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Planning Retirement Online

Growing your Social Network in later life

For many of us, making friends in later life, and particularly after we retire, can prove a challenge. It isn’t necessarily very easy to do but, on the other hand, it’s something that is important as we get older.

Having friends helps us to keep mentally fit and even, to a certain extent, physically fit in that we are likely to do various activities if we have someone to do them with. It also gives us an outward, rather than an inward, view of the world, thereby helping us to take an active interest in things, from politics to the state of our local football team.

Below are great ways of growing your Social Network and enjoying your time in later life.

Online Networks

Remember, too, that activities such as being involved with voluntary work and undertaking some sort of continuing education can also be excellent ways of meeting people. Of course, that is not their primary purpose but it can be a very good by-product of these things. Again, though, think about the type of activity you undertake if you do want to meet people: doing an Open University degree may not be the ideal way to make new friends (although through tutor groups and summer school it’s not impossible).

For more ideas and help, read our Guide to Forming Friendships, which will help you with more thoughts and ideas about how to go about increasing your social network.

Having hobbies may help you to meet people, form relationships and make friends. However, some hobbies are, on the face of it, relatively solitary activities and if we find making friends difficult, we might choose activities that we can do on our own. On the other hand, with almost everything, there is a way that can help us to meet people.

Activities such as golf, walking groups and dancing can be group activities and these type of hobbies can provide lots of social interaction. If you like these activities, then meeting people will not be a problem for you.

If you do not enjoy those activities though, it doesn't mean you won't be able to socialise with anyone. Whatever your hobby, there will be a body that oversees it in some way. It’s worth joining this organisation because it will almost certainly organise events, weekends etc at which you will meet like-minded people.

Thinking of ways in which you can enable your favourite pastime to help you meet people or taking up an extra hobby that involves other people can be really beneficial. After all, you’re guaranteed to meet people who like the same thing as you so there’s a good chance you will get on well with them. Have a look at our Hobbies and Interests link if you want some ideas for hobbies.

Alternatively here are some examples where you can make the most out of meeting new people whilst doing a hobby you enjoy:

  • Reading
    Join a book club or reading group  in which everyone reads the same book for a month and then meets to discuss it before selecting a new book for the group to read the following month.

  • Walking
    Join a group such as The Ramblers Association . There is also the The Walking for Health scheme. This has literally hundreds of walk schemes in its database, so there is one near you. Have a look on the link and check it out. Walking in a group is an excellent way to meet people.

  • Sport
    Join a club. If you want some fairly gentle exercise, join a bowls club . They are very sociable and welcoming organisations. If you like cycling or football or any other sport but you feel you’re too old to play, join a club on the administrative side – you’ll be welcomed with open arms! If you want to keep fit but don’t like sports, join a gym. It’s not all grunting and groaning – there is also a lot of talking and chatting going on too, especially if you sign up to classes.

  • Dogs
    Complete strangers, who wouldn’t dream of talking to each other if they walked past each other in the street or on a country path feel more inclined to talk when dogs are around. More generally, pets are a great way of breaking the ice with someone.

  • Cards
    Play something other than patience. Learn to play bridge and join a bridge club so that you can meet people whilst indulging your love of cards. Alternatively invite some friends and neighbours over for a cards or board game evening.

  • Gardening
    Instead of, or as well as, gardening at home, get an allotment and chat with your fellow allotment holders over a spade or a fork.
    (Don't forget to check out our Gardener's Diary in association with The Royal Horticultural Society.)

If you are an out-going sort of person, going away alone and meeting people may not be a problem. However, for some people it is really difficult and can prove a daunting prospect. To get started have a look at our Guide to Travelling Alone.

More and more people are opting to go on single holidays and there are numerous organisations that offer support and package deals for those seeking to do so. Most travel companies now also actively encourage single people by not charging single-room supplements on holidays. Find out more in the LaterLife travel section.

  • Balearic for instance organises singles walking, cycling and painting holidays in Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza.

  • Mercury Direct do not charge single-room supplements on their package holidays.

  • Just You offers holidays and tours that, led by a Tour Manager, eliminate the stress of travelling on your own.

There can be a lot of change whilst going into retirement and in some cases people find themselves without a partner in later life. We have a number of resources if you are looking for a new relationship.

  • The Guide to Dating in Later Life aims to help with finding new relationship in later life.

  • The follow up Guide to Over-50s Internet Dating then offers a more specific guide to finding a partner online.

  • Dinner Dates A very good service in operation since 1989. They arrange dinner parties, balls, opera and theatre evenings, gallery visits, sports events and holidays. Suitable for all ages, as they match similar age groups.

The Internet provides a great way to interact with family and friends as well as developing new relationships. Every topic you could ever wish to know about has a resource on the web and social networks are becoming increasingly linked to hobbies, interests and particular topics.

Below are just a handful of social networks that may be of interest:

  • Facebook
    The most widely used social network with its billions of users. Inevitably the rest of your family may already be signed up which is a fairly instant way of keeping in touch with people.

  • My Family
    You may find that children are reluctant to accept friend requests from relatives on Facebook for fear of what they may or may not see! My Family avoids this as it provides a network just for you family. It provides photo and video sharing as well as a helpful family calendar and family history section.

  • Ravelry
    This is a website for knitting and crochet enthusiasts. With an easy set up you can gain access to and share patterns, information and help forums as well as being able to keep track of your projects. Not only this but it is a social network where you can meet new people who are also enthusiastic about your hobby.

There are more hobby centric social networks appearing and a large selection of them can be found here: Raven Tools: The Ultimate List of Niche Social Networks

There are also programmes like Skype or Viber, that enable you to get in touch with people who may have moved far away without incurring huge telephone bills, giving you all the more reason to nurture friendships.

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