How to make connections, build/join community, and find joy.
1. Join. Don’t wait to be asked to join; that invitation may never come. Don’t let shyness or inertia interfere with your mission. You don’t have to make a commitment that requires dues or regular attendance.
2. Be Selective and Aspirational. Choose your activity based on your interests, skills and stamina. Also consider the kinds of people you’d like to spend time with. You may not make close friends, but you will meet acquaintances who can introduce you to more people, more experiences, and more connections. It’s like Linked In unplugged, but less about business networks than the business of creating an interesting life.
3. Keep your Expectations in Check. Getting involved in a community won’t cure loneliness, and isn’t guaranteed to be the path to real, abiding friendships. Being connected to a social group will, however, give you something to look forward to, keep you stimulated, and gives other people a chance to get to know and appreciate you.
4. If you don’t find the community you’re looking for, Create a New One. Start a book club, organize your friends to help out at a nonprofit, work with local civic leaders to see if you can start something that fills a need.
5. Stretch the Concept of Community. Even a coffeehouse can foster a community, as Mike Thompson, 75, of Lakewood Ranch, Florida, happily found out. “I was surprised that a spontaneous community of men formed at our local Starbucks. We’re all retired. We discuss sports, politics, restaurants, movies and our personal lives. A couple of us have dogs and bring them along, all of us sitting together outside. None of us knew each other before, and there is no single, adhesive factor for us. People come and go at different times of the morning. Nothing is structured. I find it a real pleasure.”
6. Volunteer. For many, the having the time to volunteer is the best part of retirement. You can have the satisfaction of being able to contribute as you derive your own benefits from supporting a cause that’s important to you. A good source of information on volunteering opportunities is Senior Corps, which lists 40-hour/week volunteer jobs that qualify for a tax-free, hourly stipend as well as free supplemental accident and liability insurance while serving. For info: www.seniorcorps.com.
George H. Schofield, PhD is a business consultant, speaker and professor, specializing in organizational psychology and career development. His columns appear on Huffington Post 50+, PBS Next Avenue, Forbes.com and Marketwatch. Read our review of George Schofield’s, After 50 It’s Up To Us, his book which is packed with sage insights and advice.