Approximately 43 percent of Americans are single. That's a conservative estimate, and I imagine the number is higher when it comes to baby boomers and retirees.
Being single has it's challenges. It often seems that even with almost half the population single, society is geared to married folks-coupples. I'm not just talking about finances, although the benefits of marriage can be pretty obvious, especially in retirement. Married, never-married or widowed, being alone in retirement has additional challenges. We have one income to use when planning for retirement and social security. If we're widowed, we have the extra burden of learning to live alone. while it can have it's joys, there are also some major adjustments. One of the biggest challenges that can face single retirees is making connections. Some folks retire in place with ready made connections. Some retire to live near family-but still need friends and a social life. Others move to a completely new place and need to make all new connections. Obviously some of these issues face couples, but the problem is more intense when we live on our own.
Primarily, I fall into the latter group. Although in theory I moved to live near family (giving my children a chance to connect with grandparents), in terms of my personal needs I was on my own. Although I have children living with me now, there have been times when I was entirely on my own-and frankly, I need a social life outside my kids at this point in my life.
Although I am not one to normally "put myself out there", I decided that I would have to make the first step to meet new people-both so I would not be lonely, and so I would have some kind of support system other than family. It's taken awhile, but I have slowly reached that point (unfortunately, my college student who has returned home again and knows no one in Texas is still struggling with this issue). How did I get here? Through a few different paths.
First, I researched churches and found one that worked for me. This is not the first church I visited, nor is it the closet church to my house. It's the church I feel comfortable in, a place where the community is not all about Sunday morning. I started by saying hello and very shyly going alone to a couple church suppers and ended up finding both a book group and a widow's support group. While some may object to church shopping, I believe that churches are communities and as such, you need to mesh. I also realize that some folks may suggest that I mention church often. To that I will only say that if one has some faith, eventually one will find a church that fits.
Secondly, I searched out other's who enjoyed the hobbies that I do. I found out when the local quilt guild met, and the next Monday I entered as a guest (and died of embarrassment when the guests were asked to stand). After attending once a month for a few months, I found a small group of women who met weekly, and joined them. This time is spent visiting and snacking and getting some hobby work done. I also found a book group that meets at the local bookstore.
Almost four years later, I belong to a weekly quilt group, a bi monthly women's group, a monthly rotating dinner group, two book groups and a few other organizations. There were also some other things I did that introduced me to new and like minded people (both married and single). One of them was my water aerobics class. When making new connections, it's best to look outside your own box and choose opportunities that include couples and people of various ages.
It can be difficult to meet new people, and the first time you step out, it may be more than difficult. In the long run, we all need connections, no matter how you make them. If you still work, you could join other people who are walking or exercising. Folks with small businesses may find joining the Chamber of Commerce not only helps their business but leads to new friends and acquaintances as well. Someone who enjoys a sport may join one through a recreation league. How we meet new people depends on our needs, time and personality.
Before I returned to college, I had a schedule that took me out for "people contact" twice a week (not including Sunday and basic things like doing my errands). This is fine for me because I enjoy being at home most of the time. someone who gets lonely easier or needs more human contact will have to find other solutions (more on cheap ways to get out of the house later on). No matter how you make and meet new friends, they will enrich your life.