RETIREMENT COACHING – DEBBIE DRINKARD GROVUM– Adjusting to leaving my career and home of more than thirty years and moving 2,000 miles to a new state took longer than I expected. Now, after two years of exploring encore career options and a year of living in a new home, I feel like I am finally settling in.
Developing new friendships and staying connected with older ones was an important part of my transition. Thank goodness for technology. Phone calls, e-mails and Facebook have been wonderful ways to stay in touch with far-away friends. As great as social networking is however, nothing compares with actually spending time with friends. So when we attended a family wedding a mere 400 miles away from our former home town, we took the opportunity to make a quick trip back to visit friends.
Contrary to what Thomas Wolfe said, you can go home again, at least for a great visit. We had a wonderful weekend, filled with good friends, a college hockey game, an early Christmas party and lots of laughs and hugs. As we drove out of town an eagle swooped low over our car, reinforcing my hopeful feelings that I would stay connected to treasured old friends, even though we were thousands of miles apart.
Although numerous studies have documented the importance of relationships in maintaining good mental health and aging well, life changes associated with aging can make staying connected more difficult. We no longer have the traditional relationship generators of work and school where we often meet and cross paths with friends. Moving and decreased mobility take us away from old friends. And as we get older, we lose dear friends and family.
In spite of these difficulties, there are actions we can take to stay connected. Often we now have more time to devote to relationships because we have fewer work and family responsibilities. As I thought about all the ways I could stay in touch with far-away friends, I felt hopeful that indeed my dear friends and I would stay connected.
MAINTAINING DISTANT FRIENDSHIPS
- Embrace the power of social networking. The Pew Internet and American Life Project reported that social networking use among internet users 50 and older has nearly doubled in the last year. Facebook has helped me stay up-to-date on what is important in my friends’ lives.
- Make the effort. The person who physically leaves has to work harder to stay connected with friends’ lives. Since I am no longer around to know what is going on in my friends’ lives, I need to be intentional about staying informed and connected.
- Maintain momentum. A relationship in motion stays in motion. Most of us have friends who are the same no matter how long it has been since we connected, but letting too much time go by weakens the relationship.
- Recognize that an important part of transition is deciding what to keep and what to let go
- What treasured friendships have you left behind?
- How do you stay in touch with those friends?
- What else could you do to increase your contact with those friends?
What could you do to increase your connection with those friends this week?