Last week, I kicked off a Series on Solo Retirement with the realization that many navigate the transition to retirement on their own. But, as we saw, Identifying Your Values is no less important even if you don’t have a spouse or partner.
This week, we continue our Solo Retirement Series by discussing how to build a purposeful community in retirement. When people navigate the retirement transition, one of the primary problems they face is losing their community. Whether or not we realize it, the people we work with every day play a critical role in our lives. You may have some of your best friends and closest colleagues at work, or you may only interact with them in a professional setting. Either way, the people you surround yourself in the workplace are interacting with you five days a week, for 8+ hours a day. Most full-time employees work close to 2,080 hours per year…that’s a lot of time to get to know your office mates!
Suddenly, when you retire, you lose a large number of those relationships. You no longer have the daily interactions you’ve grown accustomed to. This can have a detrimental effect on a new retiree’s mental and emotional health.
This problem is especially pressing for a solo retiree. If you don’t have a spouse or partner or are otherwise lacking close, immediate family connections, you may be in a position where your work associations are truly the number one avenue for you to build relationships and socialize. Cutting this part of your life out completely may seem like a terrifying option.
Yet, most solo retirees still want to make the retirement transition successfully – nobody wants to work forever! Let’s talk about how you can build a purposeful and values-driven community prior to retirement (or during retirement), and why it’s important.
The Need for Human Connection
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, connection, relationships, and belonging are one of the most critical components of what humans need to achieve self-actualization and fulfillment. In fact, they come in third in his infamous pyramid – directly after food, water, shelter, and safety in order of importance.
People are intended to connect with others. We are a species that thrives in a community. This highlights the importance of building an intentional community to get you to and through your transition to retirement.
Building Your Team
I often tell people to think of their community in retirement as a “team.” For a solo retiree, this is especially important! You may not have an organic partner or teammate who can act as a default for who you’ll be spending time. You’ll need to build out a team of MVPs that can act as your retirement community, and help you to fill the 40+ hours a week you were previously spending with your work community. In my book (Retirement Stepping Stones), I outline a few key players to fill your roster:
- Social group. This isn’t really one particular person in your team of MVPs. Rather, it’s a group of people who you can count on for regular interaction in a relaxed setting semi-regularly. This might be a bowling league, a weekly yoga class for retirees you attend, or a group of people who gets together and plays cards every Thursday night. Finding a social group that meets consistently can help to provide structure to your time in retirement, as well as socialization.
- Mentor. The retirement transition isn’t seamless for anybody. If you can, try to connect with someone you know who already took the leap. You might try reaching out to a past colleague who already retired, a sibling, or a friend. This person can help to talk you through the transition into this next chapter, and help guide you as you hit inevitable roadblocks.
- Family. Whether your family is blood relations or a chosen group that’s close to your heart, keep these people close. This may require re-engaging to some extent. As we get busier in our careers and lives, it can be easy to let relationships with parents, siblings, lifelong best friends, and even adult children fall by the wayside. Take time to nurture these relationships prior to retiring so that you can spend time with the people you care about the most during this season of life.
- Friends and acquaintances. Friends and acquaintances are critical players in your community team roster. They provide casual socialization, a group to engage in hobbies and travel with, and a way to build individual relationships that can, in many cases, be lifelong. If you’re concerned that you don’t currently see many friends outside of the office, take time to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. Start by reaching out to those who you have shared hobbies or interests with.
- A counselor. In our next series installment, we’ll be talking about taking care of your health – both physical and mental or emotional. Having a relationship with a trusted counselor or psychologist before retiring can help you to clear a path toward navigating this transition with grace for yourself and others.
- A Pastor or faith community (if applicable). Regardless of your religious affiliation, now is an excellent time to get involved in a community you enjoy and trust. Retirement is a fantastic time to forge connections with other faith members and to get involved in ways that you may not have been previously able to. This can bring an enormous level of personal fulfillment, and help you to find a clear structure for your time, as well as a sense of belonging.
Creating a Community With Purpose
Building your retirement community “dream team” doesn’t have to be a stressful endeavor. In fact, I challenge you to revisit the values exercise you went through in my previous post. When thinking about who you want to connect with, or spend time with, reconsider your values. Do the people on your “MVP” list have values that are in alignment with your own? Are there people in your life who may be a better value fit than others?
Too often, when we’re living pre-retirement life, we’re thrown together with people who may or may not have values that are in sync with our own. We have our family growing up, friends and schoolmates throughout college, work colleagues, people you’ve met through your kids, and acquaintances – many of these relationships are created due to convenience alone. Retirement is an exciting new season where you get to choose where you spend your time and energy, and this includes what relationships you pursue. By evaluating your own unique values, and engaging with others who share them.
This can lead to deeper, more meaningful relationships with those you care about, and a more fulfilling social calendar.
In our next blog post, we’ll be going over the importance of taking care of your physical and mental health as a solo retiree – and how to do so successfully. Until next time!