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Module 5: Overcoming Loneliness and Making Friends in Retirement

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

March 23, 2019 — This is the 5th module in our “Retirement Preparation 101” online course. The social aspects of retirement was one of most frequently requested topics for the series. Here is where you can see all of the Modules and all the Member suggestions for the course.

Here is a sample suggestion which led to this Module:

Katie: Loneliness in retirement. Whether single, divorced or widowed, loneliness is something that many of us will face as we retire from our work lives. Many of us spent our lives with people at work and any free time with spouses, children or other family. Friendships may have been with neighbors, our kids’ friends’ families, spouse’s work friends, etc. With retirement and a loss of the people around us, retirees can find themselves alone. Surely there are other good ideas and stories from people who have gone through this.

Overview – one step at a time

One short article cannot possibly address all the strategies and be a magic bullet to solving the problem of feeling alone. We encourage you to to view these tips as something to experiment with.  A lifetime of habits is not overcome in a day or a week or a month, but if you gradually apply some of these ideas in your daily life you just might be able to make a difference. Here we go:

Singles vs. married couples. A later module in this series will specifically address loneliness for singles. But we firmly believe that the strategies presented here are useful no matter what you state – single or married.

Men vs. women. It is pretty much a given that men usually have a harder time with loneliness in retirement than women. Men might have been more fixated on their jobs, and when that is removed, feel rudderless. They also tend to rely on the women in their lives for the social connections, and lack the skills and attitude to make new friends. They are going to have work harder to have a social life, but it can be done. The “Further Reading” section at the end of this article has some completely different suggestions on this topic just for men, with links to more.

Where you live. Some places to retire make it a lot easier to make friends than others. Of course you can make friends anywhere, but it sure is easier in active adult, 55+, cohousing communities, etc. There, everyone is in the same boat – they are displaced from their old friends and support networks, and looking for new ones. The activities and the proximity to others makes it almost impossible not to make new friends. On the other hand, if you live in the suburbs, it is going to be harder. As you become the “old folks” in the neighborhood and have less in common with the young families likely to be moving in.

What you do. Activities are the universal great way to meet people. Golf, pickleball, crafts, or yoga group – activities like these often lead to new friendships. Ditto with church’s, benevolent associations, volunteer groups, men’s lunch clubs (ROMEO – Retired Old Men Eating Out), etc.  It’s possible that no one may come up to and invite you to join something, so then the initiative has to come from you. In volunteer work, realize that even though you might have had a very important job in your previous life, you might have to start doing something very mundane.  Take your satisfaction in knowing that you are making a small difference in someone’s life, and if something bigger comes along, great. The important thing is to take a risk and try different things until one feels right. You will be glad you did.

Your attitude. Following up on the last point, we have a friend who has a bad attitude about making friends. He is disappointed that no one taps him on the shoulder asking him to become a volunteer or to give a talk in his field. To be successful, you have to make an effort – you can’t rely on someone else doing it for you.

Improve your conversation skills. We credit Lisa with the observation that being a good conversationalist is like being a good ping pong player. You hit the conversation over the net to the other person, they hit it back. Then you return the ball, and soon it will be on its way back to you. For topics ask about the other person’s interests, family, past, hopes, dreams. Pay attention to what you hear.

You’re not a joiner? Some people just don’t feel comfortable joining organizations. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a hermit.  For starters, get out of the house. As people age, it is shocking how little time some people spend outside of  their own four walls. Go for a walk or bike ride, shopping, to the senior center, start a hobby,  or strap on your Silver Sneakers and go to a gym class.  You’ll have a chance to meet people that way, and maybe make some friends. Call up an old friend and have coffee.

Friends of all ages. A friend once impressed us with by saying how much she enjoyed having friends of all ages. Each age group has something to offer.  Younger folks bear the gift of youthful energy and enthusiasm.  Older folks can offer wisdom and might have more motivation to make some friends. When you meet someone you think might be a potential friend, no matter who they are, make an effort to cultivate them or at least go back to that place where you might run into them again.

It’s not all about you. Of course you are an interesting person with interesting stories, but no one will ever care if you don’t show interest in them too.  Appreciate what others have to say, and learn from them.

Making friends. The classic book on this topic is by Dale Carnegie. His How to Make Friends and Influence People was required reading in our Applied Psychology class in college. It remains one of the best sources of personal advice ever written. Here is a summary that paraphrases some of his main points on how to make friends:

  1. Show genuine interest in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember: Every person’s favorite topic is himself.
  4. Be a active listener. Ask questions to get them to talk about themselves, and pay attention to what they say.
  5. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
  6. Restrain yourself from leaping in with “your” story – let the other person have a turn.

