According to the Mental Health Foundation, people who are more connected to family and friends are happier, physically healthier and tend to live longer. So, whether you want to spend your retirement doing all the things you love or exploring new hobbies, it’s important to remember to keep in touch with your social circle as you begin this new chapter in your life.
Of course, it’s normal that some friendships may drift over the course of our lives and as we live through the COVID-19 pandemic it can be particularly hard to stay in touch with those we love. But your retirement could provide the opportunity to put a little extra effort into the people you care about the most. Not only that, but as restrictions relax and vaccinations are developed there will be opportunities to meet new people and strike up new friendships. So, let’s have a look at some of the ways you can maintain and grow your social circle during retirement, and keep in touch with loved ones throughout the pandemic.
Caring for your existing relationships
Good friends are an important part of our lives. They can bring laughter to our days, challenge us to try new things or to better ourselves, and support us when times are tough. Making sure that you give the right amount of time to nurturing these relationships can help keep your friendships strong throughout retirement. So where should you start?
Friendships don’t work on their own, it takes active participation from both sides. So, instead of waiting around, try taking the first step to reach out. Whether it’s a simple message to say "I’m thinking of you", or you’d like to plan an activity, your friend will be happy to know that they’re in your thoughts.
Organise regular get-togethers
Put some time in your calendar for a regular catch-up with your good friends. You could organise a monthly dinner that’s for a big crowd, or weekly or monthly get-togethers with individual friends. If for some reason you can’t meet in person, you could plan a regular video call game or quiz night.
Be open to invitations
Of course, there are going to be times when you’re unwell, too tired or simply not up for it. But where you can, try to say yes to invitations from your friends. You don’t have to do every activity or attend every event but if you say no too often your friends may feel like they are bothering you and pull back a little. If you find that happening don’t worry, simply communicate that that’s not the case and extend an invitation of your own to connect.
However it is that you choose to keep in touch with friends, remember it’s important to adhere to restrictions that are in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19. If you’re unsure of what the restrictions are right now, you can find them on Gov.uk.
Transitioning into retirement is going to be different for everyone. Some people count down the hours, eagerly awaiting the day they can clock-out for the last time and head off into their retirement dream. Others might be looking forward to retirement but are saddened by the thought of leaving good friends behind. Whether you fall into one of those two groups or you find yourself somewhere in the middle, there’s no need to worry.
Just because you will be leaving your workplace behind doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to the friends that you have made there. Here are a few simple ways to maintain your workplace relationships when you move on from your job:
Organise meetups with your friends before you leave the office. You can of course arrange a meet-up after you have left your job, but you may feel a little bit awkward getting in touch after some time has passed. By deciding when you would like to see one another before you leave, you’ll get the ball rolling and make it easier to continue seeing each other throughout your retirement.
Keep a note of what’s going on in your friends’ lives. A key to maintaining your work friendships is to stay interested in their lives. Ask them about how work is going and get to know more about what life is like for them outside of the workplace. Make a note of any upcoming and important events, like birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations.
Get familiar with technology. Find out a way of keeping in contact that works for you both. You might prefer to send emails or text, or maybe you would like to call regularly? Choose something that you both find simple and easy to do.
Invite them around to your home. What’s better than sharing good food and reminiscing on old times? Having your workplace friends around for the evening could be a great way to bring them into your retirement life and share fond memories of time spent together.
How to make friends in retirement
Take up a new hobby
If you've always dreamed of learning to dance, learning a craft or picking up an instrument, now is your chance. Starting a new hobby can be a great way to meet like-minded people in your retirement. As well as filling your days with an activity that you like to do, it will give you the chance to build new friendships and get to know others in a safe environment.
Make a pen pal
Pen pals are people who regularly write to each other, usually in the form of a posted letter but emails can also be used. Most often, the two people are strangers that get to know one another through their letters. There are lots of different ways of finding a pen pal. You can contact your local Age UK or local council to find out if they have a scheme in your area.
Join a walking group
Not only is walking good for you, but it can also be a great way to meet new people. Ramblers is a well-established organisation that schedules all kinds of walks across the whole of the UK, and you can find your local group here. You could also check out local newspapers and websites to find out if there are any local walking groups already established in your town.
