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Retirement and social life. Is loneliness possible?
Old 10-24-2007, 11:21 AM   #1
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Retirement and social life. Is loneliness possible?

How did you adjust to this change in social life. One of the advantage of working is meeting lots of people, more or less friendly (one would hope so), sharing ideas, opinions, and feelings.

In retirement there are much less chance to meet people. Some may have clubs or an extended family life. Othere may relocate to a complete new place and start anew.

This thread is not about having things to do. Most people have hobbies and plenty of activities. It is about relationships and talking to people.

Is ER more for lone wolves rather than gregarious dogs?
Loneliness can set in or is there ways to avoid that?
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Old 10-24-2007, 11:59 AM   #2
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I think most will tell you that they miss the social aspects of w*rk the most. I hike with my local Sierra Club and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity when I need a social "fix".
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Old 10-24-2007, 12:15 PM   #3
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A person moving to a new community can get pretty lonely if they sit at home and wait for the world to knock on the door.

I plan to ER in southern Missouri in a couple of years, where I know nobody. I have already found an excellent gym that I want to attend, a good library, and several other activities, groups, and facilities that might interest me. Of course, once I get there I will probably pick and choose but it is nice to know what is available to me. Frank will be going there as well, but certainly I am not counting on spending all my time with him.

If it is too icy to go out, there is always the internet! Some parts of the web are like a big party. There's this Early Retirement forum I know of....
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Old 10-24-2007, 12:38 PM   #4
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How did you adjust to this change in social life. One of the advantage of working is meeting lots of people, more or less friendly (one would hope so), sharing ideas, opinions, and feelings.
Well, we had to set some limits. Once you're not working you have all kinds of opportunities to socialize and it can get out of hand. There are times when we just stay home all day to recharge our batteries.

The nice thing about ER is that we no longer engage in "high-stress socializing" with work functions. I haven't been to a Navy Ball in years and I don't see myself getting dressed up in a monkeysuit again for one. We do things because we want to, not because we feel obligated to.

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In retirement there are much less chance to meet people. Some may have clubs or an extended family life. Othere may relocate to a complete new place and start anew.
Loneliness can set in or is there ways to avoid that?
Uhm, I think the difference is that ER affords more opportunities, not fewer. ER just means that there's less chance to meet working people during work hours. Luckily the world is full of people who are also free during working hours and frankly they're a lot more fun to be around than the work-related stuff. Activities can center around shared interests instead of shared misery.

Take a class. Sign up for physical training or a fitness center. Get surfing lessons. Volunteer at something. Join a civic group. Get involved with the local school (having kids in that school is optional). Hang out at the same coffee shop at roughtly the same times & days for a couple weeks (or rotate through various places). Go to museums, concerts, and theaters. Walk through the neighborhood mornings & evenings. Join a local discussion board and learn about what's happening in your area. Hold an E-R.org meeting at a local lunch place.

Another advantage of ER is that you can take a socializing break whenever you want. It's not so easy to do that with work.

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Is ER more for lone wolves rather than gregarious dogs?
Maybe. Greaney did a survey several years ago, but it's not clear whether there's a link between personality type & ER or if there's some other factor. I suspect that even extroverted people find reasons to hate their jobs and would like to have a little more personal control over their lifestyles.

Think of it this way:
- Do you want to have a job for the rest of your life just for the sake of the social contact?
- Is it possible that ER will afford more time, more socializing opportunities, and more choices than those provided during a 40+-hour workweek?
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Old 10-24-2007, 03:21 PM   #5
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Loneliness can set in or is there ways to avoid that?
Loneliness can certainly come. Loneliness is endemic in American society. As you read posts here, it appears that for many, particularly but not exclusively men, their spouse may be the only close friend/confidant.

I am recently divorced; to say that I am lonely would be an understatement. But I have good social antidotes that are helping a lot. The key is creating some "I'll bring you soup if you are sick" friends, out of the many who enjoy doing the things you like to do with you.

I work to see my kids once a week if they can manage it. I give people rides home from dances or parties. I play music with some guys who really are not very musical, but are excellent friends.

Overall, working life is a much easier life to have regular socializing. Lunches together, drinks after work, etc. Some don't like these things, but I feel they are very helpful. I have lots of things I enjoy doing that use up time; if this were not true I might consider working just to create an easier social life.

