The Social Retiree Butterfly

"Human beings are wired to connect - and we have the most complex and interesting social behavior our of all animals." - Michael Platt. Ph.D. (Biological Anthropologist)

At their core, humans are incredibly social creatures. From a young age, we surround ourselves with friends and family, and rely on those genuine relationships and connections to lend support, bring joy and feed our souls. When we’re kids, we rely on our family members to help us navigate life and our friends to always go on adventures with us; however, as we get older and start taking on more responsibilities, our schedules get busier and far more complicated. Instead of whimsical adventures with your friends that last for hours or even days, you’re lucky to snag an hour-long coffee date every few months, and long talks with mom become short texts or phone-calls.

And that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Life can be a bit of a balancing act, and with limited hours in the day to do everything we’d like to, finding a gap in everyone’s schedules that lines up can seem like an almost impossible task, but it certainly does help us appreciate those coffee-dates and phone calls all the more. However, just as friendships have their various phases – moving steadily from strangers, to secret-sharers, to practically family – life also goes through a number of phases; and retirement might just be the best one!

As kids, we could build a magical realm out of a cardboard box and a handful of markers, and all we really needed were our friends and a bit of imagination; but, sooner or later, our parents would call us back into reality saying that dinner’s ready or playtime is over. Our social schedules, although fairly flexible, were outlined for us and we were often following our parent’s schedules, even if we didn’t realize it.

Then, as we grow into young adults, we start to realize why our parents would sometimes say no to a sleepover or social gathering. Suddenly, our work schedules and prior commitments seem like they’re never-ending and constantly getting in the way of spending more time with those we love. This is usually the point in our lives where we learn to cherish the small things and never take for granted the time we do get to spend with each other.

And then, there’s the life of a retiree. No longer tied to a schedule that isn’t yours to keep, and without work schedules to dance around, it’s time to replace working-hours with social activities, and reap the benefits of becoming a social butterfly.

You’re entering a new phase of life! And while it’s true that retiring from the workforce comes with new freedoms and more time to spend your days as you would like to, it’s important to acknowledge that for years the workplace has been one of your core social networks. Spending 40 hours a week, on average, with people of similar mind and interests invited us to form relationships that, if maintained, often turn into lifelong friendships.

However, in retirement, you no longer have the excuse of work to see each other 40 hours a week. Time together now needs to be planned for and scheduled. Which is part of why so many people are turning their attention to retirement communities, apartments and villages, as a social solution.

Spaces like Riverstone, located right here in the heart of West 5, provide retirees with a community and environment that’s home to others who are like-minded, have similar interests and life experiences, while holding the promise of new, fulfilling social interactions. In a way, these retirement communities can help fill the gap left by the absence of a workplace social network. Only, these communities are able to do so in a way that’s purely social (no need to put professionalism and work first)!

It’s here, within the community, that you’ll find there’s always a strong support system to hold you up and lend you strength when you need it most. These are the spaces where neighbours become friends and family; where a nod in the hallway or an invitation to meet at Riverstone’s Skylight Restaurant for dinner, are just a daily aspect of living. And it’s through these new friends and family that you’ll really start to see the wealth of benefits that come with having a healthy and active social life right outside your door!

Did you know that, physiologically, not having a social support system is actually a source of chronic stress for our bodies? It’s true! When people feel lonelier they have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And that type of chronic stress can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and other challenges to health and wellness. We already knew that our friends and family were doing a lot more for us than just being there to share in a laugh or two, but who knew that they were doing so much to help with our overall physical health!

And lowering your stress levels isn’t the only benefit of maintaining a healthy social life!

Regularly Keeping Up With Friends & Family Can:

All of the benefits that come with keeping your loved ones close have been with you your entire life, but now, as a retiree, you have a bit more flexibility to really maximize the benefits and become the social butterfly you’re meant to be!

So get out there and fill your calendars with coffee dates and movie nights; say yes to a morning walk through Kains Woods or dinner with friends; and always remember that humans are, by nature, social creatures!

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Sifton - Riverstone a retirement community located in London, Ontario.
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