How to stave off loneliness and keep sociable in retirement

The platypus is one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. Looking like a combination of an otter with a duck’s bill and beaver’s tail, the Australian-native creature is one of few egg-laying mammals, also known as “monotremes”.

It’s also an interesting creature because it is solitary. Although they may share the same body of water as others from their species, platypuses prefer to keep to themselves and do not form close relationships with their peers.

Unlike the platypus, however, humans do not like being solitary. Rather, we are highly social creatures who not only enjoy but richly benefit from being around others.

This is why loneliness is such a risk to your health and wellbeing when you retire. Having spent a career interacting with friends, colleagues, clients, and customers, losing these connections when you stop working can be a shock to the system.

This is a widespread issue for older people, too. Age UK states that 1.4 million older people in the UK are often lonely. Further research by the campaign group also reveals that people aged 50 or over are more likely to be lonely if they:

  • Don’t have someone to open up to when they need to talk
  • Don’t feel they belong to their neighbourhood
  • Have money issues that prevent them from doing the things they want to do.

Worryingly, loneliness can also translate into worse health outcomes, both physically and mentally. Studies show that loneliness increases your risk of depression and cardiovascular ill health, including heart disease and stroke as a study from the British Medical Journal shows.

With this in mind, it’s clearly important to avoid loneliness when you leave the workplace. So, find out how you can stay social in retirement to prevent feelings of loneliness.

Finding new hobbies and social activities is a great start – but only to an extent

Often, the first touted solution to loneliness is to find new hobbies and social activities to help fill the gap that stopping work can leave behind.

This is a good suggestion and one that’s well worth exploring in retirement. So, take the time before you retire to consider the hobbies and social activities you might want to get involved in. While this will be entirely personal to you, some common options for doing so are:

  • Volunteering with a local charity or cause that’s meaningful to you
  • Joining a club related to a hobby you enjoy, or even something you have never done before
  • Helping with the junior members of a sports team
  • Taking classes and courses in subjects or topics that you’re passionate about or interested in
  • Finding a part-time job or starting a new small business that provides the same hit of social energy that you used to enjoy in your career.

There will be many different clubs, societies, teams, and charities in your local area that would love to have the knowledge and skills you can provide. It can also help you to feel connected to your neighbourhood, which Age UK’s research identifies as an important component of avoiding loneliness in later life.

However, it’s important to note that this is not a complete fix to the issue of loneliness. Indeed, another key facet of Age UK’s research is the difference between social activities and meaningful social relationships.

“Feelings of loneliness occur when people’s ability to have meaningful conversations and interactions is inhibited,” it explains.

“Social activities can provide the opportunity to meet people, increasing the chances of having these meaningful interactions. However, for many, participating in social activities may not be sufficient because the circumstances that have led to persistent feelings of loneliness mean they need more support.”

For this, it’s crucial to form close, meaningful relationships with people you can rely on, and who can rely on you.

Meaningful relationships are crucial in keeping loneliness at bay

The Age UK research found that those who didn’t have people to open up and talk to when they needed support were 5.5 times more likely to experience feelings of loneliness than those who had a network like this.

That’s why, although finding social activities and pastimes can help, it’s the meaningful relationships that really matter. These are the links that help stop you from feeling lonely, offering you someone to turn to when times are tough.

So, it’s crucial to either create these close relationships if you don’t have them, or nurture those that you already do have.

Creating them can be as simple as finding like-minded people – perhaps through causes and activities in your local area – and then deepening them by spending more time with those individuals.

Meanwhile, you can nurture pre-existing relationships by proactively contacting friends and family and organising a chance to see each other.

The key step after creating and nurturing such bonds is then taking an active part in maintaining them. It’s vital to reach out and stay in contact with those around you, and be there for your network just as you want them to be there for you.

It’s key to find a new purpose in later life

Another significant reason that retirement can increase the risk of loneliness is the loss of purpose.

Alongside the financial and social benefits, work can also provide a framework around your life. It gives you something to get up for in the mornings, offering targets to drive you forward and people to work with to achieve those goals.

For some people, especially those who run their own businesses, work even becomes inseparable from identity. You don’t just run a business, you are a business owner, and it’s your job to build relationships with your team and clients or customers in order to grow the company.

So, when you take this away by retiring, it’s understandable that you might find yourself feeling a little lost. You might suddenly miss the hustle and bustle of everyday life, making the time you have now feel empty and lonely.

As a result, a key step in avoiding loneliness is to find a new purpose in your post-work life.

There are many ways you can go about doing this. You might find purpose and start to define yourself by participating in one of those social activities discussed above.

Or, you might want to seek out new opportunities in work, perhaps starting a new venture with some of your friends. This can help fill the gap left by leaving your previous position, working together with those you’re close to entirely on your terms and at your own pace.

This is an area where financial planning can offer significant benefits. At Britannic Place, we approach financial planning by starting with your goals and aspirations, and then working backwards from there. Then, we look at how we can help you organise your wealth to put you on track towards those targets.

In doing so, you can find that much-needed purpose that can often go missing in later life, build new relationships around it, and reduce your chances of feeling lonely.

Our free guide this month looks at how you can find purpose in your retirement. It’s well worth giving a read to see if it contains some ideas for you in fulfilling your passions in later life.

Get in touch

If you’d like support managing your wealth for this next stage of life, please do get in touch with us at Britannic Place.

Email or call 01905 419890 to find out how we can help you.

Please note

This article is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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