Friendship and Retirement

“Wishing to be friends is quick work; but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.” ~ Aristotle

Work provides us with all kinds of great opportunities to be social and to meet new people. Maybe it is while walking down the hall, in the elevator, before or after a meeting, sharing a few words while grabbing a coffee or popping by a colleague’s office. These experiences add up to a lot of people who we chat with over the course of a work day; some of them are acquaintances and others are good friends.

When we transition into retirement, whether it is abruptly or after years of planning, our friendship network can be greatly impacted. The people whom we saw regularly or met up with during our workday are not going to just show up for lunch or a coffee break at our home.

Retirement planning most often focuses on planning our finances but, if you plan to sustain friendships and maybe even develop new ones, then you will be a whole lot richer than your bank account. You will invest in your emotional, mental and relationship health.

Retirement is a wonderful opportunity to deepen our friendships and to expand our friendship networks. The process of retiring from work is a measure to:

– find out whether a friendship is site-specific and if will it continue once the context changes.

– learn who will initiate getting together when the structure of work (taking lunch, taking a break, being in the same place) is removed.

– discover whether two friends can play together without working together, whether there are any other interests shared outside of work.

Staying connected with work friends
While in your work environment, you can start to take steps so that your connection with friends extend outside the parameters of work. Some ways you can do this are to:

  • Have conversations that are not work-focused. Chat about current events, sports, politics.
  • Talk with each other about your personal life. Chat about your family, your leisure activities or plans for the weekend, vacations or holidays.
  • Invite each other to connect on non-work time, after work or on weekends.
  • Consider a new project you and your collegial friends can work on together in retirement. You already know that you work well together!
  • Talk about retirement, leaving work and your friendship.

Making new friends
Retirement is a poignant moment in our lives when we realize that some of our friendships will end. We will lose some of our friends. It is also a powerful opportunity to appreciate the importance of having a healthy friendship network. It is a prime time for making changes in our lives and ourselves to invest in our social well-being.

Some ways to make new friends in retirement are to: 

  • Prepare yourself for getting out there, be open to new experiences and meeting new people.
  • Explore new leisure experiences, study new subjects, practice new skills where you can meet new people who have similar interests.
  • Go back to school – in person – so you can meet people. Get a certificate or diploma or degree and maybe a couple of new buddies.
  • Try volunteer, philanthropic or legacy work. You can apply your skills, knowledge and expertise while meeting peers who value the same issues and causes.
  • Travel with an organized small group trip or tour where you can spend concentrated amounts of time with peers or diverse age groups. Having a wide range of ages in our friendship network is great for broadening our sense of community.

Making time for personal friends and for couple friends
One big challenge many couples experience in retirement is how to retire with your spouse so that you both enjoy it. Retirement can be a timely opportunity to review your needs as an individual and as a couple, and discuss making changes to your lifestyle and schedule so that you both feel a sense of meaningfulness, connectedness, fulfillment and enjoyment. Having your own friends as well as friends that you spend time with as a couple are both important.

I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.” ~ Jon Katz

Copyrighted 2014:  The Smart Art of Friendship- Ruth Tamari and Amy Greenleaf Brassert