Making New Friends in Retirement

It was easy when we were kids. “Do you want to be my friend?” was an acceptable way to get together with someone new.  School and work settings provided us with lots of opportunities to bond over shared activities and work projects.

If you put all your energy into your job, you may find that most of your social network was from work.  Outside of your job you may not have shared interests with other employees and you no longer have the job in common.  You don’t want to be that person who keeps calling your former co-workers to find out what’s happening when you’re no longer part of the team.

Once you’ve retired, who’s going to replace your work buddies?

It can be difficult to maintain – or grow – your network of friends when you retire. 

Where can you find new friends?

Be a bit more social in your community.  When you pass someone on the street or a neighbour mowing his lawn, be friendly and greet them.  After seeing the same face a few times it’s easier to pause and strike up a conversation.  Be impulsive and invite them over for coffee.  You can always borrow a cup of sugar.  Then when you return it, you’ll have made a start with two interactions.  

If you move to a new area you may be leaving behind friends and neighbours who have long been part of your lives.

Will you be able to find like-minded people to become your friends?  I wouldn’t want to move someplace that’s too settled, where everyone already knows everybody else and they aren’t interested in welcoming a new comer.

You want to have some people to hang out with, who will engage in interesting conversation, tell jokes, play some golf or cards.

You’ll have a better chance of meeting new people if you make an effort to do so – not so easy for a shy, introvert like me.  But maybe the numerous wine-tasting rooms around here keep people smiling and more chatty.

If you move to an adult-oriented community, you’ll be living among your peers who will be happy to welcome newcomers and encourage them to participate in social activities.  It’s easy to meet your neighbours and there will almost certainly be a clubhouse.

That being said, ensure your new friends span the generations.  We learn from our young friends how to set up a website or use Instagram, and from our 90+ year-old neighbours who talk about their long-life experiences.

Keep in mind that it’s healthy for both you and your spouse to have your own social contacts – yours, mine and ours.

Fun ways to make new friends

  1. Clubs and groups

Common interests and hobbies are a great way to meet people while doing something you enjoy. As you try new things, you’ll cross paths with all kinds of people. You can find a local group for just about anything you can think of.

  1. Volunteer

Volunteering and being active in the community are also good ways to meet people. There are lots of places – schools, non-profits, hospitals, shelters – that need volunteers to help them run effectively. You’ll likely come into contact with like-minded people who share your values and friendships will blossom naturally.

  1. Get a dog

Having a dog means you’ll have to get out of the house to take it for walks, maybe go to training lessons, or to the local dog park. It’s a great way to stay active and meet other dog lovers in your community.

  1. Visit local restaurants

Find a restaurant or coffee shop you like and become a regular. Chances are you’ll eventually strike up a conversation with the staff and other regulars.

  1. The internet

Don’t neglect the resource you’re using right now. Sure, chatting on-line isn’t really the best substitute for real face-to-face friendships, but forums, chat rooms and social networking sites can be useful, and you can easily become part of a much larger circle.

The bottom line

Paradoxically, retirement gives you more time for friends but fewer opportunities to meet them. 

It takes some effort on your part to put yourself in situations where you can meet people. Creating new friendships requires both an intention and some social skills. Give it time. Show an interest in the other person and see if they reciprocate.

Don’t start a budding friendship by telling about your medical problems, or that your children never visit.  They’ll probably get overwhelmed and avoid you after that.

Eventually you’ll find others just like you who are open to starting new friendships and you might uncover your next best friend-to-be.

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