Independent Living Can Reinvigorate Social Lives

It’s important to give plenty of thought to remaining social during retirement

(Editor’s note: This content is sponsored by Acts Retirement-Life Communities.)

Have you ever stopped to think about what you want out of your retirement years, aside from good health and enough money to live on? Don’t you also want to feel great and have lots of fun? Whether you’re close to retiring or already there, it’s important that you give plenty of thought to remaining social during retirement.

What’s the connection? Research shows that social activity can improve your health in lots of different ways. And just as important: it can make you feel excited about life all over again. Skeptical? Read this article about the importance of socializing.

I should know. After years of letting social isolation creep up on me after retirement, I finally made the move to independent living with my husband. Although I won’t claim I discovered the fountain of youth or anything as dramatic as that, I will say that my social life is completely rejuvenated. As a result, I look and feel better than I have in years. That’s why I’m sharing with you here today how it all happened.

Here’s how moving helped me nurture and grow my social circle, completely invigorating my social life and making me feel happier than I ever imagined I’d feel in my retirement years.

The Problem: Being Cut Off from Familiar Social Networks

After I stopped working I slipped into a depressing period of social isolation. My kids live halfway across the country and most of my old friends are scattered around as well. I lost a lot of my own connections that I’d made through work.

Gone were the Thursday night after-work gatherings, the holiday parties, and casual celebrations we’d all have for one another on birthdays and other milestone events. My spouse is also retired so his social network was similarly reduced.

Are you or your spouse suffering from post-retirement depression? Read about ways to deal with this common feeling and how an independent living community can help.

The Solution: Discovering New Networks

When we made the move to an independent living community, all that changed. My social life blossomed in countless ways and I certainly don’t lack for friends these days. Here are five ways that came about.

1. I Started Exercising More

I’m not sure if all independent living communities work this way, but ours includes access to a fitness center. And even though I was never a gym-goer in my younger years, you’ll find me there regularly these days.

Everyone knows how important exercise is, but most of us don’t do it consistently. My routine made me stronger and healthier, of course, but it also made me feel more confident about myself. That, in turn, helped me in other situations where I had the chance to make new friends. Plus, I started recognizing familiar faces in the cardio area, where I usually worked out. That familiarity is what eventually led to friendships with other people who had similar interests (staying fit!).

There’s a famous Harvard study that followed a group of people for over seven decades. It found that exercising was one of the secrets of living a good life. Now I know why.

Want to incorporate exercise into your daily routine? Here are 7 must-do exercises (that don’t even require a gym membership).

2. I Started Taking Classes and Learning New Things

Another feature of my new community was access to lots of classes. There are so many opportunities for lifelong learning here. My first class was a computer class. I’d been away from the workforce for a number of years, so I’ll be the first to admit my skills were more than rusty.

During the very first meeting of that class, I sat next to a woman who was in the same situation: smart and eager to learn but unfamiliar with all the tech developments in home computing. We stumbled through the class together, laughing all the way at our own ineptitude. By the end of the class, however, we felt ready to conquer the online world.

It was the same in all the other classes I’ve taken since that very first foray into lifelong learning. From pottery to digital photography, I found others who shared my passion for discovery. I still meet regularly with one of my fellow budding photographers to capture shots of wildlife on local nature trails.

3. I Started Traveling More Often

Who doesn’t want to start traveling more after they retire? The problem for my husband and me was our big old house. Leaving the care and maintenance up to someone else while we were away was getting to be one big pain. It was expensive, and it always felt like such a burden when we got home again.

Moving to Independent Living meant all that responsibility gets shifted onto someone else. We no longer have to worry our pipes will freeze. Someone will plow the driveway for us. Nobody’s going to break in while we’re away. It’s all looked after by the community and it’s part of why we moved here.

Plus, our community organizes travel outings for people who live in the neighborhood. When my husband doesn’t want to travel, I just go with the group. I don’t have to rely on him, and I know I’ll see lots of people I know when I go on organized field trips. Sometimes we even travel long distances, like last year when we all hit the road and visited Montreal, Canada together. I had such a blast!

Do you love to travel, too? Read these tips for summer travel after retirement.

4. I Finally Had Someone to Attend Cultural Events With

Maybe your husband is like mine: he has to be dragged to museums and concerts. Before we moved, if I wanted to go hear the Philharmonic orchestra or see a new museum exhibit, I had to campaign with my husband for days to get him to go with me. Now, there are lots of people I know, whom I’ve met through my new community, who absolutely love attending cultural events.

It’s perfect: dear old hubby can stay home and I get to attend all the fun, cultural events I want. Last week a small group of us went and saw Hamilton. Next week, I’ll probably invite a few of them to check out the new Picasso exhibit that’s coming to our local museum. Can’t wait!

My Husband Loves It, Too

With all this talk about how my own social life blossomed, you might think my poor husband just sat at home the whole time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Moving to an independent living community opened up his social networks, too.

After decades of being all thumbs around the house, he took a woodworking class and now he thinks of himself as a master craftsman. He even joined a club! I know I’ll never understand the joys of woodworking, but I sure am glad his new buddies are there to keep him engaged with his new craft. They meet every Tuesday and I make them cookies and lemonade… and then I escape with my own circle of friends!

Read about the importance of retirement hobbies and how they can benefit your life (in more ways than just keeping your husband occupied).

Both of us love our new lifestyle, and we wholeheartedly believe that moving to this new community has made it all possible. We wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Interested in learning more? Read this article about 5 common retirement community myths.

By Acts Retirement-Life Communities

Acts Retirement-Life Communities is the largest not-for-profit owner, operator and developer of continuing care retirement communities in the United States. Headquartered in suburban Philadelphia, Acts has a family of 23 retirement communities that serve approximately 8,500 residents and employ 6,200 in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. For more information about Acts visit actsretirement.org.

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