You probably aren’t as social as you think you are. You may think of yourself as a social being, but what happens if you are not? When you retire you no longer have a career, a business, or special functions to attend. There is no place that you have to be. It is quite a shock when you realize how small your social network actually is. When you leave work you promise to keep in touch with everyone, but you don’t, and you soon learn that your colleagues have moved on without you. Your former social network is no longer there.
The social aspect of work is what kept you sane. Whether you loved or hated your job was immaterial. Sharing your feelings with others in the same boat created a special bond. When that bond no longer exists you are alone, perhaps for the first time in your life.
Your family is your closest support system, but even that isn’t a given. Relationships, even family relationships, need to be nurtured in order to endure. Not everyone is lucky enough to be a part of a large family. Some families are small or nonexistent. The choices that you have made will determine what you need to do now.
As people grow older, family members and friends move away or die. My favorite cousins have lived in the same area for many years. It is a community where everyone knows everyone else. Every week or so she tells me that they have attended funeral services for someone they know. Typically, their circle of friends is getting smaller every year. Outliving friends and even your own children is a valid fear for many older people.
People who move into communal or institutional settings find that it is difficult to maintain social relationships on the outside. Family and friends are often reluctant to visit because of the rules and regulations that govern communal living. The invitations and visits dwindle until they stop altogether. Many people opt to stay in their own homes or live with adult children for such reasons.
Relationships are important as you grow older. If you choose to stay in your own home or your own community you have to make the effort to keep the lines of communication open. If you open your mind and heart and avail yourself of modern technology you can make it happen. Telephone calls, e-mails, and Skype make keeping in touch as close as your living room.
Social interaction plays an important role in successful aging. It will be up to you to make the first move. Volunteer your services and share your knowledge. Make those extra years count for something.