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In retirement, as in any stage of life, it’s important to stay in touch with other people. We humans are a social bunch; like horses, we need others of our kind around to feel well off. Even people who aren’t very sociable need someone else to be with occasionally. Without support from others, we can wither away and die of loneliness.
For more on how to beat loneliness click here.
Stay in touch with family
This doesn’t go without saying in my opinion. How many relatives that we know get more than a Christmas card every year from us?
My bias: I come from dying lines. My brother and I had no kids, and only one of my maternal cousins did. She had one. All the parental generation is gone now except for my mother’ sister. So I value hearing from cousins and my aunt as well as my brother. To make that happen I contact them periodically.
Sometimes this leads to a get-together. My brother and I visited a cousin in Massachusetts a couple of years ago to “catch up” a bit. As she is close, it would be nice to do again. Will have to set something up this summer.
I keep in touch with my aunt and her girls too; every 5 years or so we do a big birthday for my aunt. We believe in celebrating life together whenever possible. Since they live far apart and far away from me, that’s about every 5 years in person.
Then there’s my husband’s big family, just a couple of hours away. We do most holidays with them and some other celebrations as well. It’s always interesting because they have kids growing up and exploring what life has to offer. Being a couple of hours away makes it nice because we aren’t so close as to have day-to-day friction, but we can get there to the anniversary parties.
Stay in touch with friends
It’s not always easy to do this either. We wrote back and forth with friends in South Carolina after moving to Vermont, and that lasted about ten years before it petered out. Our experiences diverged too much, I guess. Sometimes absence does wither a friendship.
Keeping up with friends who are in the same town can be challenging too. Friends can be busy people. Sometimes you have to network to know how someone is doing.
For example, I belong to a fiber arts group that meets at night twice a month. Most of the members go to the same church, it turns out. But there’s a week of non-church activities in between.
One of the women in the fiber arts group ended up in the local hospital during the week, and I saw her sister in the hallway and talked briefly with her about what happened. She asked me to tell another person about it too so I texted this friend at work, who then told other people. The woman’s husband got quite a bit of food while the woman was away for treatment.
My father was a real champion of making friends wherever he went. When I was a kid, we had been watching a dog for a colleague of Dad’s, and the dog became “ours” too.
Dad had Rusty the dog in the car going somewhere when the car broke down, so he and Rusty hitched the rest of the way. Having that sweet-looking spaniel with him made it easy for Dad to get a ride. Later in life he would walk his Cockers on the campus of the university where he worked, and got to know a ton of people he’d never have met otherwise.
He could do it without a cute partner too. Dad used to go to the pancake house for a late breakfast every Sunday. One Sunday a big group of men appeared there and sat at the big table near his usual spot. Somehow they got talking with him. Soon he was sitting at the big table with them.
They were a Gospel singing group based in Tampa, though they sometimes traveled. Whenever they were in town Dad would join them and they’d talk about all sorts of things. I met “the General” at the hospital when Dad (AKA “the President”) was recovering from a car accident. Apparently they had adopted these nicknames while sorting out the world’s problems.
Dad also played the bagpipes in the Tampa Pipe Band for several years. The pipers, mostly his age, were a hodgepodge of businessmen mostly, and he was a college professor. But they did well at making music together. They also talked before and after practice and he loved learning all about what they knew.
Work friends–a special case
When we retire we leave the other employees of our former organization behind. I’ve noticed that it’s often hard to keep relationships based on a work situation alive after leaving. It makes sense, but it doesn’t have to be that way all the time.
What helps is when the employer is open to former employees staying connected. At the office where I currently work, we invite former employees to come to our Christmas brunch and our summer picnic. Sometimes former employees stop by to visit, but that’s rare and they just stay long enough to say hi, because of how busy it gets.
At my last office building, I am a former colleague but still invited to birthday lunches. Whoever has the birthday in a given month is treated to lunch by the group. In that group there are two women who retired and still join us, and I will soon be the third.
One of the retired women got me interested in joining a club she’s in when we met at one of those lunches. And now I’m connecting to more people. I didn’t even have to bring a cute spaniel.
It may take some effort and a bit of time now and then, but making an effort to stay in touch with others will pay off in an increased sense of well being. And who couldn’t use that?
If you have a story to tell about keeping in touch, please leave a comment!