“Love is all you need”. Turns out, those four British boys were definitely on to something.
This blog post is about that THIRD essential ingredient for a happy retirement — strong personal relationships. Nothing new or revolutionary about that. Erich Fromm’s book, “The Art of Loving” published more than 50 years ago, informed us that the key to a happy life is love and work. (We’ll address the “work” part in the next post)
Fast forward to 2016. Robert Waldinger’s excellent Ted Talk describes findings from a 75 year Harvard study on adult development. Guess what? Researchers discovered the most important factor in determining whether someone is happy is not fame or wealth, but the quality of their relationships. Not only were people with strong, positive relationships happier, but they were healthier–both physically and mentally.
During the 30+ years I was in the workforce, I was lucky enough to have jobs that paid me for establishing positive relationships with other people. (Which, of course, is very different from being paid to have relations with other people. Not that I’m judging…) So, when I retired, I was not only saying goodbye to my co-workers, but also to customers that, in most cases, had become friends. Unfortunately, most of them are long distance friends. And are still working.
Although I still think of my husband as my “boyfriend”, I don’t expect him to fill all of my companionship needs. Perhaps part of the reason we are still going strong after 4 decades together is we both understand our mutual need for other interests and for time apart. Our relationship is very much like a Venn Diagram–my interests – his interests, with a nice big intersection of OUR interests. Surprisingly, I have encountered people that find this a bit strange. So, when I read this Wall Street Journal article shortly after retiring, I was pleased to find that there are others out there like us. Why I find it gratifying to discover that we aren’t so different is probably a subject for a therapist, or at least a future post. But I digress. Which happens a lot.
Anyway, I have spent the last four years figuring out how to exchange “work mates” for “play mates”, and I’m happy to share what I learned with you, my newly retired, soon to be retired, or hoping to one day be retired readers.
Here’s what’s been working for me:
- Meet-Ups This on-line application allows you to select by geographic area and areas of interest. After you make your selections, you get notifications of gatherings of like minded individuals. You can get even more specific, narrowing it down by age or marital status. I’ve made friends via book club, biking, and boomer dining meet-ups–and there are lots of other options. Plus, if you are so inclined, you can start your own meet up group.
- The Local Y It is indeed fun to go to the YMCA! But don’t just hang out on the treadmill. Join classes, and attend regularly. And don’t worry about being out of shape. There are no mean girls here! The women (and most of the class attendees ARE women) are friendly, welcoming and caring. In many ways, the Y “family” has been a wonderful substitute for my workplace “family”.
- Volunteer I’ve made some incredible friends during my Global Volunteer Projects. See the world, make new friends, learn about another culture! Check out that wonderful organization!
If you prefer something local, AARP offers an on-line application designed to link retirees with nearby organizations in need of their skills, and aligned with their interests.
- The Local Library Mine offers an array of programs, including book clubs and educational seminars.
- Welcome Wagon Yes, I know, this is supposed to be for newcomers. BUT the local contact can be a great resource for area clubs and gatherings. It took me 32 years before I stumbled across our Neighbors and Newcomers Club, but I’m so glad I did!
- Reconnections Maybe you have been too busy to stay in contact with friends from high school or college. Why not reach out? I attended my first college reunion five years ago, and am looking forward to the next one this spring. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane, an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and a chance to make new ones. Ditto for high school.
- Travel Okay, so this probably isn’t going to help you with day to day connections, but we met some fantastic, fascinating people on our trips with Road Scholar, OAT, and Grand Circle. In 2016, our new Zealand friends will be visiting us and we will be taking a trip with friends we met in Peru and on a Global Volunteer experience.
- Virtual Buddies I put this one last, because a computer relationship is no substitute for face to face, hand to hand connections. Still, email, facebook and blogging can be wonderful ways to complement your other relationships. I loved having pen pals back in the dark ages when I was a child. My Blog Buddies to me are the 21st century version of pen pals. The best part, however, was when I met a blog buddy when we both happened to be in San Francisco, visiting our kids. With luck, she and I will be able to synchronize travel again.
What about YOU? What has helped YOU make the social transition from workto retirement?