Who Will I Have Lunch With?

The last article in the series “Three Questions That Can Predict Future Quality of Life” as we age written by Joseph Coughlin, PhD is below. It addresses the subject of maintaining a strong social network in retirement.

I met Joseph Coughlin, PhD about five years ago after his presentation at a financial planning conference. Joe is the Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, book author, lecturer, researcher and all-around smart guy. But the thing I liked most about him, was that we both have an affinity for the bow tie!

I hope you have enjoyed these thought-provoking articles.

Roger A. Shake, CFP®, RLP®, CeFT®

 

Who Will I Have Lunch With?

By Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD

Maintaining a Strong Social Network Is Critical to an Enjoyable Retirement

Lunch is more than just a meal—it’s an opportunity to get out and be sociable. No matter what stage of life that meal takes place—from the elementary school cafeteria to the senior center lunchroom—the people you grab a mid-day bite with are a solid indicator of the wellbeing of their social network.

As it turns out, the more robust that group of folks you have lunch with is, the greater the chances you’ll maintain a high level of physical and mental health as you travel through life. Traditionally, families provided the social core and the emotional support necessary for people to age well. However, smaller and more dispersed families are making that traditional support system less and less common for many.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 36% of women and 20% of men over age 65 live alone.1 Studies have found that this change can have a long-term impact—living alone or living without a robust network could actually negatively impact healthy aging.2 Maintaining and/or re-building this crucial social network should be a key priority as you age.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to preserve the community of friends you have, while finding ways to help ensure you have a strong and meaningful network in the future.

Researchers found the effect of social connection on mortality risk is comparable, and in many cases, exceeds that of other well-accepted risk factors, including smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day, obesity, and air pollution.3

 

Maintain Close Relationships

With the proliferation of new communication technologies in your daily life, working to maintain your current relationships can be both easier and a whole lot harder all at the same time. How can that contradiction exist? Despite the increased ways to reach out to loved ones, the number of potential distractions keeping you from each other has increased, too. There’s also been a rise in impersonal connections. Just because someone “likes” a picture you post online, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be there for lunch—or something even more important.

You should consider who you’ll want to stay in touch with as the years go by. It’s an important first step in nurturing those precious relationships into the future.

To identify those relationships, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who would you consider to be your most dear family members?
  • Who are your best friends, favorite co-workers, and most important mentors?
  • Who else adds special value or has a specific role in your life?

These are the people you’ll continue to depend on for advice and/or enjoying shared experiences.

 

Plan For Enjoyable Activities 

Once you’ve determined who that group is, you can start to think about some of the regular activities you like doing together. A great way for you to keep in touch with these special people is to plan a regularly occurring activity. Anything from crafting quilts and playing cards, to practicing yoga and hiking trails can be that special event you can look forward to on a recurring basis.

To plan for activities, you should list your most important connections, what social activities you’d like to continue participating in with them, and the best method of keeping in touch with them.

 

 Facts About Friendships:

The benefits of friendships:

  • Increases your sense of belonging and purpose
  • Boosts your happiness and reduces stress
  • Improves self-confidence and self-worth
  • Helps you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Encourages you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise
  • Reduces risk of depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index

Source: Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health, Mayo Clinic, 9/28/16, Most recent data available.

 

Ways To Discover New Connections

Sometimes—whether by fate or by choice—you aren’t going to be able to stay connected with everybody in your life. The best thing you can do is to go out and add new connections. Creating fresh connections can help assure the well-being of your network. These people and organizations can also reinforce a healthy and productive lifestyle.

  • Do volunteer work
    The surprise many volunteers find is that for all the good they do donating their time, they ultimately walk away feeling as rewarded as those they helped. You can make new connections with fellow volunteers while doing good, too. You can visit orgfor additional information to pair up with a cause that’s meaningful to you.
  • Enroll in a college course
    Just because it’s been a few decades since you were last on campus doesn’t mean your days of hitting the textbooks should be over. Lifelong learning can help keep you engaged and challenged as you age. You can check with your local college and university to see available courses. There may even be classes that are designed just for seniors, too.
  • Frequent a neighborhood coffee shop
    Looking for a place to hear local music or listen to poetry? Want to discover a regular spot to meet and converse with others? With the proliferation of coffee shops in the U.S. today, there’s most likely one right around the corner from where you live. There’s a chance you’ll end up meeting people while getting your next cup of Joe that share the same common interests you do.
  • Use online social networking to meet others
    Meeting new friends online doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did. Today, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) has become a main method that people meet and communicate with others who share the same interests. According to a report by Pew Research Center, 37% of all adults aged 65 and older said they’re on social media.4
  • Join a travel club
    Whether you are traveling with your significant other, family members, friend, or even by yourself, getting out and seeing the world can be a terrific way to branch out to find new connections. Travel clubs present a way to share affordable travel experiences with others. There are even clubs that cater exclusively to seniors.
  • Enroll in an exercise class
    Being physically active is not only great for your health as you age, it also could be a terrific boost for your social life, too. If you join the right fitness gym, you’ll most likely find a multitude of age-appropriate classes you can take.
  • Ask family and friends for introductions to others
    The most time-tested form of matchmaking—the good old-fashioned personal introduction. Meeting people the traditional way still works. You shouldn’t be bashful asking for an introduction from others. Many people are working to build new connections themselves.
  • Attend a senior center
    In 2015, 11,400 senior centers served more than 1 million older adults (their average age was 75) every day.4Of those, approximately 70% of senior center participants were women; half of them lived alone.4 These locations offer a wide variety of program and services for seniors. Compared with their peers, senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction.

 

Planning For Future Lunches

Consider how you can plan to stay engaged in the things—both big and small—that’ll help make you happy in the years to come. Integrate these issues into a comprehensive planning discussion with your Financial Life Planner to make an ambiguous retirement future—that may even be decades away—more tangible to you right now.

Legacy Consulting Group can help you think through the possibilities. Call us at 972-599-4750 to schedule a conversation on how we can assist you with your planning needs.


The MIT AgeLab is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Hartford Funds.

1Source: Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, US Census Bureau, 2015. Most recent available data used.

2 Source: University of Chicago, 2/14; Most recent data available

3Source: The United States Senate—Special Committe on Aging, 4/27/17

4Source: “Social Media Use in 2018,” Pew Research Center, 3/1/18.

5Source: Senior Centers, The National Council on Aging, 2015. Most recent available data used.

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