Ha
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Old 10-24-2007, 04:16 PM   #6
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This thread brings up the ugly dark-side of ER that doesn't get discussed much. We opine endlessly about the merits of paying off a mortgage or of our foreign asset allocation strategies. Yet when the things that really matter are on the table the discussion just dies on the vine.

To think that one could scrimp and save for decades to wind up with a lifestyle that is lonely and depressing is not something that I really want to consider. I would hope that there indeed is a payoff at the end of the tunnel because of all of that immediate consumption that I have foregone in order that life will be better one day.

What an extraordinary disappointment that would be to wind up lonely and depressed after all of that sacrifice !
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Old 10-24-2007, 04:23 PM   #7
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This thread brings up the ugly dark-side of ER that doesn't get discussed much. We opine endlessly about the merits of paying off a mortgage or of our foreign asset allocation strategies. Yet when the things that really matter are on the table the discussion just dies on the vine.

To think that one could scrimp and save for decades to wind up with a lifestyle that is lonely and depressing is not something that I really want to consider. I would hope that there indeed is a payoff at the end of the tunnel because of all of that immediate consumption that I have foregone in order that life will be better one day.

What an extraordinary disappointment that would be to wind up lonely and depressed after all of that sacrifice !
Darn good sobering point. I used to be painfully shy, but worked hard to get over it in my 20's.............
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Old 10-24-2007, 04:25 PM   #8
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.............. What an extraordinary disappointment that would be to wind up lonely and depressed after all of that sacrifice !
Good points MB. I'd argue that retirees don't have any lock on loneliness, though. When I was w*rking, I knew many poor souls that w*rked endless, unnecessary overtime including weekends, just to fill a void in their lives.
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Old 10-24-2007, 04:41 PM   #9
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I would suggest that if those here who are lonely tackled the problem with the same logic and vigor as they tackle preparing for retirement, they could solve that problem. So many lonely people simply refuse to do that, saying that they are shy or don't like groups or whatever. Something that I learned as a Navy wife and even more so as a divorcee, is that when you are new in town, you don't have the luxury of behaving like a shy person even if you are shy. A woman living alone in a city may feel she needs to know someone for safety's sake, if nothing more, so that someone will know if she needs a trip to the ER, for example.

What I like to do in such circumstances is to devote specific blocks of time to "getting it out there". Like the weekend, if I am working. This is serious business if you seriously need a friend to be happy and safe. You do your laundry and shopping on weekday evenings, and plan your weekends. You spend weekend time participating in activities where you might meet and get to know someone, even if you don't feel like it (and I seldom do). Then when I am out there doing things with people, I have to pretend to be outgoing and not shy. You become a good actor/actress, temporarily. Later you can be shy and introverted again, once you know a few people.

I believe that if you know your goal, and you pursue it without being unrealistically picky, within about six months you will know plenty of people from whom to choose a few friends. Once you have a few friends, you will meet others through them that sometimes are more what you had hoped for than are the first few you meet. Honest - - this approach works for me, anyway.
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Old 10-24-2007, 05:37 PM   #10
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I used to be painfully shy, but worked hard to get over it in my 20's.............
Hmmm, I was so shy and insecure when I first came to the U.S. in my early twenties that I agonized over whether I should say "Good morning" or not to my boss and co-workers.

Want2retire, that's great advice you gave about planning, making the effort, and being more accepting. It has worked that way for me, too, except for the planning; I would always go when I would be invited--I'd just let the chores go.

When I first moved to this town, I thought I had nothing in common with co-workers and could not see myself being friends with them. (I didn't drink beer, didn't know much slang, didn't know who the Packers were, although I had overcome the part then already about dressing funny, i.e., strangely.) But in time, as I became more accepting and "not too picky", I found I did have some things in common with some of them. I've moved around to different jobs and from almost every job, I've kept in touch with my favorite one or two friends that I met there.

There's nothing wrong with having different friends for doing or sharing different activities or interests. There are friends of the mind and friends of the heart (and maybe even friends of the body, too). I've found that my circle of friends has indeed grown as I get introduced to more people, and now I can choose to spend more time with those whom I get along with best.

I imagine that it also makes a difference what kind of city or neighborhood one lives in and one's age group, whether it's a transient place for young up-and-comers or if people are pretty settled, the size of the city so that it's easy to get together instead of folks being all spread out and having to drive or commute long distances to see each other.

