Tips for Lonely Retirees
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Tips for Lonely Retirees
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The Retirement Regroup

Social transitions occur at several points in our lives. Leaving for college or military service, entering the workforce, changing careers, and geographic relocations can require the creation of new social networks. Retirement often entails another social transition, bringing both challenges and opportunities. Read on for tips and specific examples of how those entering the post-work phase of life can put themselves back out there in a myriad of ways.

Related: 13 of the Biggest Retirement Regrets Among Seniors

Appraise the Situation
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Appraise the Situation

The challenge of creating new social relationships can feel daunting since being in the workforce has built-in social opportunities to interact with co-workers, clients, and others. For those who relied on their work lives as major sources of identity and social status, the questions of, "Who am I now?" and, "Where do I fit?" can be disorienting. Work also provides a clear structure to the day, and now activities and social experiences may involve effort, planning, and scheduling. Finally, social relationships may have already thinned out due to divorce, disability, death, or the relocation of family members and friends.

Identify the Opportunities
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Identify the Opportunities

Leaving the workforce brings more time to spend with family and friends. You also have a "second chance" to explore interests that laid dormant during your work life, or deepen your commitment to your community, political convictions, or spiritual values. Social experiences in retirement tend to be voluntary and chosen ones, minimizing interactions that you find unpleasant and maximizing those you enjoy. Remaining socially engaged after retirement has important benefits such as reducing the risk of both depression and dementia, and improving physical health through regular exercise and a range of activities.

Take Stock of Your Interests
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Take Stock of Your Interests

Take some time to review ways that you have enjoyed spending leisure time from childhood through the present. Some of those interests may still be relevant and sources of social connection. There are groups for hobbyists of many kinds who meet to share their love of stamps, antique cars, shells, and so forth. You might also consider what aspects of your work life you relished and explore ways to connect with others through those arenas. For example, if you have a background in business, there are opportunities to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through organizations like Score.

Explore All Options
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Explore All Options

Continue to gather ideas for social opportunities by reading local newspapers and bulletins, exploring online, and asking family, friends, and neighbors about their social activities. There are thousands of Meetup groups online that offer social experiences organized around many subjects, including some by age group. Finally, think along a variety of dimensions, including intellectual, physical, creative, and values-based, that reflect different aspects of your identity and interests.

By exploring multiple pathways, you expand your range of choices for connections and offer yourself an array of options. These include experiences that build on your existing skills as well as those that involve learning new subjects. The next six slides offer specific examples of social experiences that can help feed your mind and recommendations to consider.

Attend a Class
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Attend a Class

Community and senior centers offer adult education classes. Local community colleges have inexpensive courses for adults, and public universities such as UCLA offer seniors the opportunity to audit their regular classes for minimal tuition. Even a computer class on Excel often involves a group component.

Learn a New Language
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Learn a New Language

Taking an Italian class can enhance your travel experience on your trip to see Rome while also providing important brain benefits.

Join a Book Group
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Join a Book Group

Book groups provide an opportunity to share views on the reading experience. Many book groups are organized by subject areas of interest. Listings of free book groups are found in libraries and bookstores.

Explore the Lecture Circuit
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Explore the Lecture Circuit

Community institutions such as museums and libraries often sponsor public talks that bring in expert speakers on a variety of topics. These talks are often free or low cost.

Take a Public Speaking Class
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Take a Public Speaking Class

Organizations such as Toastmasters provide a supportive environment in which to build your social and communication skills.

Become an Expert
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Become an Expert

Zoos, museums, and other institutions are in frequent need of docents to provide guided talks to the public on exhibitions. Training is provided, and there are opportunities to socialize with the staff, other trainees, and the public.

Social Connections That Get You Moving
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Social Connections That Get You Moving

There are also plenty of opportunities to engage through exercise and physical activity. Socializing occurs naturally in the course of dancing, walking, or gardening with others. Retirees who are in good shape or have an adventurous spirit might even consider activities outside their comfort zone to make social connections. Click through the next few slides for some other ideas.

Try a New Sport
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Try a New Sport

Badminton, ping pong, shuffleboard, and croquet are sports that are offered in community centers and YMCAs that often provide the necessary equipment. Many gyms also have no- or low-fee options for seniors who want to swim or take daytime exercise classes.

Learn to Dance
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Learn to Dance

The intricacies of dancing can challenge you intellectually, while the movements themselves provide physical and social benefits. Those who are single can still participate in the classes through a rotating format with different partners.

Take a Hike
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Take a Hike

Your local county, state, or national park often has organized hikes or walks that are free or low cost. Some of these are focused on specific age-groups, while others may explore topics such as foraging in the wild, bird-watching, or night hikes. Explore the listings through organizations such as the Sierra Club, Meetup, or your local park website.

Play in the Dirt
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Play in the Dirt

Community gardens provide opportunities even for those without yards to grow vegetables and flowers. Participants in community gardens share produce and tips with other gardeners and meet to discuss communal concerns. Local nurseries and utilities such as the water company may also offer classes on composting and conserving water.

Build a House
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Build a House

Participate in your local Habitat for Humanity events for low-income recipients, and the Wounded Warrior Project and Homes For Our Troops also need volunteers to help with home-raising experiences for wounded war veterans. In addition to learning valuable skills in painting, carpentry, and tile-setting, the social benefits include the opportunity to collaborate and share in the sense of communal purpose.

