After Retirement – Finding a Place to Belong

People who write about retirement suggest it’s important to find a new passion in life. I certainly would agree it’s essential to discover a new sense of purpose. Other areas are equally vital to creating a satisfying retirement.

I was very concerned about my husband’s transition to retirement. He had worked the nightshift most of his adult life. Because of his schedule, we never developed a social circle of friends. On top of that, he’s somewhat introverted. I had my friends, but we didn’t have couple friends. People don’t realize the importance of feeling a sense of belonging, being a member of a tribe.

Abraham Maslow, author and researcher on motivation and drives, lists a sense of belonging, or being loved as the third most important need after food and shelter on his hierarchy of needs. The first community we belong is to our family. For many, family consists of a large connected clan. Prior to World War II, most people stayed close to the communities they were born.

I grew up in Denver. My parents immigrated to Colorado after the war. I loved to hear the stories of the communities that existed in Denver prior to the war. Denver, like thousands of small communities and cities around the country was often defined by ethnic and cultural heritage. In Denver, like other large towns, was divided into communities comprised of the Irish, Italians, Jews, Chinese, etc. Certainly, you still find towns and communities defined by ethnic heritage, but less so than a hundred years ago.

As suburbs grew and people relocated, work replaced family and community as a place of belonging. That was true for my husband who worked for the same company for twenty-five years. He belonged to the maintenance department. Over time, this became a surrogate family to him. We didn’t see these people outside work because three shift, seven day a week operation. While he was at work, this group was his family, his tribe.

For people who do not have a large family, strong church ties or other social group they belong, retirement can be very isolating. Retirement also offers the challenge and opportunity for people to connect in new and different ways.

It can be a challenge if new retirees are reluctant to experiment with different activities. You must be willing to get outside your comfort zone to meet people, try new things and experiment with your life.

Finding a tribe will be based on finding a community based on your interests. I’ve been painting for twelve years. I paint at a studio twice a month. It forces me to paint, no matter how busy I am, but more importantly, it gives me an opportunity to be with my friends, my tribe. I am concerned about our moving to a new location and having to start over making friends. Whenever we visit a potential place to live, I check out the artist community.

My husband is building a plane in the garage. Every day, the garage door goes up. People now stop by throughout the week, checking out the plane and talking about flying. A pilot, who lives up the street invited my husband to go to the airfield recently. The neighbor introduced my husband to the other pilots. He is beginning to create a tribe, develop a place where he belongs.

Finding a retirement activity is a way to stay challenged in retirement. It also is important as a way to stay connected. Finding your tribe is an important ingredient to creating a fulfilling retirement.