Suggestion  from Members:

On loss (Jean). It seems to me that loneliness can be a sign of depression or grief stemming from the loss of a spouse/friends/ loss of independence, loss of control of one’s life, fear of missing out, etc. A person who feels lonely even when around others might find benefit from discussing those feeling with a mental health professional. Therapy / medication are effective and for those who prefer a more natural approach, research has shown that regular outdoor activity (walks, gardening, etc.) and eating a lot more vegetables and fruit can improve depression.

Exercise #1. One of the best ways to make friends is to be someone who others like to be around. Here is an exercise for you, the next time you meet someone new.

Interactive Exercise – Are You Good Friend Material? The next time you meet someone new, try to keep mental track of the percentage of the time you talked vs. the person you just met. Did you ask about his or her life, exploits, opinions, etc.? If you find you did most of the talking, you need to do some work. More about that below.

It’s all about you – and about others too. The point of the exercise above is to assess your ability to make friends. Of course you are an interesting person, but no one will ever care if you don’t show interest in them. If you just have to tell all your stories, you might be pretty boring. Learn and appreciate what others have to say, and we guarantee you’ll have an easier time making friends. Please resist the temptation to judge others in this exercise, if you don’t like what you see, move on.

Exercise #2.   Make a list of the activities or clubs you might have an interest in. Then make a commitment to trying out your favorite one.

For further reading:

Comments? What techniques have you used that have been helpful to combat loneliness and make or retain friends? What concerns do you have that hold you back? What would recommend? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below

Posted by Admin on March 22nd, 2019

What? You Haven’t Tried Pickleball Yet

Category: Active adult communities

March 19, 2019 — If you have been on the campus of an active adult community or near a city park lately, you might have heard a repetitive loud sound – that of a composite racquet hitting a softball sized whiffle ball. What you are hearing, along with many cries of joy and frustration, is the game of pickleball, and it is expanding everywhere. Unless you have mobility or other serious health issues, we recommend you get it a “whack”.

Pickleball got started in 1965 on a modified badminton court. Kids in gym class sometimes play it because it can be played indoors in a fairly limited space with minimum equipment. Since then it has expanded around the globe, but has really taken off as an activity in 55+ and active adult communities.

What is it the game and how is it played
Pickleball is played on a court that is roughly half the size of a tennis court. There is a net and there are different lines marked to indicate the playing area. Watch the Youtube video above to see a championship match in action!

The game can be played as singles (2 opponents) or more commonly doubles (4 players). It starts by a player serving a plastic ball with holes in it from the baseline across the net and to the diagonally opposite opponent. It must land in the box on the receiver’s side and bounce once before being hit back across the net. The small honeycombed racquet is several times the size of a ping pong paddle. When the racquet hits the perforated plastic ball there is a distinctive “whack”. To counter complaints about noise, newer, quieter racquets are coming in to play.

(more…)
Posted by Admin on March 19th, 2019

Biking is Great, It’s Healthy, But Please Do It Safely

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

February 4, 2018 — Millions of Americans are getting on their bicycles in retirement. Bicycling gets you outside, provides cheap transportation, and is great exercise. Your editor loves it and bikes almost every day. Unfortunately there is a dark side to biking; it can be dangerous. This article will talk about how can you can be safer while riding your bike, and what you can do to encourage your town or city to make biking safer for everyone. Most of these tips also apply to walkers as well.

Where it’s safe, and not so much

Lists published on the towns and cities which have the most bike accidents abound, but they differ. The first and second most dangerous biking cities as reported by Your Local Security, a blog for home security company ADT, wouldn’t shock anyone – New York City and Los Angeles. But the remaining 23 “worst” places would surprise you – almost all of them are in states like Iowa, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, places not known as biking centers. The safest cities were in states like California and Oregon (Davis, CA, was the safest city). BillBoneBikeLaw.com reports a very different most dangerous cities list, and most of those are in Florida. Orlando/Kissimmee, Tampa/St.Pete, and Jacksonville head up that list. One big reason why these lists are so different – they don’t seem to take into account the number of miles biked. Places like New York have tens of thousands of bikes on the road every day, so of course there are going to be a lot of accidents.

(more…)
Posted by Admin on February 3rd, 2019

A Six Word Memoir

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

January 1, 2018 – What better time of the year to think about this project than the first day of a New Year.  Josh Walker over at NextAvenue.org  wrote about their 2016 Facebook challenge to create a very short memoir. The challenge was to write down in six words or less a phrase that summarizes your life or philosophy. While a touch narcissistic, is a very good way to reflect on who you are right now, what you have accomplished, what and who you care about. Better than that, it is a chance to mindfully consider how you want to change.  

(more…)
Posted by Admin on January 1st, 2019

What Vaccinations Should I Be Getting If I Am Over 65?