Walk the Dog
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Walk the Dog

Local animal shelters are often seeking volunteers to walk dogs, while users of online services such as Wag! will even pay you to walk Fido. The social benefits for animal shelter volunteers include participating in meetings and activities and interacting with fellow volunteers. If your dog is approachable and friendly, you are also likely to find yourself in many a casual chat with bystanders about your furry companion.

Social Opportunities with a Creative Bent
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Social Opportunities with a Creative Bent

Socialize with others while learning to draw, enjoying a good meal, exploring different wines, or attending a concert or performance. These experiences expand your sensory horizon and provide the chance to share your discoveries with others. Read on for examples.

Take a Cooking Class
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Take a Cooking Class

These classes are offered at retail stores such as Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table, as well as through adult-learning listings at community centers. The classes often focus on a type of cuisine, and participants can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Find a Dining Club
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Find a Dining Club

Cooking Light magazine provides help in creating or joining dining clubs focused on healthy and delicious meals, while many Meetups focus on exploring the flavors of various ethnic foods through trips to local cafes and restaurants. Other dining clubs cater to singles who want to dine in groups with potential dating partners.

Refine Your Palate
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Refine Your Palate

Increase your knowledge of wines from around the world and enjoy exploring new wines in group classes and wine tastings offered at local wine stores, restaurants, and Meetups.

Join a Band
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Join a Band

If you play a musical instrument, consider joining others in making music together. Music stores often have billboards for those seeking band members, or you can explore online sites for musicians.

Sing in a Chorus
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Sing in a Chorus

Your local church or community center may be looking for singers to add to the choir or to sing at community events. Along with the social opportunities to interact with others, singing has the additional benefit of brightening your mood by raising endorphin levels.

Can't Carry a Tune?
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Can't Carry a Tune?

Try an improv class. Participants learn to play off each others' cues to create skits using words and body gestures to convey humorous moments. Improv theater offers social benefits, cognitive challenge, and, like singing, the opportunity to raise endorphin levels through laughter.

Don't Want to Work That Hard?
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Don't Want to Work That Hard?

Become an usher. It involves directing audience members to their seats and passing out programs. Ushers interact with theater staff and fellow ushers before and after performances. During performances, ushers watch the show for free while also ensuring that performances are not disrupted. Some theaters even pay their regular ushers.

Learn to Draw or Paint
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Learn to Draw or Paint

Community centers and local colleges provide low-cost classes in ceramics, watercolor, drawing, painting, and more. Develop new ways to perceive your environment while sharing your work with others.

Not Feeling Like DaVinci?
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Not Feeling Like DaVinci?

Consider a photography class instead. Camera stores often list inexpensive classes in photography, including group excursions for budding photographers.

Make Your Existing Hobby a Social Experience
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Make Your Existing Hobby a Social Experience

If you sew, knit, quilt, or scrapbook, local retailers frequently provide opportunities to participate in group experiences and to share tips with others. Even if you are a newbie, these opportunities can be important sources of encouragement and support.

Related: 35 Hobbies That Pay Off in Jobs

Social Opportunities That Express Your Values
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Social Opportunities That Express Your Values

There is a natural affinity when you interact with other people who share your commitment to your community, the environment, political or social causes, or your faith. These opportunities offer a shared sense of purpose as well as a social outlet. Read on for a few ideas in this arena.

Become an Advocate or Volunteer

Food banks, soup kitchens, animal shelters, hospitals, senior centers, and schools all rely on volunteers to assist them in providing services. Gather information on opportunities near you through community newsletters, local billboards, and churches.

Sit on a Jury
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Sit on a Grand Jury

When you participate on a civil grand jury, you make yourself available over the course of a year to rule on complex legal cases. In turn, you are paid for your service and provided with free parking. Being a juror in these cases means that you have a built-in community of peers for extended periods of time.

Use Your Expertise
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Use Your Expertise

Cities, small business associations, and legal bars have ongoing needs for participants with experience in accounting, law, business, public policy, or medicine. Check with your local city hall. Commissions and local boards may also appreciate your expertise and advice.

Be Your Local Ambassador
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Be Your Local Ambassador

Increasingly, visitors to new locales are seeking interactions with locals who know the area well. There are opportunities to provide traveling advice, host a meal, or lead a guided walk. Check with your local visitor's bureau or explore options such as Eatwith, Meals Sharing, Tours By Locals, and Withlocals.

Express Your Political Convictions
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Express Your Political Convictions

Reach out to your local civic, county, or state representatives and learn about opportunities to participate in the political process. These can include hosting small events, caravanning to government offices, or making phone calls.

Deepen Your Religious Engagement
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Deepen Your Religious Engagement

Your temple, church, or mosque is a source of connection, belonging, and shared faith. Explore ways to express your beliefs through communal actions, and attend workshops and classes that study the historical and present teachings of your faith.

Rediscover Yourself
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Rediscover Yourself

Life after retirement can mean some period of experimentation while you find a new rhythm to your days. Expecting a certain amount of trial and error will insulate you from disappointment when things are harder or less satisfying than you imagined. Continue to gather new ideas and possibilities for participation and connection as you learn more and more about what delights you.

Carol Povenmire, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist with a practice in Pasadena, California.