What you need to know:
- Engage in voluntary work
- Join a mentorship program
- Learn a new skill
- Nurture existing relationships
At 50 years and above, the house can feel quite empty after the kids have left to pursue their studies, career, business, or to start families.
If you are still working, most of the colleagues you started out with have either retired or moved to other companies. You’re now surrounded with younger professionals with whom you don’t share many interests.
But it gets worse after retirement. Many retirees choose to relocate upcountry. Admittedly, the slow rural life is ideal for older people. However, you will be immersing yourself into a community with an established culture and relationships that can feel unfamiliar.
These factors make it difficult for older people to maintain their existing relationships or make new ones, leaving them isolated and lonely.
As an aging person, you can avoid this by being proactive about your social life.
Engage in voluntary work
The first step is to go where people are. Unfortunately, most social events are not designed for the older people, but volunteering can help fill that gap.
There are many places you can volunteer within your community. Non-specialised tasks such as cleaning the neighbourhood playground, cleaning and maintenance in children’s homes would be a good starting point.
You can organise with people around you or look for groups that do that regularly. Visit or contact non-profit organisations and enquire for vacancies you can fill.
Beyond that, you can offer the skills you have accumulated over the years in your career to help your community. For instance, if you are good at critical life skills such as first aid and fire safety, or self-defence, you can offer your neighbours lessons on such.
Join a mentorship program, or start one
Modern parents don’t live by the saying 'it takes a village to raise a child'; but it doesn’t make it any less true. Even today, teenagers and young adults need guidance on how to manoeuvre the maze that is life. Left on their own, peer pressure and the information they get through entertainment channels can mislead them to make bad decisions.
At your advanced age, you have a lot you can share with the youth. Not just on careers but general life principles that you learned along the way. Share the successes, the failures, and regrets too.
Look for local organisations that offer mentorship programs and join. If none of them impresses you, establish one and invite your peers to join. It will help you reconnect with fellow mentors but also pass your wisdom to the next generation.
Learn a new skill
Recent research has shown that learning new skills slows down your brain’s aging process. You can go for traditionally popular skills such as music, painting, drawing, carving, carpentry, and pottery. Some community centres offer training on such fields. The classes are usually relaxed and offer an ideal set up for you to interact with fellow students.
In some areas, you may not get a nearby community centre teaching the skill you’re looking for. Don’t give up yet. There are several forums on the internet and social media that not only teach skills but allow you to interact with other learners and share your progress.
But you shouldn’t limit yourself to traditional skills. There are several modern and digital skills you can learn online ranging coding, graphic designing, script-writing, digital art, etc. Many of these skills are available online for free. Challenge yourself.
As you progress, you can monetise the skill or even start teaching it to those around you. If you have made artwork, you can share it on social media or a personal website and build a community around that.
Socialising in the rural areas
If you have just moved from the urban areas to the rural areas after retirement, it could be challenging to adjust in the community. in the rural communities, most people have grown together and know each other inside out. Many of them have both pleasant and unpleasant histories while others have formed cliques over time.
Children and young people can easily adjust and integrate into the new community. Not so easy for elderly people.
If you have moved into a new rural neighbourhood, you need to be intentional with creating a new social circle. Religious gatherings are a good place to start. You are most likely to find your peers in religious set-ups. Identify a church or appropriate religious group of your preference. Don’t just attend. Engage in voluntary work and other communal activities that the church is involved in.
Communal groups are also very popular in rural areas. Neighbourhood watch, development projects, self-help groups etc. Find those that align with your ideals, and skills and join. You will find that such groups could use your skills and insight as a fresh member.
As you create new social bonds, nurture existing ones too
Just because you grew distant with some of your old friends and even children. Sometimes such distance happens just because you all chose different paths. Or, in the case of children, they may be overwhelmed with their careers and family life. Reach out to the people you’ve not talked to in a while. Catch up and if possible, meet up.
Sometimes, the person you reach out to may be too busy. And now it’s your turn to understand them as they understood your scarcity at home as you tried to provide. Don’t give them a hard time and enjoy being together when you can.