friendship. Scouring local Facebook groups, Meetup.com, Eventbrite.com, associations and senior centers, and volunteering for socializing ideas can bring interesting opportunities to light that fit your interests perfectly.
Take the initiative. Waiting for a new friend to fall in your lap isn’t terribly realistic, and simply attending social activities doesn’t often result in finding the perfect friend. Socializing is a start, but you can’t stop there. Rather than relying on circumstances or fate, can you take the initiative to reach out and invite someone into your life? Once you meet someone with like interests, consider inviting them to do an activity with you, loaning them a book or recipe you love, or asking for help with something they might find intriguing. The Science of People blog suggests wooing them, then making a point to stay connected and know what’s going on with their life.
Make the time. Priorities change fast, and retirement can open doors to interesting activities and opportunities that didn’t exist in busier days. Talking about a need for new friends and finding time to invest in building relationships are two different things, though. Friendships require nurturing to grow. Are you willing to make time? You’ll need to open your heart AND open your calendar.
Let go of the fear of rejection. Reaching out to someone in hopes of becoming friends can be a bit frightening. We worry about rejection, being taken advantage of, discovering behavior or values we don’t like, or ending up with a friend that is more toxic than beneficial. Friends matter, though, and are worth the entire “courtship” process. Be courageous and keep trying! They’re out there if you just find the right common ground.
Address issues limiting mobility. For some retirees, health and mobility issues can be a concern that keep them home. Addressing these can be liberating. Whether it’s finding transportation options (try Northwest Valley Connect if you live in West Valley areas, including Sun City, Sun City West, El Mirage, Youngtown and Surprise), fear of falling or frailty, or a general lack of energy, working with your physician and other resources will help you be more comfortable leaving the home and increasing your activity levels.
For those seeking a program to help them remain independent as they age while providing many activities for socializing and gaining friendships, Sun Health at Home’s continuing care at home program might be an ideal fit. It provides an impressive list of services, including a personal wellness coordinator, transportation coordination, home modification services if needed, companion and caregiving services, a robust calendar of social activities and more.
Any assisted living, memory care and skilled care that might be needed later on is also included.
Sun Health at Home is the first CCaH program in the southwestern United States, and the only one available in Arizona.
(Originally published Feb. 7, 2018; last updated Jan. 11, 2019.)