As an immigrant, I value friends highly because my immediate family members are all overseas. There's a bumper sticker on one of my neighbors' cars that says "We are all foreigners somewhere". I have no idea what the heck it really means but something similar might be appropriate here: "We are all foreigners sometime."... "We're foreigners; we gotta try harder." ...like Avis...or something like that...
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Old 10-24-2007, 07:59 PM   #11
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Well, we had to set some limits. Once you're not working you have all kinds of opportunities to socialize and it can get out of hand. There are times when we just stay home all day to recharge our batteries.................

Uhm, I think the difference is that ER affords more opportunities, not fewer. ER just means that there's less chance to meet working people during work hours. Luckily the world is full of people who are also free during working hours and frankly they're a lot more fun to be around than the work-related stuff. Activities can center around shared interests instead of shared misery.
I could easily spend 8 hours a day socializing, but then nothing would ever get done at home and I'd be wore out by the end of the week. Like Nords said, "the world is full of people who are also free during working hours". I go the local coffee shop a couple times a week and visit with several old friends that are also retired. Through those friends, I've made several new friends over the last few months. I've also renewed some old acquaintances that I lost track of over the past many years.

Over the years I've also made friends with a lot of people who work in the stores and shops that I've frequented. So just about any time I have to run for groceries, clothes, hardware, or whatever, I run into folks that I know and we visit a little here and a little there.

I keep my eyes open for things going on in the community also. Like community dinners, school fund raisers, concerts, lectures, sight-seeing trips, and local festivals. I also look over the offerings at the local community college to see if there's anything happening that interests me. I'm also a member of a VERY active garden club, along with a lot of really neat people!!! I like doing those things, not to stay busy (I can stay plenty busy without any outside help), but rather for social interaction and to meet new people....and maybe make a new friend or two.

A week ago I went with a group from the community college on an 8 hour, 70 mile paddle-wheeler trip from Starved Rock State Park (about 90 miles SW of Chicago) to Peoria, on the Illinois River. Saw a couple of old friends, and met a lot of new people. It was a great and leisurely way to socialize. Also lots of good food and great entertainment!

There are a few other retirees here in my neighborhood, along with several other really nice w*rking folks, and we chat and visit back and forth, and watch out for each other.

My 80 year old Mom has her Tuesday morning coffee clutch, bi-weekly local AARP chapter meeting, Senior Center activities, Bingo once in a while, the casino boat about once a month, plays, concerts, and activities at the library. She doesn't go for the "activity"....she goes to be around her friends!

So retirement doesn't have to be lonely at all. Like Want2retire said, it just takes some planning and a little action, like all the other aspects of planning for retirement.
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Old 10-24-2007, 08:05 PM   #12
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Is ER more for lone wolves rather than gregarious dogs? Loneliness can set in or is there ways to avoid that?
having raised a Wolf-dog hybrid - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia for 12 years and watched lots of national geographic on pbs, i can tell you that wolves are highly social creatures.

according to Online Etymology Dictionary, it looks like "lone wolf" comes from american english circa 1909 (no idea how i found stuff out pre-internet, the library reference desk?). wasn't it during the 20th century that humans hunted wolves nearly to the brink of extinction? misunderstanding often leads to destruction.

"loneliness is a word to express the pain of being alone...solitude is a word to express the glory of being alone."~~paul tillich
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Old 10-24-2007, 08:42 PM   #13
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I should probably clarify so that I don't sound so much like a malcontent. I go to 4 social dance classes a week; that means I talk and dance with a minimum of 40 women in a week at classes alone. I try to get to know some of the men too, and over time make some friends this way. I also go to 2 or 3 dances- ditto the above, but more time for longer conversations. One of the dance communities feels like home to me, but there are only a few events a month. I go to a book club, I know a few people at my gym, and I have casual but also friendly relationships with clerks, bartenders, etc. in my neighborhood.

So I am not exactly alone. When I think about it, what I really miss is being part of a tight team. My family when my kids were still home, my brothers and sister, sports teams I played on, even a good work team. I don't actually consider my individual self to be my basic unit. I always identified myself with my role in a meaningful group. It is this kind of tight identification which is hard for a single adult to recreate.

