(Editor’s note: Welcome to the fifth installment of the Boomer Goals Series, which will dig deeper into topics facing the “Baby Boomer” Generation. Check out the first installment, about the importance of giving back in retirement, here and check out the second installment, on maintaining good health into retirement, here, the third installment, on the ins and outs of phased retirement, here, and the fourth installment, on the myth of declining mental acuity, here!)
Retirement brings lots of changes in many people’s lives. Without work schedules, one can sleep in and lead a life of leisure. Or they may invest in a variety of activities they’ve longed to do. But retirement can also be a time of loneliness, especially for people who relied on their colleagues for friendship. Without the regular interactions at the office, some experience a notable void in their lives. For this reason, making new friends in retirement can be an important activity. And maintaining key friendships after retirement is something that demands constant attention.
Some fear they have lost their skills in making friendships after retirement. Having relied on work acquaintances as an important social resource, they previously saw little need to make new friends. But creating new friendships after retirement is not only easy but actually exciting and fun. Certainly, it requires effort on your part. But the returns new friendships bring on your health, happiness, and quality of life is plenty to keep you motivated.
Key Qualities Needed for Making New Friends
When pursuing friendships after retirement, you’ll need many of the same traits that all friendships require. Think back about some of the closest friendships you’ve had in your life. Those that were the most cherished involved a deep level of trust and honesty. When making new friends in retirement, this remains a key ingredient in creating lasting relationships. (Read more about sharpening relationship skills in this Project Bold Life story!) Being honest and willing to be somewhat vulnerable shows someone that you trust them. In turn, they will become more likely to confide in you. Without question, honesty and trust are part of the bedrock of any valued friendship at any age.
Of course, making new friends in retirement requires more than honesty alone. Good friends also “show up” when they’re needed. Making time to be there when others need assistance and support is another important ingredient when pursuing friendships after retirement. Perhaps, a neighbor needs help rearranging their garage. Maybe they could benefit from someone to watch their pet for a few hours. Or they might just need someone to show them some empathy and concern for struggles they are experiencing. In any case, a sign of a great friendship is how available you are when you’re needed. This too is a key quality when making new friends in retirement.
While honesty and empathy are important, being positive and fun also have their merits. No one wants to be hanging around a “downer” all the time. Likewise, focusing only on the negative or worrying about the future can suck all the life out of a situation. Therefore, when making new friends in retirement, make an effort to look on the bright side. Having a positive outlook and seeking fun things to do is naturally attractive to others. With this type of attitude, you’ll find creating friendships after retirement is much easier and much more rewarding.
Activities to Consider in Making New Friends
You might have all the right traits for making new friends in retirement but struggle with meeting new people. For many older adults, this can be a big problem leading to social isolation and loneliness. However, there are many types of activities that provide opportunities for making friendships after retirement. For example, becoming active in the community is a natural way to adjust to your retired life. This might involve volunteering for charity work and giving back to the community. Or it might mean joining a club, taking on a new hobby, or signing up for educational classes.
One of the best ways to create friendships after retirement involves the use of social media. This may seem overwhelming for some, but there are several apps that can help in making new friends in retirement. For instance, NextDoor is a social media app that makes it easier to connect with neighbors close to where you live. MeetUp is another social platform that lets you choose from a variety of group activities of interest. And even Bumble has its own platform (Bumble BFF) that lets adults of all ages meet new acquaintances. Though technology might not be your thing, these apps and platforms are actually easy to use.
For some in retirement, the sudden change from working to not working can be a struggle. Not only may they miss colleagues at work, but they also miss having a purpose. If this is the case, then another great way in making new friends in retirement might involve part-time work. Getting a job that you find enjoyable can be energizing and fun. Plus, you’ll immediately have a new social environment where friendships after retirement will be easier to make. The same can be said for mentoring activities at local schools, churches, and organizations. These are great ways to connect with others and create new friendships in the process.
The Most Important Thing is Time
According to some studies, the time one invests in making new friends in retirement is the best predictor of success. Generally, it requires 40 to 60 hours to create casual friendships after retirement. In order to establish more lasting acquaintances, 80 to 100 hours of time together is needed. And for close friendships, researchers estimated about 200 hours of quality time was important. Understanding this, lasting friendships after retirement will be those that we invest the greatest amount of our efforts.
When it comes to making new friends in retirement, all of the traits and activities mentioned can help. But ultimately, friendships after retirement require that we invest energy and time into these pursuits. Taking the time to schedule activities and connections on a regular basis will go a long way. Likewise, being consistent and persistent in these efforts is another essential aspect. By adopting these practices, creating new friendships after retirement can be both easy and fun. And the rewards these friendships provide will help you persist in your efforts for years to come.
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