Social Connections in Retirement
It’s Who You Know
James McGlynn | July 2, 2021
LEAVING BEHIND fulltime work leaves a void. How will you fill it? In my semi-retirement, I’ve found four communities.
I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, but moved throughout my career. Fifteen years ago, I returned to Texas and—as part of my relocation—”pioneered” working from home. I’ve spent the past few years reconnecting with classmates from elementary school through high school, meeting them individually for lunch and using Facebook to arrange annual mini-reunions. I’ve known some of these folks for more than 55 years.
Another community I found is the local monthly American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) meeting. I joined the group four years ago. At age 61, I’m the youngest member. The average age is probably 75 and perhaps older.
Before the pandemic, we met monthly at a restaurant, before switching to Zoom when COVID-19 hit. The conversations aren’t all about the stock market and generating retirement income. Currently, I’m quizzing the other members about their experience with cataract surgery.
The third community centers on pickleball. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the country—a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong that can be played by all ages. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball participation grew 21% during the pandemic. Because the sport is relatively new, the games are usually played on converted basketball or tennis courts.
In addition to providing an excellent cardio workout, the sport is very social. Pickleball is popular among retirees, so games are often available during what would otherwise be the workday. It’s also popular among both genders. I’ve competed against teenagers and those in their 80s. I’m so enamored of the game that I’ve taken to proselytizing, trying to persuade my old classmates to take up the sport as they enter retirement. For those of us who remember watching Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg as kids, it’s like going to recess every day.
The fourth community is traveling plus volunteering. One overseas group I found is Angloville. In return for free room and board at a desirable hotel or resort, volunteers have conversations in English with Polish speakers who want to learn English. Many Poles learned German and Russian growing up, and now are learning English later in life.
Two years ago, I did this for a week and I’m still in touch with a couple of the Polish students. Instead of just traveling to another foreign country, I was able to spend a week with a group of locals who wanted to learn English—and my only requirement was to speak slowly enough to be understood. There were English-speaking volunteers from Hong Kong, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and Australia, as well as the U.S. When the pandemic abates in Europe, I plan to return to Eastern Europe to travel inexpensively—and meet new and old friends.