Life changes in many ways when you retire. One thing that remains the same is the importance of friendship and remaining socially active.
For those who need proof, researchers say that having friends can improve your survival odds by 50 per cent and living without social interaction is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It’s actually a bigger influence on your wellbeing than exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.
Perhaps the most famous study on the secret to a happy life is the Harvard Grant Study that followed Harvard University graduates for the past 80 years to study their lives and uncover what made them happy. More than 19 million people have listened to the current director of the study, Professor Robert Waldinger, talk on the internet about its fascinating insights into the ingredients that make a happy life.
“It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected,” he said during his TedTalk.
“We’ve learned … big lessons about relationships. The first is that social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills.”
For those entering their retirement years, these findings highlight the importance of investing time into relationships.
Those thinking about how they want to spend their time in retirement may like to think about ways to make new friends and improve existing relationships with family and friends.
Retirement communities often offer activities, social groups, outings and special events that aim to promote a sense of community.
Elaine & Geraldine – Shanagolden
Elaine Butler and Geraldine Lock became friends after they moved to VMCH’s Shanagolden Retirement Village, in Pakenham, and became quick friends. They recently returned from a cruise around Europe together.
“I came to Shanagolden in January, 2015, and have found a true friend in Geraldine. We met at morning tea one Tuesday and, after my husband John died, we started doing water aerobics together,” Elaine said.
“It was in the pool, over exercise, that the topic of bucket lists came up and we started talking about doing a river cruise in Europe together.”
Geraldine says the trip was incredible and even more fun because she was able to share it with a friend.
“Elaine is hilarious, she really is. We laugh and laugh and just bounce off each other all the time. The trip brought us closer together,” she said.
“Everyone always asks what was the highlight, but I can’t answer that because the whole trip was incredible. I loved the villages along the Rhine and the Danube, and Paris was also really special.”
Dorothy & Joan – Corpus Christi
Dorothy O’Meara and Joan Waters have also formed a great friendship while living at one of VMCH’s retirement communities, Corpus Christi Village, in Clayton.
“Joan and I talk every day. Just to check in. It’s nice that someone looks out for you when you’re on your own. It gives you a sense of security,” Dorothy said.
“We are close but we also respect each other’s privacy.”
Joan and her husband moved into Corpus Christi seven years ago to stay in their local community.
“It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Kevin and I wanted to stay within our community and still see our friends. But, one of the best things about retirement living is the new friendships you make,” she said.
“One of the first neighbours I met was Dorothy. We had an instant connection and that connection has developed into a happy friendship.”
Popular culture often promotes the importance of money, beauty, high achievement, careers and social status for a happy life.
These studies challenge the media and marketers.
But making friends after busy lives working and raising families can be more challenging.
Five suggestions to help you connect
- Less screen time and more time with loved ones
- Improve a tired relationship by trying new things with your partner. Whether it is date nights, trips to new places or sharing a new hobby
- Reach out to a family member or a friend who you have not spoken to for a long time
- Bury grudges and family tensions because life is too short.
- Volunteering …..