The Importance of Forming New Friendships in Retirement

Friends can be even more necessary as we grow older, so what better time than retirement to add to your network?

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- Posted on Feb 28, 2020

Retirees hiking together and having fun.

Retirement can be a time of excitement and freedom, allowing you to explore activities you’ve never tried but may have dreamed of. It can also be unsettling. When your daily work life ends, your face-to-face interactions undergo a major shift. Co-workers you’d grown used to seeing each day are no longer part of the landscape. Some may have become close friends, others fond acquaintances. Either way, chances are they were a meaningful part of your life—maybe even more so than you realized. Your newfound free time, however, can be an opportunity to reinforce existing friendships while you consider ideas to form new relationships.

Friendship appears to be even more essential as you reach retirement age. “The older people get, the more challenging it can be to make friends, and that’s especially true after retirement, as work is one of the most common ways to meet people” the Stanford Center on Longevity reports.

Research published in the journal Personal Relationships shows that the power of friendship gets stronger with age and may even be more important than family relationships. William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, found that friendships become increasingly important to one’s happiness and health across the lifespan. For older adults, friendships are an even stronger predictor of health and happiness than are relationships with family members.

Friends can be particularly valuable in helping older adults deal with feelings of isolation that can accompany retirement, illness and the death of loved ones, according to HelpGuide, a nonprofit mental health and wellness website.

As long as you’re around people, the potential exists to make new friends. You may want to consider these ideas to scope out others who are like-minded:

Volunteer

Explore your passions. Paint props or tear tickets at a community theater; save historical places that have fallen into disrepair; give your time to an animal rescue organization or the National Park Service.

Take a class or join a group

Any exercise class, like Zumba or yoga, will get you moving with others. Exercise your artistic side in a group setting with cake decorating, pottery or creative writing. Sierra Club Seniors offers outings, from docent-led museum and gallery tours to challenging hikes.

Work part-time

You may choose to work either for personal enrichment or out of financial necessity. Although working remotely from home is increasingly popular, it can be isolating. Depending on your interests and background, you may want to move into: teaching, office work, real estate or retail sales or management consulting. If you nurture a desire to help others, child care or home care for aging adults are excellent options. Both offer flexible hours and allow you to play a significant role in another person’s life. At one end of the age spectrum, you would care for children’s basic needs while offering important guidance. As a home care aide, you would be trained to help aging adults with daily activities like light housekeeping, shopping and preparing meals, while providing much-needed companionship.

One of the first principles of Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, is to “become genuinely interested in other people.” This may be a given for you. Retirement can be one of the best times in your life to explore your interests and form new bonds with people who might just become good friends.

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