The fourth key aspect of “the talk” and having a safe and long retirement is the need to stay involved. The building and nurturing of a strong social network for retirees is vital to their own longevity and their ability to weather the storms that will occur with later life.
For the adult child of a retired or retiring parent, part of the emphasis during the “talk” should be on making sure your parents don’t succumb to loneliness or isolation during their retirement and later years. They need to develop and nurture a satisfying social network. For your parents to truly thrive in their golden years, which means not only having more fun but also living longer and healthier lives, they need to build and maintain a web of friends and family. You can play a vital role in this process.
Your parents may be naturally social, and when you explain the health and longevity advantages, they may become even more so. For others, your parents lean toward the hermit side, or perhaps, upon retiring, they seem to have lost their sense of worth and perceived place in society. Here you can step in with not only educating them on the importance of a social network, but also setting the example.
The reality is that in retirement, people will lose friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, a common occurrence in retirement and later life is the loss of a spouse. Family members must be on alert for what is known as the “broken heart” syndrome, which occurs after the death of one spouse and the partner soon passes away as well. However, many avoid this syndrome and become resilient after the loss of a spouse by utilizing their social network for strength, compassion and support.
One of the most important things that adult children can do with their parents during “the talk” is to stress the importance of creating and strengthening their social network with friends (those that they know and those that they haven’t met yet), loved ones, church members, etc.
But don’t forget what you can do as a part of the family. Invite them to family events and engage them fully in family activities — dinners, movies, outings with the grandkids. The family relationship is often the most critical element of their social network.
Here are some questions that you can ask your retiring parents during the talk to ensure that you cover the all important fourth key, the need to stay involved:
1) Will you stay involved with colleagues from work?
2) What key recreational activities (like golf, tennis, bridge, and opera) do you plan on doing?
3) How involved will you be with your kids and grandkids?
4) What circle of friends do you want to nurture and spend more time with?
5) Will you volunteer in your community or with a national or international organization?
6) What new hobbies will you take up?
7) If you’re single, will you look for another life partner?
8) Will you continue to work in your retirement even if you don’t need to financially?
9) Will you take classes and continue to grow intellectually?
The need to stay involved is not only about protecting your parents from the realities of what will occur in retirement and later life. Rather, the need to stay involved and having a strong social network will provide them the ability to share the joys and fun of their retirement with others.
Just like your parents were most content when they knew that you, their child, was happy, so it’ll be for you when you look at your parents living a full and long retirement and realizing that they’re happy and fulfilled.
Believe me, it’ll bring a smile to your face.