Making Friends in Retirement (and Before)
Did you notice that making friends got harder as you got older? Sure, you probably made new connections with every new job, moves and when your children started school and got involved in activities. However, if you are like most people, you probably found it was hard to invest the time to develop and maintain deep and meaningful connections. Your family, career and spouse were likely your priority. Making friends in retirement can be even harder, but incredibly important and rewarding.
The time is now for making friends for a happy retirement!
Let’s take a look at why making friends in retirement is difficult, why it is important and how to do it:
The Lack of Social Connection is Real for Boomers
The fading of social connections is not in your imagination. According to analysis of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, Americans spend less time with friends and more time alone.
- In their 20s, Americans spend more than two hours a day with friends, but this drops off a lot in their 30s
- By 40, time with friends is cut in half to less than one hour
And it is not just time with friends that slows, as you age, you are likely to be spending more and more time alone not with friends, family or coworkers. In their 30s, the time Americans spend alone starts to skyrocket, starting at around 4 hours a day and ending with an average of 8 hours alone in their 80s.
Loneliness is No Fun (and It’s Not Good for Your Health)
Researchers have found mounting evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and to functional and cognitive decline.
In fact, the dangers of loneliness are on par with obesity, light smoking and anxiety. Numerous studies like this one have found that feeling lonely or being socially isolated increases your risk by 29 percent for heart disease and 32 percent for stroke.
Yes, you read that correctly, being overweight or smoking is actually healthier than being lonely.
Additional research links loneliness to cognitive decline and poor immune system function. It has even been linked to an increased chance of diabetes, sleep disorders, high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease.
So, How Do You Make Friends in Retirement?
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.
Research from the Stanford Center on Longevity shows of all the age groups, baby boomers show the most signs of disengaging from traditional modes of social relationships, said Laura Carstensen, founding director of the center and a psychology professor at Stanford University.
So, what are you to do? Here are 7 tips for making friends in retirement:
1) Figure Out What You Like to Do and Find Others Like You
Common interests are one of the strongest hallmarks of friendship. As such, if you are looking for friends in retirement, you’ll want to find people who like what you like.
Join a club: No matter what you enjoy doing, you can probably find a local club where you can meet people like you.
Adopt a dog: If you are friendly (and your dog is too), you will naturally start talking with other dog owners. Start going to the dog park at a regular time and you are likely to start making friends.
Don’t want to leave it to chance? Try the app BarkHappy. The location-based app BarkHappy helps you connect with nearby dogs and arrange hangouts with their owners. For future doggy date ideas, check out the app’s map which lists dog-friendly businesses and local dog-friendly events.
Volunteer: The shared purpose of volunteering with a group of people can help establish meaningful connections.
Get a Fun Part Time Job: Do you remember lifeguarding as a teen? Waiting tables in college? Grinding out long hours at a start up? If yes, you probably also remember some good friends from those experiences.
Work can help you establish friendships. And, you don’t have to select a grueling job. Instead, find something fun and low key — work at a nursery or the local golf course — and see what kinds of friends you make there.
2) Reconnect with Old Friends
Maybe you already have people in your network whose company you really enjoy, but you don’t see them on a regular basis. Maybe now is time to make them real friends again.
Call them up and reconnect! Share an old photo and find out what is new with them now and make plans!
3) Invest Time
Friendships feel organic and magical, but when you boil it down, they actually take investments of time.
Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas, found that it takes between 40 and 60 hours to form a casual friendship with someone in the first six weeks of knowing them; between 80 and 100 hours to transform a casual friend into a friend; and more than 200 hours to transition from friends to good or best friends.
Make sure you are allocating part of your day — everyday — to developing and maintaining friendships, old and new. Send a text, pick up the phone and call, send a note or a little gift and — most importantly — get face to face
4) Establish Regular Meet Ups
One of the reasons that clubs are so effective at helping people make friends is that there is a schedule to follow.
If you find someone you think you would enjoy spending time with, develop a regular schedule for seeing them: Tuesday hikes, Saturday coffees, every other week dinner parties, anything! Just make sure you meet regularly.
5) There’s an App for That! Swipe Right (and Left)
While meeting friends in your regular life is possible, you might want to jump online.
Did you know that there are numerous apps designed to help you establish platonic social connections — not just romantic ones?
In the language of online dating, you swipe left if you want to pass on a potential match, or right if you want to connect.
Here are four good online options for finding friends in retirement:
NextDoor: NextDoor is a private social network exclusively for your neighborhood. It is not uncommon to see people posting about wanting to find new friends around a specific type of activity or interest.
Bumble BFF: Bumble is a popular dating app. They also have a service, BumbleBFF. It is designed to help you make friendships in pretty much exactly the same way. Set up a profile with photos and a blurb, and then browse other users’ profiles.
Meetup: Meetup is a platform for finding and building local communities. People use Meetup to meet new people, learn new things, find support, get out of their comfort zones, and pursue their passions, together. Join an established group or start your own!
Friender: On Friender, you get matched to people in your area who share your interests.
6) Keep Trying
Finding a friend is a lot like finding a romantic partner. You have to invest time and try out different people.
You may have to audition quite a few frogs before finding your pal charming.
7) Be a Good Friend Yourself
If you want friends, you need to be a good friend yourself.
According to Psychology Today, here are some of the traits of being a good friend.
Honest, Trustworthy and Loyal: A global study found that honest is most important in friendship. Psychology Today writes that: “Disclosing what we’re thinking and feeling helps us build trust and intimacy. Honesty is a relationship-builder, and a means for connection and comfort. It can also be a relationship-mender; giving honest feedback or owning up to mistakes helps us manage conflict and maintain our friendships.”
Caring and Empathetic: It is important to offer respect and empathy to friends. Friends are there for each other when they are in need.
Friends want to be heard, seen, known and understood. Ask questions and listen to answers.
Fun and Congenial: You are not always going to be happy, but if you want to be a good friend, you have to sometimes be fun to be around. Have a sense of humor, offer good will and cheer.