Making new friends after moving to a retirement community

October 11, 2022

You’re feeling lonely living in your current home. Maybe health problems are limiting your mobility, making it difficult for you to get out and socialize. Or you’ve lost your spouse, which has left a big hole in your life. Or long-standing friends or neighbours have moved away or died, making your social circle smaller.

You’re considering moving to a retirement community, reasoning that it should be easier to make social connections there. But you’re hesitating. Perhaps you’re finding the thought of trying to make new friends at your age – and opening yourself up to the possibility of rejection – a little overwhelming. You worry that you’ll feel like the new kid at school and you’ll struggle to find your “crowd”.

It’s natural to feel this way. But don’t let your anxiety hold you back. Making new friends doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Sometimes all it takes is the right mindset.

Here are a few tips that can help you fit in.

Don’t let negative thinking take over

Most retirement communities have very busy activity schedules, and taking part is a great way to meet your new neighbours. There’s also mealtime, if you take your meals in the dining room.

If you find yourself reluctant to socialize, it may be that you’re worried how you’ll be received. The trick is not to let negative thinking take over. Don’t start by assuming people won’t like you. Try to avoid reading something negative into people’s reactions by default. Go in giving them (and yourself) the benefit of the doubt.

Be open and friendly. It can be as simple as having a smile on your face and showing an interest in people. Strike up conversations by asking people about themselves.

At the same time, accept that not every interaction will go as planned. You may hit it off with some folks and not with others. And that’s okay.

The main thing is to be open to the social opportunities your new home offers

Give yourself time if you need it

Another thing: be patient with yourself. 

You may sense an expectation – from your adult children, from staff, or even from yourself – that you should be fully settled and plugged into community life within a matter of weeks.

You’ve just made a major move. It may have been planned or not. You may be coping with other things at the same time, like a recent change in your health or the loss of a spouse. That’s a lot to process. If you’re not jumping into community life with both feet, who can really blame you? You’re feeling vulnerable enough as it is.

So long as you’re not isolating yourself completely, take things at your own pace. Start with small steps to begin with, if that’s what you need to do. Small, steady efforts. That’s the ticket.

And remember, some of your new neighbours have likely gone through what you’re going through now and may be a good source of support and encouragement.

Make a start

Also, there are probably other newbies like you who have just moved in. Because you’re in the same boat, it may be easier to form a connection with them.

If attending an activity on your own feels intimidating, invite a friend or family member to come with you the first time. That way you’ll have someone to talk with until you get enough confidence to strike up conversations with other people in the group.

Stay open

Whether you dive right in or follow a slower, more deliberate pace, the main thing is to be open to the social opportunities your new home offers.

Find a community that’s the right fit for you

Of course, not all retirement communities are the same, so finding one that’s going to be a good fit for you is important. We can help. That’s because we know retirement communities in the Ottawa area inside and out, meaning we can identify ones that are most likely to be right for you. 

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