friends in retirement

Live Vibrantly - June 19, 2019

How to Keep Friendships Fresh in Retirement

By Kristine Jepsen

According to one of the longest-running studies on aging, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, having satisfying relationships with friends and family is linked to a better quality of life. Maintaining fulfilling relationships can reduce the physical effects of loneliness and keep your brain sharper, longer. As retirement can lead to changes in location or availability, it might become difficult to stay connected with the friends you’ve made over the years. Here are five ways that you can nourish the ties that bind.

1. Get Everyone on the Same “Page” with Smart Technology

Taking a walk down memory lane with a group of friends doesn’t have to mean hopping in a car to meet up at your favorite spots. For busy seniors, a much easier way to connect is by phone. Use a popular messenger like WhatsApp or create a group chat on your phone and you can keep up with your crew while you’re all on-the-go. The best part is: since you’re just texting with friends, there’s no need to keep your phone by your side like with a phone call. Conversations can roll along in your absence, and you can pick things back up when it’s convenient for you.  

2. Celebrate the “Inside Jokes” of Aging

Let’s take light-hearted repartee a step further. Should the more common milestones that make for popular greeting cards lose their appeal, why not celebrate something a little irreverent? Skip your birthday and host a “New Knee” party when your new joint can bear some weight but you can no longer bear recuperating alone at home. This will get your friends joking about the theme and, likely, all those adventures together that your original knee absorbed in the first place. An added bonus is that humor positively impacts your health! So while you’re chuckling over the greatest hits of your friend group, you’ll be feeling better in no time. 

3. Return to a Favorite Pastime

Retirement gives you plenty of time to pursue your personal interests, such as playing music or a favorite sport. As these activities fill your calendar, they become what researchers call “containers,” providing the same structure as grade school does for children or the workplace for professionals. You may be surprised by how easily a tennis date, for example, can put you back in touch with an old buddy. If you’re a good match on the court or at the card table, take it a step further and invite friends outside the “container” for coffee or dinner.

4. Plan a Meet-in-the-Middle Getaway

When good friends live more than just a short drive away, consider meeting up between your respective homes to explore a destination such as a national park or a roadside diner with a reputation for comically large milkshakes. Take advantage of what you’ve learned about travel in our previous blogs and jump on a bus or train to make it your meet-up.

5. Pen a Letter

Remember when getting personal correspondence was a much-anticipated occasion? It’s never too late to make a friend’s day by sending your handwritten thoughts. If you need a primer on style and structure, take a look at How to Write Letters, penned in 1876 by literature professor J. Willis Westlake. Picture postcards are another way to send a quick hello and brighten someone’s day, or just give them something more than junk mail to sort through.

Whether you embrace new experiences and technologies or you prefer more tried-and-true ways to keep in touch, maintaining lifelong friendships and meeting new people is an important way to stay healthy.

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Kristine Jepsen is a writer and editor for literary journals online and in print, as well as a professional business counselor, Pilates and Oula! dance instructor, grant-writer, and brand content developer. Her work with Goodwin House at Home centers on health and wellness along the aging continuum, covering topics as diverse as dating apps and financial scams. She lives on a farm in the Midwest with her horse-loving tween daughter and many four-legged friends, large and small.

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