Retirement: Loneliness Can Sneak Up on You
Even people who have spent a lot of time planning for retirement may encounter unexpected challenges once they’re in those golden years. They focus on retirement income planning, which is, of course, important and appropriate — and we can help you there. They also focus on things they want to do while they’re still in good health, such as traveling or playing pickleball. They look forward to spending more time with their spouse and good friends.
It can be quite joyful, but the less joyful realization often sets in when a spouse or a close friend passes away. That’s when many retirees truly understand they are facing the reality of their mortality. Apart from that, they’ve also lost a best friend and companion.1
Sometimes the pain of loss causes us to want to avoid that pain altogether, which can lead to an even unwitting desire to isolate ourselves. Unfortunately, this can be particularly problematic during retirement, when people are less likely to have scheduled daily interaction with others outside the household.
Studies in the U.S. and Britain show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranges from 10 percent to 46 percent.2 Additionally, people with low levels of social interaction can experience brain changes that cause them to see other human faces as threatening and, therefore, are less likely to seek social ties.3 It’s all kind of ironic, isn’t it? With so many people experiencing the same malady, you would hope we could find each other, since companionship would certainly help.
One social scientist — Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford — summed it up with this observation: “It has become apparent in the last 10 years that the most important factor influencing your health, well-being, risk of falling ill, even your risk of dying and divorce is actually the size of your friend network.” His research shows bonding is strongest when endorphins are released, so he recommends that one way to strengthen friendships is by singing, dancing and working out with others.4
Retirement isolation is being studied from a number of different perspectives, particularly in housing. Although many retirees are reluctant to move to an assisted living facility, the longer they live, the more they will need help. Some have taken to moving into co-housing apartment buildings in which the tenants plan activities and support each other without all the rules and restrictions of a retirement home.5
We’re always happy to get together and chat with you about any retirement income planning questions you might have. Give us a call if we can be of assistance and be sure to spend time with friends and family doing the activities you enjoy.
Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.
1 National Institute on Aging. July 2016. “Mourning the Death of a Spouse.” https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/mourning-death-spouse. Accessed May 28, 2017.
2 Katie Hafner. The New York Times. Sept. 5, 2016. “Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness.” https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/06/health/lonliness-aging-health-effects.html?_r=2. Accessed June 13, 2017.
3 Olga Khazan. The Atlantic. April 6, 2017. “How Loneliness Begets Loneliness.” https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/04/how-loneliness-begets-loneliness/521841/.
4 Aylin Woodward. Scientific American. May 1, 2017. “With a Little Help from My Friends.” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/with-a-little-help-from-my-friends/?WT.mc_id=SA_TW_MB_NEWS. Accessed May 28, 2017.
5 Idil Mussa. CBC News. May 2, 2017. “Seniors in Ottawa look to co-housing to avoid isolation.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/seniors-in-ottawa-look-to-co-housing-to-avoid-isolation-as-they-age-1.4094267. Accessed May 28, 2017.
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