The importance of building up social connections for retirement

Happy senior friends dancing on the beach

Image: Wavebreak Media Ltd/

There’s no question that friends are important. Friends are even more important in retirement because it’s easier to become isolated and lonely. Staying connected now can help you prepare for then.

The dangers of loneliness

Researchers from the University of Chicago have found that feeling lonely and isolated from others can have negative results including disrupted sleep, elevated blood pressure, and increased depression.

They also found that extreme loneliness increases a person’s chance of an early death by 14 per cent.

One of the researchers, John Cacioppo, suggests that those retiring need to think carefully about shifting away from where they have friends ‘if it means you are disconnected from the people who mean the most to you’. Friendships are important.

For those retired, he suggests countering social disconnection by staying in touch with former co-workers, taking part in family traditions and sharing good times with family and friends. For those coming up to retirement, it’s about strengthening the ties you have with others so they continue after retirement.

‘People have to think about how to protect themselves from depression, low subjective well-being and early mortality,’ says Cacioppo. Social connections help with this kind of protection.

The three dimensions of social connectedness

The research identified three core ‘dimensions of connectedness’ that make for healthy relationships at any stage of life. These will improve social connectivity and counter feelings of loneliness.

1. Intimate connectedness

This comes from having at least one person in your life who affirms who you are. These are your closest friends. These are the ones you share deeply with and you relate to most.

2. Relational connectedness

This comes from having regular face-to-face contact with people who are ‘mutually rewarding’. These are people you know well but they do not have the same closeness as those with intimate closeness.

3. Collective connectedness

This comes from a sense that you are a part of a ‘group or collective’ that’s bigger than you. This mostly comes from being a part of a club or some kind of organisation.

Of course, building up and strengthening these connections before retirement will help you keep them in retirement.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Connecting

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