5 Ways to Avoid Loneliness in Retirement
Most boomer women have a strong work ethic and derive a great sense of identity from their work. After all, many of us started working when we were 15 and have worked for 45 years, so when work ends, there is often a huge void in our lives. This leaves many of us looking for ways to avoid loneliness in retirement.
Why it’s Hard to Avoid Loneliness in Retirement
Retirement can be a challenging time of life, especially in our modern era where many people live far away from their families and where more women over 60 are living alone. Women in their 60s tend to struggle with finding new friends once they “retire” and leave a workplace that may have nurtured them for years.
Without the routine of work, going to lunch with colleagues, and the other social structures related to their careers, women over 60 might find that some of their most comfortable, familiar relationships have ended.
The good news is that we don’t have to accept feeling loneliness in retirement! Instead, there are many ways that we can reimagine and reinvent our lives to get what we want out of our relationships and make a difference in the lives of others.
Here are a few specific suggestions for what older women can do to avoid loneliness in retirement:
Connect with People
Make an effort! Research shows that social connection is the number one health factor when it comes to reducing the risk of dementia and improving our overall health and well-being. Use online tools like meetup.com to find clubs and groups that share your social interests, or take an evening class.
Many colleges, universities and public school districts offer continuing education classes or allow people to audit classes – you can always keep learning and keep connecting with new people, even if your working days are done.
Find a Purpose in Life
What do you stand for? Research shows that having a sense of purpose (having a sense of direction and setting big goals for what you want to do) adds years to your life expectancy. Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you’re “finished.”
Women over 60 still have many dreams to pursue, contributions to offer and gifts to share!
Spend some time journaling and thinking about what you want to do with the next stage of your life. Perhaps meet with a counselor or life coach who can help you visualize, verbalize and stride toward your new sense of life purpose.
What do you want the next part of your life to be about? Do you want to travel, write, create, teach, start a business, spend more time with grandkids, volunteer, or just have more fun? Whatever it is, clarify your purpose and pursue it with passion.
Reinvent Yourself – Don’t Fear Change
If there’s one thing that women over 60 have learned from our careers and our lives so far, it’s that change is a constant.It is never too late to start over and present a fresh vision of yourself to the world. For example, I recently embarked on a personal “reinvention” project of my own, by serving as “model” for a series of video tutorials on makeup for older women.
Getting a public makeover in this way was definitely out of my usual “comfort zone” – but I found it to be quite exhilarating! When you’re open to change, you often will find yourself attracting and inviting new people and new experiences into your life.
Give Back – Volunteer
Loneliness in retirement often stems from a sense of detachment from the world and a resulting lack of purpose, which then leads to shutting oneself away. Lonely people often make the mistake of thinking that no one wants to hear from them, that everyone else is “too busy” and that they’re better off just staying shut in by themselves. In this way, loneliness can become a self-compounding problem that gets worse over time.
One way to avoid loneliness is to share your gifts with other people.
Whether you want to volunteer at your church or at a favorite charitable organization, there are many ways to help yourself stay energized by being generous to others. You can even volunteer without leaving home!
For example, there is an excellent new project in Brazil that pairs Brazilian kids who want to learn English with English-speaking retirees in America who do a “Speaking Exchange” via video web chats. The Brazilian kids get to practice their English and the older Americans get to make new friends and serve as tutors and mentors.
This is another wonderful example of how technology – which is often blamed for making people lonelier – can be used to bring people together.
Consider Shared Housing
Many women over 60 love to live alone, but some people wouldn’t mind having roommates to share expenses and offer some daily companionship. As more women over 60 are looking ahead to their retirement years, there is a growing demand for innovative types of shared housing and communal living, and there are many groups now being set up to help older people find shared accommodation. For example, the Golden Girls Network is an online service being developed to help older homeowners find housemates.
Perhaps the future of retirement living will be less like a “retirement home” and more like a group of college roommates who share a home and help each other in a spirit of friendship.
Do you ever feel lonely? What advice would you offer to someone trying to avoid loneliness in retirement? Leave a comment and let us know!
Many women have to deal with loneliness in retirement as their personal roles and responsibilities change and evolve. Often predictable routines and support systems that gave life meaning in the past are no longer in place. If you are looking for ways to build new social connections, explore interests you love and avoid being lonely in retirement, this episode of the Sixty and Me Show with Dr. Dale Atkins is for you!