The Importance of Community in Retirement

US News

When we retire, our friends and family become more important than ever. Co-workers and business contacts who were part of our busy working life will likely fade in importance. After all, once we are removed from day-to-day work we will begin to lose track of the latest specifics and perhaps even interest in office happenings. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is part of our transition into a lifestyle that doesn't include work.

The support and encouragement of a network of family and friends can improve the quality of your new life in retirement. Community is not just important when we are in need. It has the potential to add meaning and joy to every day. Interacting with others keeps us engaged and involved in life. Sharing our human situation can help us better understand ourselves and create meaningful relationships.

Although most people agree on the value of community in retirement, there are also challenges. A recent AARP study found that due to shifting demographics, aging baby boomers will have fewer friends and family to take care of them as they move into their 80s. The ratio of potential caregivers to boomers is projected to decline from more than 7-to-1 in 2010 to less than 3-to-1 by 2050. Although many Americans believe they will be able to rely on family to meet their long-term care needs, families may become overwhelmed by the time and financial commitments of doing so.

My wife and I have begun to prepare for our retirement, which will include relocating to a new area. Our wish lists are pretty much in sync, and we have a few choice spots in mind. But we have adjusted our focus in one important way. We initially liked the idea of moving to a home that was off the beaten path, perhaps with a lovely view in a rather private setting on a bit of land. But we realized that off on our own we would not have much of a relationship with neighbors who would be spread out far and wide. We have come to realize that a key component of our retirement choice is nearness to other people and the local community. As we take our daily walks we want to run into familiar faces to say hello and share a bit of dialogue. We want to become involved in local activities and enjoy nearby attractions along with other locals. We agree that community matters in our retirement planning.

A community or neighborhood offers an ideal place to discover and interact with others, particularly as we age. If golf is your game, nearness to the local links will put you in close proximity with other people who are similarly inclined. Whether your ideal retirement will include bicycling, hiking, tennis or sharing a glass of wine together at the end of the day, it's important to live near other people who share the same interests. Involvement with others helps to fill our calendar with meaningful and exciting events to look forward to.

Aging can be a lonely road. No one can do it for us, and there is an element of me-against-the-world in the very nature of living. But in the relationships we maintain with friends and acquaintances, we can continue to find joy in our retirement life. Perhaps that additional support can put things back into perspective when they momentarily go awry. A supportive community can offer a kind of safety net that gives you the confidence to take a chance. Your future may not necessarily involve a retirement community, but it makes a lot of sense to include a little community in your fulfilling retirement.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.



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