Retirement Satisfaction and Social Networks

July 9, 2010

By Dr. Larry Anderson

In 1910, the average life expectancy was close to 50 years and only about 12% of the population lived past the age of 65. For the baby boomers, beginning with births in 1954, the average life expectancies are between 75 years for men and 80 for women. This means that many people will be spending considerably more time in retirement.

Senior couple discuss finances Regardless of when people are born, as they approach retirement, they express concern about finances and health. Many of the boomer population also expect retirement to be a new beginning, particularly with regard to social activities. When the question is asked; ”What gives you meaning and purpose in life?” Many reply that making a contribution to society and helping others is very important for them.

Persons between 65 and 74 often take special interest in relational competence and social involvement and,  when successful, tend to experience higher levels of self-esteem. While there is no magic key to happiness, it is necessary to have good relationships with those around us. It does appear that as we move on past 74 that we become more selective in our social relationships, increasing our emotional closeness with those remaining.

Those of us, who are still in the workforce, face a considerable amount of ageist beliefs that we are less productive and efficient than younger workers. When we experience this prejudice we may find it difficult not to buy into the stereotype and experience reduced self esteem. We may then carry this over into retirement. In fact, while seniors tend to maintain social skills and increase understanding of interpersonal relations, those who have been subjected to ageism during their work life, are more likely to experience forms of depression.

Couple celebrates retirementRetirement can relieve us from the daily pressure of work and allow us to pursue other interests and activities. It can be seen as a new beginning. I have been teaching in the University system for almost 35 years. This Fall 2010 will be the beginning of my last year (I will turn 71 in October.) In preparation for my new beginning, I am busy creating workshops through my company, BC Community Building and exploring intergenerational relations as the current chair of ICAL Intergenerational Centre for Action Learning.

Although I no longer have to work I enjoy researching and teaching and want to keep doing it on some level. I might even end up being busier being retired than I was while while working. I’m looking forward to retirement and all the changes it will bring.

Did you take on any new hobbies or interests after retirement or are you planning to?

About the Author: Dr. Larry Anderson is university professor of psychology who is retiring soon. He has started a company called BC Community Building and plans on presenting workshops to prepare people for retirement. Dr. Anderson is on the board of the Langley Senior’s Resource Society. Read more of Larry’s articles at his blog.

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  • Madeleine Kolb

    Larry, Your retirement or “new beginning” sounds ideal. There are many people like you who don’t want to retire to putter and play endless rounds of golf. They want to continue to make a contribution. My domestic partner is one of them. He is now happily working on exciting and challenging projects at his new job. It’s gratifying to see that decades of invaluable experience are sometimes seen as a good thing.

  • Mitch Carlson

    Madeleine & Larry, I couldn’t agree with you more. My team operates a financial practice to help those nearing or in retirement make sure they have enough income to last as long as they do. One of the initial challenges we encounter though is that individuals do not have a clear vision of how they will spend their “new beginning”.
    May I ask a question….how would you see it most appropriate to meet such individuals? We are relationship focused and do not subscribe to the conventional annoyances cold calling and badgering.

    Keep up the great work and have a wonderful week!

  • Larry

    Mitch, Sorry for taking so much time to reply, I am still in the initial stages of bloging etc. I believe that one of the key processes is, assuming you are talking face to face, to explore the person’s social interest. I would begin with questions about family connections, previous work connections and social interests often expressed in volunteer activity. Some people get lost in the past.

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