Expand your social network before retirement. Those who socialize on a regular basis before they retire are more likely to maintain at least some of those relationships in retirement. “People tended to become lonelier after retirement if they had little contact with friends before retirement and if the contact frequency decreased over the retirement transition,” says John Cacioppo, director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago and author of “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection.” “Loneliness across retirement is not inevitable and underscores the importance of frequent contact with friends for the well-being of retirees.”
Form connections outside of work. If you spend most of your day interacting with colleagues, customers or clients, begin to expand your social circle to people who aren’t associated with your job. Consider reaching out to neighbors or people who have a common interest. “People who retire can be caught off guard by the sudden drop in social connections, not realizing how much they had relied on people at the office for company and engagement,” says Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development in Boston, Massachusetts. “The people in our longitudinal study who were happiest in retirement were people who found ways to replace social connections from work with other playmates, whether in volunteer activities, civic organizations, golf groups, bridge partners – also family including grandchildren.”
Volunteer. Your job often defines your role in society and allows you to be part of a greater goal. Some retirees are able to gain a sense of purpose by volunteering to help others or taking on a part-time job or hobby. “Volunteering is a big antidote to loneliness,” Waldinger says. “Work at a soup kitchen, tutor children who want to learn to read, tutor people who want to learn English or get involved in church or civic activities.”
Maintain your relationship with your spouse.Marriage provides a measure of protection against loneliness. Older adults who are widowed, divorced or separated are especially likely to say they feel lonely, according to an AARP Foundation and University of Chicago report. But even married older adults sometimes feel lonely, especially if they rate the quality of their marriage as poor. “Family becomes increasingly important with age,” says Louise Hawkley, a senior research scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago and co-author of the report. “Take the time to repair or otherwise resolve difficult relationships with family members.”
Cultivate relationships with your children and grandchildren. A good relationship with your children and grandchildren can help you to avoid isolation in old age. Some retirees prioritize spending quality time with their grandchildren. Adult children can also be a valuable source of help with errands and transportation when you need it. Frequent socialization with younger family members is likely to enrich your retirement years.