A supportive community is one of the five pillars of a great retirement or other next phase of life. And even if you have the other four pillars – health, purpose, adequate finances and a positive mindset – your life will be diminished without the right people to share good times and not-so-good times. I read recently that one in five seniors can go a week without having a meaningful conversation. Regardless of age, this is simply unacceptable.
Community is not only important to a high quality of life, but also to its longevity. As reported in an article in Live Science: “People who have strong social relationships are less likely to die prematurely than people who are isolated. In fact, according to a 2010 review of research, the effect of social ties on life span is twice as strong as that of exercising, and equivalent to that of quitting smoking.” Friendships also keep you physically and mentally healthier and help you weather the inevitable storms of life. If you happen to be living in a place with little or no family in the area, friends can become your pseudo family.
If you happen to lack community, or want to upgrade this important aspect of your life (as we all should), try these suggestions:
- Join one or more Meetup groups. There are thousands of these groups covering almost every type of interest, including, business, real estate, investing, board games, self-improvement, books, dining and fitness, and many more. Explore options at meetup.com.
- If you can’t find an existing Meetup group that fits your needs, start your own. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive. No long-term commitment is required and if no one shows up, or you don’t like the ones that do, shut the group down and feel good that you at least tried to make it work.
- Find people who have experienced, or are now experiencing, the same challenges as you. Examples include health concerns, parenting issues, financial problems, etc. The camaraderie you feel from like-minded people can sometimes lead to long-term friendships.
- Find places to learn, play and get healthy. There are lots of opportunities to learn new skills, participate in fitness classes, and do fun stuff with like-minded people. Churches are great examples, as are community choirs, hiking clubs and music groups.
- Consider moving to an active adult community. Such communities have age restrictions with the majority requiring residents to be 55+ and a small minority allowing residents aged 40+. Most of these communities have active social calendars with plenty of activities to bring residents together, including clubs, social and fitness activities. Here is a listing of the top 55 U.S. communities.
- Join a coffee group. Visit a coffee shop on almost any weekday morning and you will probably see one or more groups that meet there on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis. It’s a great way to get out of the house and get your day off to a great start.
- Volunteer for a worthy cause. Volunteering will not only give you exposure to potential friends but also adds a sense of purpose. The gift of time and energy (and sometimes finances) often does as much for the giver as the receiver of the generosity.
- Look around your neighborhood. Chances are, there are one or more individuals who seek connection as much as you and would love to join in one of your favorite activities. As an example, two women in our neighborhood became close friends after walking their dogs together several times a week.
Every one of the above actions, as well as any others you come up with, will require some action on your part. Connections don’t usually come to you but whatever effort you put into building your community will be deeply rewarded.
As for me, I have several tribes in my life, including my family, my friends and my business colleagues, plus one very important tribe – five men I have been having Friday morning coffee with for the past 16 years. The nominal purpose of the group is to discuss spiritual matters but it includes lots of other aspects including checking in with each other’s emotional, physical and financial health, and providing support as necessary. We also get together for parties, dinners, hikes, kayaking and an occasional weekend retreat. To say that these guys have been a blessing to me is a large understatement.
Indian actress Divyanka Tripathi summed this topic up in a great way: “Happiness is being content with what you have, living in freedom and liberty, having a good family life and good friends.” Sounds like a great plan to me. Build your supportive community by finding new connections and sustaining existing connections. Like I said above, this will be good both for the quality and the length of your life.