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

November 20, 2018 — Flu season is upon us. That means lots of people…and their germs – are traveling. So that makes it a good time for us to consider all the vaccinations that are recommended for those of us of a certain age. As we get older, our immune systems tend to weaken, putting us at higher risk for certain diseases. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes that you should get all recommended vaccines, not only to keep yourself healthy, but those around you as well. All information in this article is from the CDC.

The Flu
All adults need a seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine every year. (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 20th, 2018

Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Oct. 15 – Are You in the Right Plan?

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

October 13, 2018 — Medicare Open Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 – Dec. 7. If you are currently on Medicare, or didn’t sign up when you were first eligible for it, now is the time to compare plans and make sure you have the coverage that’s right for you in 2019.

Sure you are busy and have many things to think about. But spending a little time and effort every year to make sure you are in the right plan Medicare plan is important. For example, maybe you currently have Medicare Part B along with a supplemental plan. Flash forward to the present. Your health needs might have changed since then, maybe enough so that you aren’t in the right plan anymore. Maybe Medicare Advantage (Part C) makes more sense now because it probably covers additional benefits such as vision, dental, (more…)

Posted by Admin on October 12th, 2018

Beware of Scams: Medicare Cards and Car Registrations

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

September 3, 2018 — Scammers are always looking for the latest way to separate you from your money. The newest is centered on the new Medicare cards that are in the process of being sent out. The scam usually comes in the form of a phone call with an offer to get your card on an expedited basis – all they need is some personal information. Their object is to steal your identity, and maybe more. We will also discuss two other common scams to look out for.

Everyone enrolled in Medicare will be getting a new card soon, if not already. You don’t have to do anything, yours will come if you are in Medicare. They are being sent out in waves. Once you get your new card, which will have a new number, not your Social Security number, you can destroy your old card. There is no need to panic (more…)

Posted by Admin on September 2nd, 2018

Suicide Rates on Rise – You Can Help

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

By Roberta Isleib, P.H.D. (aka Lucy Burdette)

June 16, 2018 — Putting my psychologist hat for a moment…we are hearing an awful lot about suicide these days, including the tragic deaths of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. For folks who haven’t felt seriously depressed or desperate, it may be hard to fathom thinking about killing yourself–and not considering the emotional destruction such an act leaves behind. But when folks feel that hopeless, suicide may seem like the only option. So what can we do to help?

Pay attention for signs of depression and suicide, including talk about feeling hopeless, changes in appetite or sleep habits, withdrawal and loss of interest in school, work, hobbies, friends, giving things away, preoccupation with death and dying…Even a sudden surge in energy and mood could mean that a very depressed person has concluded that suicide is the right solution.

If you see those signs, don’t hesitate to reach out. I taught this to my peer counselors at Yale: Don’t be afraid to ask directly: Are you feeling suicidal or thinking about harming yourself? If the answer is yes or maybe, get help! Call a family doctor for a referral or the suicide prevention hotline 800-273-8255

For further reading:
This New York Times article is very helpful
NIH Suicide Statistics

Comment: Retirement can be a stressful time. People who have a big piece of their identity wrapped up in their job may feel a big sense of loss. Men, who tend not to have strong personal relationships, may feel lonely and struggle. If someone you know looks like he or she needs need, reach out and tell him that you are there for him. That alone can help. If that someone in need is you – talk to someone!

Posted by Admin on June 15th, 2018

The Invisible Retirement Wrecker

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

May 9, 2018 — Maybe it is just timing, but we seem to be having more and more interactions with people who are very lonely. A widower and good friend admitted that, after feeling sorry for himself, he broke one of his own rules and went out to a bar by himself for a beer and pizza. Just this weekend we ran into an old friend, also a widower, who was visibly very upset. He was near tears as he described how he can’t seem to meet anyone that he would like to spend time with. Even on this site last week we had a post from a Member expressing her helplessness after the sudden loss of her husband. Almost three quarters of Americans have feelings of loneliness, according to a survey by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association. As many as one-third say (more…)

Posted by Admin on May 8th, 2018

Don’t Get Painful Shingles: New Vaccine Is 90% Effective!

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

April 25, 2018 — Have you known someone who contracted shingles, a painful disease related to the chicken pox? If so you understand why this is a disease you don’t want. Our brother came down with shingles in early March and is still battling it. He described the pain in his head, where his shingles was located, as like being jammed up against a cactus – not fun! But there is good news for everyone (because you can get shingles more than once). You can prevent shingles with a new vaccine, Shingrix, that was approved by the FDA last October.

Up until recently there was a shingles vaccine, Zostavax, that people over (more…)

Posted by Admin on April 24th, 2018