Retired and Single: Readers Weigh In

Retired life as a single person doesn't have to be lonesome. Finding hobbies that require you to socialize can make all the difference.

When I asked readers to share their experiences with being single in retirement, you didn’t let me down. Not only did you offer useful advice, but you also came up with out-of-the-box ideas. And all of your stories are just as valuable for retirees who have a spouse or partner.

Not surprisingly, a number of you recommended volunteering as a way to socialize, and the suggestions were all over the map. For example, Ed Chidester volunteers as an English tutor for international students at a community college, as a travel guide for field trips sponsored by the local senior center (he gets to travel free), and as a member of the investment advisory board for his town. In the past, he’s also been a middle school math tutor and a dog walker at a humane society—and he may give those another try. “I’ve changed my volunteer activities because sometimes I need to try something different,” he writes.

Volunteering isn’t a panacea, and it’s critical to find the right fit. “All my volunteer positions have ties to my interests, and I have actively sought them rather than passively searching the internet,” writes Chidester. Reader Nila Whitfield always wanted to work with children, so she began volunteering as a reading buddy at an inner-city school three years before she retired.

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And Doris Guenther recommends using your church as a resource. “Deep and lasting relationships can be formed,” writes Guenther, “good works can take place, and there are many opportunities to volunteer. Try a small church in your neighborhood. It’s good for the soul.”

Making connections. Socializing can sometimes begin at home—even if you live alone. “Four years ago, I sold my house and moved to a condo building,” writes Whitfield, “so it’s a built-in community of 54 friends.” (Note: Don’t be afraid to speak to people in the elevator.) John Taxis joined the board of the homeowners association at his condo, “which keeps me very busy and gives me a sense of purpose.” Plus, “living in a condo complex brings me in close contact socially, and being on the board makes me sought-after—although that can be a double-edged sword!”

Socializing doesn’t necessarily have to involve people. “My number-one suggestion for your readers who are alone is to adopt an older cat or dog,” writes Lynne Derry. “They make wonderful companions. Volunteer at a shelter, and before you know it you will find the perfect companion.” Plus, she says, “there’s nothing better than having a dog to get you out for a walk to meet other dogs—and people—in the neighborhood.”

Reader Dorothy Fue Wong, who is 80 years old and has been retired for 25 years, recommends focusing on your physical as well as your mental well-being with regular exercise as part of a class or at the gym. “That should be your first priority,” writes Wong. “The major objective for a single retiree is to live independently as long as possible.” (And remember, gyms are classic meeting places; that’s where my recently married son met his future wife.)

Finally, a couple of you emphasized how important it is to be comfortable in your own skin. “I don’t need to ‘cope with’ being alone in retirement because I actually prefer being alone most of the time,” writes one reader. “I have spent my life out in nature, working in the woods, and I love silence, absent from human chattering.”

Reader Rod Appel seconds that thought. “I’ve found it more rewarding to seek fun and excitement rather than social connections, even if that means doing things solo,” writes Appel, 63, who runs 5K races, paddleboards and skis, among other activities. “Sometimes I meet interesting people at the races or on the ski hill, but even if I don’t find anyone to talk with, I’ve still had a great time. Retirement is what you make it, so why not live out your dreams?”

Janet Bodnar
Editor-at-Large, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Janet Bodnar is editor-at-large of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, a position she assumed after retiring as editor of the magazine after eight years at the helm. While editor, Bodnar was honored by Folio as one of its Top Women in Media. She is a nationally recognized expert on the subjects of women and money, children's and family finances, and financial literacy. She is the author of two books, Money Smart Women and Raising Money Smart Kids. As editor-at-large, she writes two popular columns for Kiplinger, "Money Smart Women" and "Living in Retirement." Bodnar is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and is a member of its Board of Trustees. She received her master's degree from Columbia University, where she was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economics Journalism.