Judith Maestracci, Chair of Probus South Pacific
Often when we approach retirement, funds are top of mind, but our social well-being is just as important with evidence indicating retirees who remain social through group activities improve their overall well-being.
Loneliness often creeps up on us, with our children and neighbours moving away, Australian seniors suddenly find they’re alone and unsure how to remedy this feeling.
Loneliness affects a lot of our retirees, with rates of emotional loneliness highest in Australians aged 75 or above and recent results from a representative Australian sample found 46% of Australians aged 65 or above felt they lacked companionship at least sometimes.
Correlation between loneliness and physical health has been found, with a greater risk of premature mortality, coronary heart disease, strokes and dementia.
Here are my top ten tips to stay social, happy and healthy in retirement:
1. Join a social group like Probus
When we retire, we often lose the friendships we developed through our working life. Probus offers non-judgmental friendship with interesting guest speakers, opportunities to learn a new skill, explore new interests and hobbies and a space to forge friendships.
Social connection is the best thing you can do to keep yourself happy and healthy and with over 100,000 members across 1,400 clubs in Australia, you’re sure to find friendship in Probus!
2. Travel with a group
With retirement often comes travel with three quarters of Australians aged over 50 already planning their next big holiday but why not travel with a group? Travelling with a group allows you to see all the world has to see while developing lasting friendships with likeminded retirees.
Many of Probus’ partners facilitate tailored group travel for seniors, allowing you to travel care-free with someone else doing the heavy lifting of planning and booking transfers and activities.
3. Become a volunteer
Volunteering isn’t just a great way for you to give back to your community, but it can provide immense benefits for retirees. While providing a sense of purpose, new friends and valuable skills, volunteering has been linked to lower rates of depression and even lower rates of mortality.
Volunteering to take a Leadership role in a club is a great way to get to know other members and can provide new skills. There’s a multitude of local organisations who rely on volunteers, so it won’t be hard to find one catering to your interests and schedule.
4. Back to school
Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who keeps learning stays young”. Hitting the books again is a great way to grow your knowledge while forging social connections.
There are opportunities to suit every interest and schedule, including enrolling in Uni, undergoing a TAFE course or even joining a local class, whether it be learning a new language or cooking. The Australian Government even offers a Pensioner Education Supplement to assist eligible retirees with their study costs.
5. Join a gym class
Why not work out with friends and reap the benefits of staying active and social at once? Remaining physically active prevents diseases like diabetes and heart disease and decreases your chance of a fall by improving your strength and flexibility. Meanwhile, you’re releasing endorphins and avoiding loneliness and depression.
If you’re a little hesitant to join a typical gym class, many now offer classes catered for seniors including Zumba, gentle yoga, stretching and Tai Chi.
6. Use the internet to track down old friends
The internet can serve as an incredible tool to track down and reach out to old friends from school, Uni, work or old neighbours. Often raising children and going to work makes it difficult to maintain friendships, but the social media age makes it easier than ever to find someone with only their name for reference.
7. Rent out a room in your home
While unconventional, renting out a room in your home is ideal for retirees looking to develop social connections while coping with rising living costs. Online platforms such as Airbnb and Roommates.com can help facilitate, providing the option of a long-term renter or welcoming in travellers for a short period of time.
8. Walk and Talk
Walking groups are a great way to get in some low-impact exercise while creating a social routine to not only forge new friendships but maintain them. Walking groups will also help you discover corners of your neighbourhood you may have not explored yet.
Many older people are taking advantage of shopping centre walks in the comfort of undercover environment, often window shopping and catching up for a coffee.
As you progress you can even go for longer and more strenuous hikes with your newfound walking friends.
9. Flex your green thumb
Gardening is often a hobby thought to be done in our home, but it doesn’t have to be. Many communities throughout Australia have taken to local gardens maintained by volunteers. These gardens grow everything from flowers to fresh produce to herbs and are a great way to do something you love while forging social connections while giving back to your local community.
10. Share your skills with your grandchildren
Social connections are not just for our peers with evidence finding intergenerational benefits hold immense benefits for all parties. Both can teach each other new skills while providing companionship.
Why not share your skills with your grandchildren, whether it’s an instrument, new language or how to make a favourite dish? You could even learn a new skill together with an abundance of tutorials and how to guides available online.
You can experience many of these top 10 tips in your local Probus Club.
Recently Probus and Black Dog Ride have joined forces to promote the health benefits of staying socially connected to Australia’s 4.3 million retirees. The pandemic’s lasting effects are still being felt, with social isolation gripping some older Australians, leading to loneliness, depression and declining physical health. This collaboration will raise awareness on the psychological and mental health benefits social connectedness bring while encouraging older Australians to join a social group like Probus.