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Loneliness hurts. We are social beings and we need other people, even hermit types like me. Not getting your people-time leaves you lonely and at risk for a bout of depression. Among other things, depression can make you lonely, or make existing loneliness worse.
A recent study also shows that depression can impact your health. Now, health problems can connect you with medical professionals if somehow you get into treatment. But that’s one heck of a way to meet people. I think we can do better than that!
Here are some ideas on how to fight loneliness no matter who or where you are.
1–Find local things to do.
Check out the local paper for listings of community events, or articles on groups that are active in your area. Even a tiny rural community will have something going on. Ours offers water aerobics, tai chi, art lessons, fishing and hunting, golf, card games, swimming and music lessons, to name a few. We’re not big in my neck of the woods, but we’re not bored.
Cities have even more things going on. Museums or arts centers may offer classes or need help with their work. A new friend of mine has done quilt restorations for a museum in our state. Any place big enough to put on a show once in a while will need a cast, but also sets, costumes, and possibly music. They will also need people to publicize the show, sell tickets, and so on.
Have a car and like to drive? Check with your state to see if they reimburse drivers to take Medicaid recipients to appointments. A long trip to another town for specialty care gets you out with someone new, gives you both a change of scenery, and you get a check for doing it.
Your hospital uses volunteers. Greet visitors, help them find their way, work at the gift shop, or play piano for the people there. Local charities need help, as well as churches and schools. See if that community dinner, thrift shop or food pantry needs a hand. Don’t forget, nursing homes love visitors too, especially musical or entertaining ones. Put on a musical program at one near you.
3–Join a group.
Follow your interests and find groups that speak to them. Kiwanis is a big deal in my area, with loads of events to organize and put on, to raise money for scholarships. Church groups, garden clubs, historical societies, craft or book clubs all get you out among people who are interested in something you might like. Join a big national one if you like, as long as it has a local chapter, like the American Legion or the Daughters of the American Revolution.
4–Work for your local government.
Get involved at the library, helping out with events or even getting on the board. Run for the school board or zoning board. Maybe you could help out with parks, cemeteries or gardening on those traffic islands and plantings around town. You might even get paid a little. Certainly you’ll learn new things by getting involved.
Get out the paper again and find out when and where the games are played, be they school or community or professional. Go to a sports bar and watch a big but distant event. I once watched a Super Bowl at Hooters with a coworker. (We didn’t have to drink and had a nice dinner too.) It was instant bonding with the crowd, pulling for the locally favored team!
6–Consider getting a dog.
Walking a dog makes you attractive and approachable. People who would be shy about talking to you might ask about your dog. My brother and his dog meet interesting people all the time on their daily walks. If you don’t own a dog you could borrow one to walk for someone who can’t. While you’re at it, visit with the dog’s owner a bit, and help both of you.
7–Take a part-time job.
They say in retirement you’re not supposed to work. Forget that rule. It’s out of date. Maybe you’d be happier with a little bit of work. You might work in a store one or two days a week, or help at the reservation desk at a motel on the weekends. Just enough to keep you in with people for a little. If you’re used to connecting through work, this should be easy. Plus you earn money.
8–Be social to get social.
Invite people over to your place for cards, supper, conversation and coffee, or to help you out with a project. Or ask a neighbor to take a walk with you. It could become a healthy daily routine. I recently got invited to a friend’s house to help her paint her bedroom. We had a blast! And when I get mine ready I’m asking her over here for sure.
9–Chat people up.
Wherever you go, be open to people and show an interest in them. They don’t want to be lonely any more than you do! You could even find interesting people at the laundromat or farmer’s market. You don’t have to take them home with you, but they’re good practice.
10–Stay connected with people you already have.
Moving away from everyone you know may be risky, so consider how easy it is for you to connect to people before ending up lonely in Paradise. At least call or write your relatives and old friends so you have someone. Living near at least one strongly-connected person can make a big difference if you keep that relationship going.
Remember, it’s helpful to have someone to tell your news to, to commiserate about thickheaded doctors, or just share a joke. Even if it’s miserable out and you don’t feel like doing much, you can pick up the phone and call someone. Or get on Facebook, if you do that, and arrange a meetup.
Want more ideas? Read Making Friends In Retirement.
No matter where you live, or in what kind of housing, loneliness can drag you down, make you sick, and ruin your retirement journey. Sure, it can be hard to push yourself out to connect with others, particularly if you are shy. But if you go with your interests and stay open to people, you don’t have to be lonely.
What do you do to keep from being lonely?