Part 5 – Social Connections Matter
When we are still employed, it is often our co-workers who are our go-to lunch companions or after-work ‘wine and whine’ friends. We may feel close to some of these individuals, but once we leave our careers, most of those connections we enjoyed usually fade away rather quickly. Yet social connections matter!
Longevity and retirement research emphasize the importance of social connections for our mental and physical well-being. And while women tend to develop social networks a bit more easily than some men do, it usually takes some effort and planning for most all people to figure out how to create new friendships and systems of support.
Different Types of Connections
Some people connect with others through common interests such as hiking groups or volunteering. Others develop new relationships based on proximity – you notice your neighbors are about the same age and share some of the same social and political views as you do, so you start developing a relationship.
Most of us develop different types of relationships and friendships. Some of these relationships might be family members. I am very close to both of my sisters and feel as though I could talk with them about anything. We may have friends or a partner that we can talk to about almost anything. We may also have friends with whom we enjoy doing certain types of activities but that is the extent of our relationship.
Assessing Your Connections
Before cultivating new social relationships beyond work, it helps to assess what kinds of connections are most important to you. Start by considering some of the following questions:
- Do you currently have some social connections or people in your life who you could talk to about anything on your mind? In other words, if you have some exciting news to share or need emotional support, are there people around you are people you could call and would care about what you had to share?
- Do you have people around you who share some common interests that you can do together? These people could include casual acquaintances such as individuals you enjoy talking to while volunteering or they might include people with whom you share more of yourself.
- Do you like small, intimate settings, or do you tend to enjoy social settings that involve a lot of people? Some people love to feel like they are part of a bigger group and find this energizing. Other people find that larger group activities are draining. How about you?
- Are there certain types of friendships or relationships you feel are missing from your life right now? For example, do you have people in your life who do activities with you but don’t have deeper relationships that you can count on no matter what?
After assessing the kinds of relationships that you value and the kinds of relationships you currently have in your life, are there any changes you wish to make? If you are missing something in your relationships, brainstorm ways you can add additional people into your circle of friendships.
Topics Already Covered in Previous Weeks
We’ve covered a lot of ground over the past four weeks. If you’ve missed one of our weekly retirement lifestyle planning articles, you can find each of the previous topics here:
Part 1: The Gift of Time – How will You Use it?
Part 2: Planning for the Gift of Time
Part 3: What Really Matters?
Part 4: Freedom to Choose Your Best Life