The purpose of retirement communities is not only to make the everyday tasks of life easier for seniors. Retirement communities also provide a space where making friends and having a fulfilling social life is natural and effortless. At least, that’s the goal. However, the reality of entering a retirement community as a new member can be daunting.
Making new friends requires courage no matter how old you are. How do you enter a conversation with a bunch of people who already know each other? What if they judge you? What if no one likes you? How do you go from being the “new person” to part of the gang?
Feeling left out at first is only natural when you join an already-established community. They already know each other, which means they hang out together, they have things to talk about, and they probably have some inside jokes too.
Don’t Let Your Fear Get the Best of You
The trick is remembering that everyone joined the community in part for the community aspect of it. The people you see hanging out with friends or in groups are very likely open to making even more friends. That new friend could easily be you.
Your fear of judgment or rejection is normal, but you can rise to the challenge and overcome it. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be reaping the rewards of friendship and connection with your fellow community members.
Here is some practical insight into how to overcome your social anxieties when joining a retirement community.
Self-Awareness is Key
Knowing yourself means knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Take some time to think about what you excel at and what you’re not so good at. In that, make sure you also recognize that all of us are good at some things and bad at others, and it’s okay not to be good at everything. Know who you are and accept it. When you’re aware of your own attributes, you’re much less likely to be worried about what other people think about you. Instead, you’re able to simply be yourself. and it will be much easier to take the leap and start a conversation with someone or even jump into a group conversation.
Get Involved in Pre-Organized Activities
Many retirement communities have group recreational activities available to their members. Joining in on the ones that interest you can be a huge help in making friends. One of the key benefits of these pre-planned events is that everyone who joins has a common interest in the activity at hand. At that point, talking to others in the group is par for the course.
Making the First Move
In an ideal world, the veteran members of any retirement community would go out of their way to include newcomers. Yet, that is not always the case, and it makes sense. It’s easy to find a group of friends and stick to your comfort zone. That’s why as a newcomer, you also have to take the responsibility of stepping up and making the first move.
Talking to someone new can be intimidating, but there are ways to take the edge off. Ask them questions about who they are and what brought them to the community. Make eye contact to show that you are paying attention. Respond thoughtfully to what they say. If you do this with enough people, you’re bound to find the ones you connect with. That’s how meaningful friendships are born.