For many, retirement represents a new chapter; a time for doing things you didn’t have time for in your previous life. Retirement is for crossing things off your bucket list and adjusting your pace, whether that means slowing down or revving up. If you’re going into retirement solo, you may face unique challenges and opportunities in terms of how you design and implement your retirement game plan.
If you’re solo by choice and comfortable with being on your own, then retirement can be a breeze. Enjoying your own company will serve you well. You can plan and participate in various activities on your own terms, without having to factor in a partner’s preferences or schedule. Of course, compromise and flexibility are necessary for dealing with friends, family, or travel buddies, but for the most part, you’re freer to do as you please.
If you’re solo by default, i.e. as a result of having been widowed, divorced, or not having found ‘the one,’ retirement may pose some challenges. If you believe that singledom is synonymous with loneliness and being a fifth wheel, you’re setting yourself up for a gloomy retirement. Plus, you may be missing out on all that retirement has to offer, regardless of your relationship status. Alone does not equal lonely.
Being an introvert or an extrovert can also impact your retirement experience, particularly if you’re solo. If you’re an extrovert, participating in group activities, making new friends, and interacting with strangers will be a piece of cake. But for an introvert, these kinds of situations can be daunting. Bringing along a buddy for moral support to act as a buffer between you and the things that make you uncomfortable is a good idea.
Now, let’s take these solo navigation tools and strategies to the next level.
1. With A Little Help From Your Friends
Humans are by nature social beings and research findings have shown that as we age, we do better in the regular company of others. That doesn’t mean you have to socialize 24/7, but being alone too much can adversely affect your health, well-being, and longevity. A strong social network is a key component to a satisfying and fulfilling retirement.
One of my solo coaching clients, “Jan,” was an introvert struggling in her retirement. By contrast, her friend, “Peggy,” had a large circle of friends. Jan’s goal was to ask Peggy to include her in social gatherings from time to time. Turns out, Jan hit it off with two of Peggy’s friends and now sees them regularly. Although she had been introduced to them previously, this time she made a concerted effort to connect on a deeper level.
If there was ever a time to step out of your comfort zone and take some risks, retirement is the time. Start by strengthening your existing friendships/relationships by staying in touch on a consistent basis. Call/text regularly and be proactive about extending invitations to get together. Remember, each of your friends has his or her own social network, so make an effort to tap into those whenever possible. It worked for Jan!
2. It Takes A Village
What better way to make friends, learn something new, and broaden your horizons than by taking advantage of what your community has to offer? Many communities have a variety of venues that offer classes, workshops, lectures, clubs, groups, and other types of activities that bring people together. This is a great way to meet kindred spirits, i.e. people with whom you have common interests.
To get started, ask yourself, “What have I always wanted to do, but never had the time for prior to retirement?” Make a list and then begin tackling it. Your community might provide activities that you can plug into. Retirement is an ideal time to take up a hobby or devote even more time to an existing hobby. Why not get involved in local politics, join a club, or volunteer? Each of these activities provides opportunities to connect with others. Now that COVID has become less of a threat, in-person programs are becoming more commonplace.
If you’re not sure how to find what you’re looking for, check out your local senior center, fitness center, adult education venue, college/university, community center, park district, or library. Don’t forget to explore resources in neighboring communities as well. Getting involved in these types of activities not only provides enjoyment and a sense of purpose, but it helps you build and expand your social network.
3. Don’t Ignore The Workplace
If work is part of your retirement agenda, keep in mind that coworkers and others with whom you interact provide a pool of potential friends. Some workplaces even have their own social network. Take note of individuals with whom you’ve shared positive interactions. They may be up for joining you for a coffee break or lunch hour. Shared breaks, lunches, or working together on a project can be the basis for a future friendship.
Be proactive about participating in or even organizing social events at work. Attending and planning these events gives you the opportunity to interact with your coworkers and others on a more personal level. You already have something in common by virtue of your shared employer, which is the foundation for building a personal connection. Set a goal to make at least one work friend.
4. Birds Of A Feather Travel Together
Many retirees have the time and freedom to travel more frequently and explore new and exciting destinations. If you’re solo, you may be reticent about traveling on your own, but more and more retirees are doing just that. Traveling alone is becoming more the norm, particularly among Boomer women. Leave it to us to break barriers in that arena as well!
While retirees in general are traveling on their own more often, many still prefer to travel in the company of others. The good news is, you’ve got options. One of the easiest solutions is to hook up with a travel buddy, someone who shares the same travel interests and is on the same page in terms of personal preferences. More than one buddy is even better.
Group travel is another option. Senior centers, AARP, travel agencies, and other venues offer group vacations with all of the details, like an itinerary, airline reservations, and hotel and amenities included. All you have to do is pay and you’re on your way. Community centers also sponsor group day trips to local destinations that can be reached by bus or train. Traveling solo has never been easier.
5. Find The One (And Done!)
If you prefer to have a significant other accompany you on your retirement journey, there are many online dating services dedicated to those who are solo by default, rather than design. If your preference is to meet people the old-fashioned way, let your family and friends know you’re open to being introduced. Bottom line, if finding “the one” is a top priority, stop wishing and start doing!
The following is a short list of dating websites that have proven helpful for many of my coaching clients:
While challenges may arise as a solo retiree, the good news is, it’s getting easier. Resources designed to serve and support retirees have evolved to meet their needs more effectively. Whether you’re single by choice, chance, or default, you can make this chapter of your life the best yet. It’s all about being open to the opportunities that surround you and viewing solo retirement as a valid and viable option.
For more ways to live life to the fullest in retirement, check out these stories: