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Planning Retirement Online

Helping with Social Contact

On the internet there are what are variously called online or virtual communities, on which we can 'talk' to people by typing in a message. There are websites such as Facebook where we can enter our details, people can contact us and we can start 'online' friendships or keep in touch with our existing friends.

These are fine and if we have friends or relations in far-flung places, they are an excellent way of keeping in touch. However, this Guide is not concerned with them in any detail because there is a danger that people in later life can spend too much time on the internet at the expense of meeting people face-to-face and thereby losing real social contact. If you really do want to join an online community you can research them yourself once you have got to feel comfortable with using the internet and making use of it by doing some of the things that the Guide discusses.

Making the Most of the Internet  links

However, we can use the internet as a means of opening up social contact with people in the real world enabling you to increase your social contact, something that is important in later life. Social contact helps us keep fit mentally and, depending on what we do, physically and it prevents us becoming introspective. Most of us like having friends and meeting people but it's not always easy. The internet can help us to meet people and make friends.

For example, there are various activities that can either be done alone or with others. If you don't know how to contact other people to do these activities, the internet can help. So, if you want to do some walking, you could join the Ramblers' Association. There will be a local group in your area so find out how to contact it through the website and off you go. Or, if you want to walk with other people without paying a subscription, look for your local Walking for Health group. Just find the group nearest to you through the website and join in the walks.

Similarly, if you love reading and want to meet people to share it with, you could join a reading group, where you meet once a month to discuss a book that you have all read during the month and then someone chooses the next book to read. If you click here you will see a website through which you can find a reading group near you. If, by some chance, there is not one listed, your local library will probably be able to help you out.

You can extend this principle to any hobby or interest that you have. If you type the name of your hobby into Google, or your own favourite search engine, you will find websites dedicated to it. If, for example, you are a stamp collector and you type 'stamp collecting' into Google, one of the sites you will be shown is the UK Philately site, through which you can find a club near you. Joining a club that's linked to a hobby is an excellent way to meet like-minded people.

If you want to do some continuing education in a very informal way you can do this locally and meet new people through it by joining the University of the Third Age (U3A). There are over 1,000 local groups and nearly 400,000 members organising their own local courses on anything from tap dancing to advanced French. It's very cheap to join and most of the courses are inexpensive, too.

People in later life are now starting to spend a long time on the internet and this is fine providing it is not used as a substitute for meeting real people and getting social contact. We can use the internet to help us join clubs, pursue our favourite hobbies with others, meet local people whilst learning something new and make new friends. Try not to use it at the expense of those things.

You can do your research through typing in the relevant words into Google or your own search engine. You can then put the web sites you think you'll use regularly into your favourites so that you're only a click away.

If you want to meet someone of the opposite sex for social contact, friendship or to find a partner in later life, you can get help from laterlife's Guide to Over-50s Internet Dating

Now read the rest of the Guide by clicking the links in the box and see how else you can make the most of the internet.

This Guide to Making the Most of the Internet is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.
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