Did you know that making new friends in retirement could keep you healthier and happier — and possibly add years to your life? According to the National Institutes of Health, connecting with others has a powerful effect on your health, reducing stress and heart-related risks.
Usually, when you retire, it's easy to make new friends by pursuing a social activity you enjoy, like joining a hobby or activity group, attending church, volunteering or taking a class. But the social distancing guidelines enacted because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have put many of these activities on indefinite hold.
Still, meeting people and making new friends in retirement in a safe, socially distant way — even during a pandemic — is easier than you might think. Here are five ways to meet new people from a safe distance until it's safe to gather closely again.
1. Sign Up for Virtual Meetup Events
Meetup is an online platform where you can make new friends in retirement by joining interest-based groups that plan in-person and virtual events. You could chat with others while knitting or crocheting, or engage in lively discussions in a book club, film club or sports enthusiasts group that meets online.
How to get started: Search Meetup for groups dedicated to your favorite hobby or activity, or pursue a completely new interest. When you finally get to meet your fellow Meetup members face-to-face, you'll already be old friends.
2. Keep in Step With a Walking Group
Indoor meetings are discouraged during the pandemic, but you might be able to maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from others during outdoor activities such as walking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Just remember to wear a mask.
How to get started: Search online for outdoor walking groups in your area; if you can't find one, start your own and promote it on Meetup or via social media. If you live in a cold climate, wear a parka, warm hat, gloves or fleece-lined pants to stay warm.
3. Host a Zoom Party
If you can't raise a glass with your friends at a restaurant or bar, host a Zoom get-together, and ask your invitees to invite a friend of their own. Before you know it, you'll have a whole new social circle at your fingertips.
How to get started: Ask your friends for party themes and topic ideas, then create a Zoom invite. If you're not on Zoom, it's easy to sign up for an account and quickly become a whiz with the app's video tutorials.
4. Say Hello to Your Neighbors
If you're outside doing yardwork or taking a stroll and you see your neighbors, give them a wave. The friendly gesture could spark a new friendship. Remember to stay at least 6 feet away and to wear a mask while you chat.
How to get started: Say hi to the next neighbor you see and start up a short chat, maybe about the weather or your local sports team. If your neighbor's up for the chat, great. If not, smile and move on — and try again with the next (hopefully friendlier) neighbor.
5. Sniff Out New Friends at the Dog Park
There's no better ice breaker than an uninhibited furry friend. If you have a dog, your neighborhood dog park is one of the best places to make friends in retirement. Right away, you've got one thing in common with everyone there: You love dogs.
How to get started: Read up on dog park safety and keep a close eye on your dog's behavior while at the park so you both become respected regulars.
Now that you know how to make new friends in retirement during COVID-19, go online and search for a group or activity that allows you to stay connected — from a safe distance — until we can all gather safely again.