I was 53, recently divorced and trying to “enter the world” again. Not the world of dating, just the world. Fun. Dinner. Kid-less socializing. A friend had invited me to a “meet up” at a local restaurant. This dinner ‘date’ was with 30-40 other single adults who gathered once a month for a social outing. At this point in my life I was at the top of my game professionally. My face was on billboards. My voice was on the radio. I spoke at seminars. And yet, I sat in the parking lot of this restaurant battling the mental insecurities of a teenager. Meet with strangers or go home and watch reruns of The Office? Just as I was putting my hand on “reverse” to meet up with Steve Carell, my friend saw me and motioned me in. God Bless her.
I tell this story to illustrate how hard it is to start or re-start relationships late in life. When we are 10 there was a playground to interact with 50 peers and we narrowed to our two favorites. Where is that playground at age 60? Between the ages of 20 and 50 we tend to narrow our focus to those precious people inside the walls of our house. Maybe a few other parent-friends here and there, but social interaction apart from children is rare. By the time we retire we are like the audience in a magician’s act. “Where did all the friends go?” And, yet, the richness of these friendships is what multiple studies tell us will bring us a longer and healthier life. A Harvard University study found that close friendships and a sense of purpose lead to a reduced risk for Alzheimers, stroke and heart issues. And, well, friends just make us happier.
A recent Wall Street Journal* article highlighted that the lack of social investment for post work years can be highly detrimental to retirees. Alarmingly, two-thirds of adults over the age of 60 have no close social circle outside of a spouse or family members. (See an earlier blog I wrote on ‘Social Capital’.) You go online and pull up your investment records to assure yourself that you are prepared for the non-incoming producing years ahead. But, are you prepared emotionally? Just as you will be rewarded with financial stability for your effort investments in youth, have you put the same effort and investment into life outside of work? Studies consistently show that sufficient financial assets may bring peace of mind, but money doesn’t equal satisfaction with life.
Using a very old adage: Money can’t buy happiness.
What does bring fulfillment in retirement? Friendships. Learning. Pursuit of purpose and “fun”. All of those things we set aside while working and raising a family. Easily said. Difficult to do unless you apply energy, time, and intent. Let me be honest, it’s work. Sitting at home watching re-runs is a whole lot easier than getting dressed and pretty and starting a conversation with strangers. Here are some tips:
Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold. Remember this old Girl Scout mantra? It’s great advice. The earlier you start the better. Purpose to spend time each week to meet someone new or keep the flame burning on an older friendship. Reach out of your comfort zone to make new friends with shared interests. Local senior centers, online support groups, churches and synagogues can be a place to meet other like-minded men and women. Reach out and invite someone to meet you for lunch. Buy two tickets and invite someone. I used to sit at the “community” table at a local restaurant. It was a large table sat aside for diners who were alone. I met some great people at that table. Take up a hobby, sport, or pursuit that interests you. Keep in mind that you are not aiming for a “bestie” at every engagement. Finding the right group of friends takes time and repetition.
I had one retired client, Ruth, tell me that her goal is to have one appointment a day before noon. That “appointment” could be a seniors yoga class, volunteering at a food bank, or meeting a friend at Starbucks. The point? Ruth has a reason to get up every day, get dressed and be on time. (Like we did at work for decades.) After decades of this pattern Ruth is the Belle of her own ball, often having to turn down invites because of her crowded social calendar.
The payoff? I recently took inventory of my close friends, groups, and social engagements regularly on my calendar. Virtually none existed ten years ago. Each are valued and cherished, but more importantly give me a secure knowledge that I have social investments that will likely last longer than the money.
* The Wall Street Journal. (December 29, 2022 “To Invest for Retirement, Build Friendships and Hobbies” by Anne Tergesen.)
House Call is a blog written by Kathy Chiero, Licensed Realtor and Team Leader of The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus. Find Kathy and her team at www.OurOhioHome.com