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Senior Correspondent

Forming new friendships in retirement takes some time.  And it takes some work.  Introverts especially have to “get themselves out there” engaging in activities where they’ll meet people.  Many of those people will become acquaintances.  Over time, some will become friends.  Yes, it will happen.  Hang in there.

Way back in September of 2010, I posted, “Forming New Friendships in Retirement.”  In that post, I told of the newly-retired person having to make a conscious effort to meet people in order to form friendships.  And in an effort to meet people, I suggested engaging in activities which naturally bring groups of people together.  Those are the activities to which extroverts naturally gather – activities within volunteer organizations, educational programs, camera clubs, hiking groups and the like.

Those of us who are introverts (including yours truly) need to “push themselves” to engage in such activities.  For introverts more naturally gravitate toward more isolated activities such as reading, fishing and gardening.   

Just last week, I received an e-mail from a reader who found himself returning to my old blog post on “Forming New Friendships in Retirement.”  In re-reading that post, he was reminded of the fact that, two years into retirement, he was feeling “friendless.”  So he wrote to me asking if I had any new thoughts about friendships in retirement.  That is, had I come upon any new realizations on the subject since I’d written that post two years earlier. 

After thinking about his question for a while, I wrote and told him “Yes, I do have a couple of new perspectives on the subject.”  For one, I think that friendships tend to be situational.  That is, we very often befriend those with whom we share a common interest.  No wonder that my friendships during my thirties were with others who were climbing the mountains in the California Sierras.  No wonder that my later friendships were with other management consultants.  No wonder that my wife’s friendships were with other attorneys.

Secondly, I find that many retired people spend much of their time “on the move.”  Some stay busy with their grown children and grandchildren.  Others live seasonally in more than one home.  And others spend much of their time traveling.  Friendship with these retirees can, therefore, seem seasonal.  Kind of “catch ‘em while you can.”

I also wrote of my own situation.  I pointed out that, for me, it took about two years.  That is, just about two years after Wendy and I moved to Sisters, Oregon, I felt that a number of my acquaintances were moving toward friendship.  I have no idea if this two-year timing is typical.  Perhaps it is, but I really don’t know. 

I also wrote that, during the last two or three years, I’ve gotten back in touch with a number of long-lost friends.  Yes, I blogged about this as well.  In March of 2011, I posted “Connecting With Old Friends.”  I’ve found this reestablishing old friendships to be an absolute joy.  Why do I enjoy this so?  Well, I think it’s because, over the years, I’ve found the loss of friendships difficult to accept.  I find it tough to admit that some of my formerly close friendships have come to an end.  I struggle at times to “hang onto” each old friendship.  Regarding some of those friendships, I confess, “Were we to meet today, we’d not become friends – because we currently have so little in common.  All we share is a bunch of old memories.”  Still, I hate to let go of former friendships. 

And one more point regarding my own situation.  I’m sure I’m not unique in this regard, but I happen to be married to a person who is more outgoing than I am.  So a number of our acquaintances come from Wendy’s being “out and about.”  And, quite naturally, some of those “thanks to Wendy” acquaintances later become friends. 

And, oh yes, just one more point.  Actually some pretty good news for introverts.  A whole bunch of years ago, a psychologist friend pointed out that, at a party, an extrovert buzzes around the room meeting “everyone.”  At that same party, an introvert will enjoy spending the entire evening talking to just one person.  Seems to me then, that an introvert doesn’t need a whole bunch of friends.  Just one or two significant friendships will do.  Don’t you think so?

OK, so here are the questions which I still ponder:

  • For those retirees who have moved to a new community, how long does it take to form friendships?  Is my two-year experience typical?
  • Is it a more lonely experience to move to a new community upon retirement?  Or is it lonelier to remain in the same community while watching old friendships fade away? 
  • To what extent should a retiree “push himself (or herself)” to form new friendships?
  • And what about those retirees who are “snowbirds?”  Living in each of two locations for six months at a time, can they form friendships as deep as their neighbors who “stay put?” 

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