Much of retirement planning revolves around money. But anyone making plans for their retirement should also spend time on a different topic: How to stay connected to personal networks and your wider community, especially with the passage of time.
To illustrate what I mean I will briefly touch on several key retirement topics: Work, volunteering, housing, transportation and technology.
The research is compelling. A dearth of social relationships is as strong a risk factor for poor quality of daily life and even early death as smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity. Healthy social connections contribute to meaningful longevity.
Maintaining connections and conversation is a major reason why I emphasize the benefits of working well into the traditional retirement years. The money helps. Less appreciated is that the workplace is also a community. People care if you don’t show up for work. You like some co-workers and dislike others. Gossip is the lifeblood of any organization.
Volunteering is a classic way to both find a community and to give back late in life. Take the time to research your options and experiment with various volunteer opportunities to discover the right match for your interests and your skills. You are not only looking for an organization with a mission you support but for a wider community you will want to spend time with.
Loneliness has big implications for thinking about where to live. Older Americans typically want to age in their home and, for a long time. The risk is that aging-in-place eventually turns into aging alone. That’s why it pays to investigate options for communal living even if the prospect lies in the future. Some of the more intriguing communal options include home sharing, cohousing and continuing care retirement communities.
Convenient transportation is critical to staving off loneliness. How will you get around to meet people for lunch or a movie? Many elders no longer drive or limit their driving to certain times of day. The potential options are expanding with the rise of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Learn about your choices.
Information technologies can be an anti-loneliness tool. Computers, tablets and smartphones allow for simple communications with loved ones and the outside world. Voice-controlled smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home allow for easy communication as eyesight fades and physical dexterity declines. Stay socially active is a mantra for the successful retirement.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, “Marketplace,” commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.