5 Ways to Make Friends in Your Retirement

There is increasing evidence that social engagement keeps your mind sharp and prolongs your life. According to a study conducted by the Stanford Center on Longevity, isolation poses health risks similar to those that smokers face. A 10-year Australian study found that people with a large network of friends live around 22 percent longer than those with few or no friends. A study conducted by AARP revealed that loneliness is strongly linked to depression, chronic illness, and hospitalization.

Social engagement has declined sharply among baby boomers between 55 and 64 years old. Is it Netflix or is boomers’ lack of confidence to blame? Either way, society is missing out when seniors hole up in their houses. There are countless ways for retirees to make friends, but here are just five examples.

1. Volunteering

Someone somewhere needs your time and skills. The United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and Meals on Wheels spring to mind, but the possibilities are endless.

You can either capitalize on the talents that built your career or try something completely different. A Google search for “volunteers food” and the name of your city will turn up everything from organizing a food pantry to evaluating restaurants as a mystery diner. Yes, volunteering sometimes has its perks.

Check government research agencies like Senior Corps. Call your city offices about opportunities in parks and recreation. Shelters and hospitals always need help.

Start by signing up for short shifts. That way, you can get a feel for how much you’ll enjoy the work and the people around you. Plus, be sure that you’re willing to buy a uniform or undergo training if necessary.

2. Joining a Community Group

Community organizations work to improve communities and help the disadvantaged stay engaged. They are usually self-governing and nonprofit. Groups may focus on education, health, social awareness, or personal growth. Youth groups, church groups, school groups, and amateur sports clubs are some examples.

These are ideal for making friends. You’ll meet neighbors you never knew you had. Here are some ways you can serve and have fun at the same time:

  • Use your talents to knit blankets for sick children, play the piano in a nursing home, bake goods for a fundraiser, or act in community theater.
  • Enjoy the outdoors while doing construction work, planting a garden, or refereeing kids’ sports.
  • Help with blood drives or mobile immunization services.
  • Help people register to vote.
  • Read to children or the elderly.
  • Tutor in a school or teach English as a Second Language.
  • Guide the blind on errands.

3. Hosting Events

Many groups just need a place to cook restricted-diet meals, assemble care packages for military personnel, or wrap Christmas presents for needy children. Offer to make sandwiches or order a pizza when the work is done.

You could also open your home for book club discussions, bridge games, or bunko nights.

4. Using Mobile Apps

There’s no shame in finding friendships or romance via your smartphone. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of seniors in the 55 to 64 bracket who use dating services doubled between 2013 and 2015.

Whether you’re looking for true love or platonic companionship, such as a pen pal or travel buddy, your chances of making a digital connection are better than you think. By retirement age, nobody’s in the mood to play games.

OurTime and SilverSingles are specifically designed for the older crowd, so those are good sites to start with. There’s an astonishing number of niche sites, like Gluten-Free Singles and Farmers Only, that cater to specific interests. EliteSingles is a good choice if you were a company executive or you attended a prestigious university. You can also search for compatible faith-based services.

Here are some of the better-known sites:

  • eHarmony
  • Match
  • Zoosk Seniors
  • OkCupid
  • The League

5. Joining a Club

Most friendships form through common interests. There are special interest groups that meet regularly for house parties, game nights, hiking, bowling, eating out, and seeing movies. If you have an especially high IQ, consider Mensa. If you’re tall, see if there’s a chapter of Tall.org nearby.

One of these categories might spark your interest, and there’s likely to be a club for it:

  • Antiques
  • Baseball cards
  • Biking
  • Calligraphy
  • Chess
  • Classic cars
  • Comic books
  • History
  • Music
  • Quilting, knitting or sewing
  • Science
  • Square dancing, line dancing, or ballroom dancing
  • Technology or computers

There’s no better time than retirement to put yourself out there and make friends. Your happiness, health, and mental well-being may depend on it.

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