Certified therapeutic recreation specialist Tammy Rowell, director of life enrichment at Good Samaritan Society – Greeley Communities in Colorado, says relationships are a key to a fulfilling retirement. Here are her tips on building friendships, new and old, in your senior years:
In the field of therapeutic recreation, Tammy says, “we look at the whole person — their physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual needs.” To engage all those aspects of who you are, consider doing a variety of activities: fitness classes, card games, book clubs, community choir, fellowship groups, museum outings. There are all kinds of possibilities, and each one gives you an opportunity to meet people. Check with your local active adult center for options.
Try something new, or do what you already love. Volunteering is a wonderful way to get involved in your community and get to know people. Or join a hobby group to connect with others who share your interests, whether it’s knitting, model building or fossil collecting. You don’t need an organized activity to meet people — as Tammy points out, anyone who has a dog knows pets are a great icebreaker.
“People like to have somewhere to go where they’re comfortable,” Tammy says. In the Greeley Communities, there’s the Cozy Corner, a little shop where residents visit with each other over coffee and ice cream. Folks also sit and chat by the koi pond on campus. Look for a similar place in your area. Keep going back and you just might become one of the regulars.
“It’s important to have that connection to your past,” to someone you shared formative experiences with, Tammy says. Regular conversations (and get-togethers, if possible) go a long way in sustaining a relationship. “Just calling to say hi makes a difference," she says. Got an old friend you’ve lost touch with? Send a card, call, email or connect on social media. Chances are, they’ll be happy to hear from you.
Don’t lose heart if you don’t bond right away with a new acquaintance or find a pal the first few times a club or class meets. Remember that it takes time to develop trust with someone. Invite the new person to do something low-key — go for a walk, have a cup of tea — and build from there.