A close friend, a retiree like me, mentioned the difficulty of getting around. He lives in Chennai, India and the traffic there is horrendous. There are hour long traffic jams and public transport is overcrowded. The effort of getting around is too much and he finds himself sticking close to home, taking pleasure in activities such as gardening, journaling and music and enjoying family life. It is a feeling I can understand.
Here in Somerset N.J, the traffic is still manageable even though it is stop and go in the mornings and evenings during rush hour. However, there are other problems for the retiree who wants to socialize. Distances are much greater and friends of long-standing suddenly move away when they retire. Those who are still working have their own priorities and are busy with work and family. Getting together is not easy and , while e-mail and the phone are useful they cannot take the place of face -to-face socializing. Also, it must be admitted that the prospect of driving long distances,even to meet good friends, is less appealing than it used to be.
Luckily for me, our move to an Active Adult community has panned out very well. Most people here are either retired or semi-retired and have the time to socialize. Our houses are homes , places to live in, not things to show off. There is no more competition whether about houses, jobs, cars or children. Besides, we are all at that stage of life where the children have moved out and are on their own. Now we have the time to pursue our own interests whatever they may be. The Community Center has a variety of activities which bring like-minded people together and lead to friendship. The best thing is that we all live close by and in many instances can walk to each others’ houses. Consequently, I have made two very good friends among my neighbors and I would have made even more if I had not recently taken up a part-time job for the summer. They are making up for the friends I lost when I moved here from the town we had lived in for over forty years.
What would I have done if I were not in such a community ? One thing I’d have done is gone for a walk in the early morning and/or the late afternoon. That’s the time when older people are to be found taking a walk and it wouldn’t be too difficult to strike up a conversation with a promising type who could become a friend. Since such persons are in the neighborhood, it obviates the need for transport. Another thing I’d do is to hang out at the Senior Center if there were one close by. Some seniors can be crabby but surely there must be someone simpatico with whom we can connect. And finally, I’d volunteer. All of us are above average, even experts, at something or the other. Why not share this expertise? Tax preparation help is always needed in March-April and many public libraries have programs to offer help to those who need it. If you have always done your taxes, this might be something to investigate. If you can teach something (computers, math, English, science, whatever) that would be great because it would give you a chance to connect with young people. Just being around youngsters and their enthusiasm and energy generates sense of well-being.
Proximity counts for a lot but there are ways to get around it.