A little confidence can go a long way. People are drawn to open, friendly and confident people and though you may not always feel it, as the saying goes, fake it ‘til you make it. In new social situations being confident may make it easier to talk to new people and to introduce yourself and help people get to know you too.
Simple ways to keep in touch
Video calls – video calls can be a great way to keep in touch with friends that you can’t see regularly in person. Whether you use an app on your phone like FaceTime or WhatsApp Video Call, or an online site like Google Meets, setting up a video call is simple. And in most cases free.
Emails – If you prefer to send longer accounts of what has been happening in your life then sending emails could be a good way to keep in touch.
Texts – Short and sweet, sending regular texts is a simple way to keep in touch with family and friends and it doesn’t require too much effort.
Phone calls – A phone call weekly or even monthly is a great way to catch up on what’s been going on in one another's lives.
Retirement and COVID-19
Unfortunately, we’re living through strange and unusual times as we try to navigate the coronavirus pandemic. If you have just entered into retirement or are nearing it, you might be concerned about how it will impact your relationships. For many of us, we have had to find new ways of keeping in contact with those nearest and dearest to us as the country moves through various phases of lockdown.
The good news is, there does appear to be an end in sight. With lockdown measures set to ease over the next few months, there’s new hope that life will pick up its usual pace once again. Until then, here are some ways to help you maintain your social circle during the pandemic:
Using video calls is a great way to stay in contact with friends and family. Being able to see one another can help you feel as though you’re physically with that person. There are lots of different ways you can video call someone. Some popular apps that allow you to make video calls from your phone, tablet or laptop include:
- Facebook Messenger
If you’re not very tech-savvy you could ask a loved one to explain how it works, or you could use this helpful guide by Age UK. It has step-by-step explanations of how to make a video call using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Zoom and Skype, as well as how to use Facetime on an iPhone, iPad or Mac.
You may already send the odd letter or cards to loved ones for special occasions so why not start exchange regular letters with friends and family? Writing letters can be relaxing and a way of meditating of what’s been going on in your life. Not only that but, research from the Royal Mail shows that nearly three quarters of people (74%) feel that writing letters has positive mental health benefits.
Get out and about
It’s important to stay active so where possible, and if you feel comfortable doing so, try to go for regular walks. Not only will it be good for your body, but it’s also a good way to feel part of your community and reduce loneliness. Seeing people out and about can help you to feel more connected to them, and it always feels good to get a smile from a passing stranger.
How to cope with loneliness
We’ve all felt lonely at one point or another and as we age, we’re especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. But don’t worry, there are ways to cope with and overcome loneliness in retirement.
Smile, even though you may not want to
Smiling can show that you’re approachable and willing to have a conversation. So, next time you go out, try smiling at others to strike up a conversation. It could be a shopworker, someone in the waiting room at the doctor’s office or someone in the same line as you. If you’re feeling a bit shy you can stick to small talk and keep it light and cheerful.
Fill your week with activities
By planning activities to do during the week, you can make sure that you have something to look forward to most days. Whether it’s a walk in your local park, a nice lunch out, or a trip to a museum, having things to do can help you to feel less lonely.
Get involved in your community
Have you had a look at what’s going on in your community recently? It depends on where you live but there are likely to be various groups set up that you could join. Maybe you would be interested in the local choir, or volunteering? Whatever it may be, getting involved in your community can be a great way to get out of the house and meet new people.
If you feel like you’re struggling to cope with loneliness, there are organisations across the UK that are designed to help. Don’t be afraid to get in touch.
Age UK– a one-stop-shop for everything you might need to know as a senior in the UK. Most local Age UKs also offer a befriending service, if you’re struggling to meet people on your own.
The Silver Line – a free and confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Re-engage– offers a call companion service, group activities and one-to-one activities and combats loneliness in older people.
Making a positive transition into retirement
Your retirement is what you make of it. Whether you’re entering it surrounded by friends, or you’d like to get to know some more people, there are plenty of opportunities to nurture your social circle in retirement. In fact, there are many ways you can help make the transition as smooth as possible. But remember, you don’t have to have it all figured out immediately; the joy of retirement is that you have the time to try new things and figure it all out.