Although my marriage had its share of pain, I even miss the identification of "husband". (Though I will not be tempted to revisit that one in this lifetime. )

I think many don't need this group feeling. I may not exactly need it, but I sure would like to have it. The lone vacations that some here take would likely make me depressed. Though I can see that one can create some close friendships while traveling, given language facility, time and the will to do so.

Ha
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Old 10-24-2007, 08:46 PM   #14
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I suspect that if you had a tendency toward lonliness during the earlier part of your life, this will be stronger once you are RE and don't have the ready-made structure to provide interactions.

Sometimes that tendency is a natural part of the person, sometimes situational, like after a divorce or move, and with a varying duration. How you handled those transitions in the past will be indicative as to how you will handle the similar transition associated with RE.

The challenge of loneliness also appears to increase with age due to increasing physical limitations and the basic fact that your peers/supports die. I have heard many say that it is important to have younger friends - to keep you young mentally and to ensure you have supports. It is a lesson I will consciously pursue.
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Old 10-24-2007, 08:56 PM   #15
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I go to 4 social dance classes a week; that means I talk and dance with a minimum of 40 women in a week at classes alone. I try to get to know some of the men too, and over time make some friends this way. I also go to 2 or 3 dances- ditto the above, but more time for longer conversations. One of the dance communities feels like home to me, but there are only a few events a month. I go to a book club, I know a few people at my gym, and I have casual but also friendly relationships with clerks, bartenders, etc. in my neighborhood.



Ha
WOW Ha ! You are doing a great job finding people to socialize with and that 's what makes a single life better .
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Old 10-24-2007, 09:56 PM   #16
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This is a very interesting topic, and I've enjoyed reading all the responses. I think it's painful for many to talk about. Being a guy I've noticed that women seem to have a much easier time forming short and longer term friendships. I'm really jealous of that. Don't know if there is any literature out there on this, but for guys it seems we were always the warrior types (or suppose to be). Seems to me that guys are like magnets with the same polarity -- they just can't get together very tightly. There is a lot of parrallel play with guys.

I hate to admit it but I have an easier time talking to women. Maybe that's why my best friend is also my DW. My next best friend is my DD (he's a corgi ). In ER I've kept busy with lots of activities and met some interesting people along the way. Like occasional conversations with people during my stretching break after a run up to the lake -- hmm, maybe more stretching is in order. Most activities like art classes at the JC result in brief meetings with people and that's fun. Haven't seen anything lasting come out of it yet. I do get together with a couple of guys maybe once a month for coffee. Don't know about other places but here in California I cannot picture getting to know people just by happening to show up at Starbucks at the same time each day -- I think I'd just be getting a caffeine high but no connections.
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Old 10-24-2007, 09:58 PM   #17
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DH and I just built our ER house - we currently use it on weekends. We are getting to know our neighbors. The husband still works - commutes to the city for the week and the wife recently retired. She is VERY busy. She has joined a the local Lion's club, a kayaking group, takes classes at the local CC, joined a gardening club and we have plans to train for a local sprint triathlon and 1/2 marathon next year. I plan to ER next August. I plan to have an PT job, but also am looking forward to having some freedom to pursue just some of the activities that keep my neighbor so very busy.

PS - she says she is having more fun than people should be allowed.
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Old 10-24-2007, 10:00 PM   #18
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I have found peace and contentment in solitude. Coming up on three years retired, I am considering some socializing. I am not ready for any obligations.
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Old 10-24-2007, 10:43 PM   #19
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Just as an early start in life building an investment portfolio to support FIRE makes the task easier, nuturing a social network of family and friends throughout life makes that easier too........
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Old 10-24-2007, 11:28 PM   #20
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Volunteer. It makes you feel good about yourself and you meet others who share your interests.

Re-shelve books at the library.

Habitat for Humanity has admin, office, warehouse/retail, homeowner education, AND construction work. My wife was attending socials that folded and addressed hundreds of their local newsletters.

I do maintenance on the Arizona Trail with some retirees, all are SS age. Many of them have hiked the 2200 miles of the Appalacian Trail. Their knowledge and experience is amazing.

Pick up trash in public, outdoor places. No socializing but immediate positive feedback from yourself. No schedule, no boss, but unlimited opportunity. If you do it early on trash pickup day, you can put your collection in the waiting garbage cans.

Take courses at the local community college. Tuition is free for age 65+ in my county.
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