Socializing, #is it worth your time

Writer’s Quote Wednesday is hosted by Marsha Ingaro who blogs at Always Write. This week her writing prompt is Socializing, Is It Worth Your Time. The writing challenge runs from Wednesday through Tuesday and the rules are posted on her site.

No Man Is An Island.

John Donne

This is a subject I have had on my mind a lot lately. After living for seven months with a 92-year-old who defies logic and the blue zone principle, I am questioning just about everything I thought I knew about aging. In the long run, what really matters?

Doctors and scientists tell us that diet, exercise, intellectual stimulation, stress, and satisfying personal relationships matter. I pay attention to all of those things, but if I had to put them in priority order, socializing would not be near the top. I strongly believe that personality dictates where that falls on the list.

I have always considered myself an introvert and am most happy when I am alone with my own thoughts, reading a good book, taking pictures at the beach, blogging, or spending time with my husband. After reading this description of an Ambivert, I think I have some extrovert tendencies but still fall closer to the introvert personality type. Of the twenty-five statements that described an ambivert, the following three resonated most with me.

  • You like meeting new people, but not always. Sometimes you don’t want to make the effort of starting a new getting-to-know-you conversation. It depends on your mood.
  • You can stay in the back and listen, but will definitely speak up if you have something to say.
  • You are comfortable in many different friend groups. You socialize with various circles and appreciate each circle for what it can offer you (sports, book club, wine club and more).

As an introvert/sometimes extrovert, I am internally motivated and I create my own energy to a large degree through my interests. My ambivalence about needing/wanting people in my life is something I am starting to pay closer attention to as I age. My husband, family, and a handful of friends have always fulfilled that need.

As cognitive abilities decline, sources of energy drop away and leave a void. If we have neglected to cultivate healthy relationships, or worse, have not yet learned how to cultivate healthy relationships, we will be at a deficit in our declining years.

When Things Change

There are many contributing factors as to why people retreat from society as they age; death of a spouse, divorce, anxiety, retirement, relocation, hearing loss, lack of interest, and loss of self-confidence to name a few. A once social individual can become alone and isolated very quickly without an internal will or external support system. Even the most profound introvert must maintain the self-awareness to know when the balance has tipped from ‘I Want to Be Alone’ to I am alone and lonely. We have faced some significant changes to our lives these past months and we’re not done yet. While self-imposed changes are very different than those that have been thrust upon us it is still important to maintain awareness and make adjustments.

I Want to Be Alone

Greta Garbo

What Works For Me

My calendar is not as full as it used to be. That is mostly by choice, but some of it is due to changing interests, physical fitness, and desire. Let’s just say, it would be very easy for me to retreat within myself and remain there, but, ‘no man is an island’, and we all need fortification through healthy social connections.

I generally choose to participate in small group activities that provide physical activity (tennis, pickleball) or intellectual stimulation (book club, Mahjongg) where I can interact with people on a superficial level without getting personally involved. Once in a while I connect to someone I’d like to know more about, but not often. I have never been a BFF kind of gal, but sometimes I need to share my thoughts with another woman who understands me. Those connections are rare and valued treasures in my life and didn’t happen overnight.

At this stage of life, I am content to busy myself with like-minded people who are energetic, positive, and uplifting to be around. It helps that I live in an active community, with lots of opportunities to interact so I don’t have to work at it. That can be both a positive and a negative, for someone with introvert tendencies.

Stuck for Ideas?

Even if you don’t have a built-in social network in your community, there are lots of places to look for like-minded people to hang out with.

Churches – not looking for religious or spiritual guidance, no problem, today’s churches offer a wide range of social programs to the communities they serve.

Local Library – many community libraries offer programs tailor-made for retirees, like computer classes, photography classes, IMovie and Iphone classes.

Volunteer Organizations – volunteering should benefit both you and the organization. Choose one that supports your interests and fits your skill-set.

Your Neighborhood – start a walking group, a lunch bunch, a wine lovers group, book club, sewing circle, etc.

Senior Centers – most communities have outreach programs for senior citizens and individuals looking for socialization, life-long learning, and fitness classes.

Start a Blog – connecting to a blogging community can provide the kind of positive, uplifting support that we need as we navigate through retirement and aging.

What About You

Setting the COVID years aside, have you noticed a ‘pruning’ of sorts when it comes to socializing as you age? Do you consider socializing an important part of mental health? Are you an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between? Does your personality impact how you socialize? Is it possible to live a life of contentment without a social network?

I Came, I Saw, I Left Early….

47 thoughts on “Socializing, #is it worth your time

  1. I am definitely somewhere in between. Back when we were in a house stateside, it was not unusual for me to spend up to two weeks in the house save for work. I enjoy being alone, but l do sometimes like to socialize. These days, l have three different groups… women who meet up once monthly to kvetch over meals, drinks or to just hang out. I like it. I have pruned some people as you say. Life is too short to put up with mean people 😏. I have much less patience for it now. Haha…first think l said was Greta Garbo, then k saw the quote.

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  2. Hi Suzanne – I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said here. I’ve even written a post about being an Ambivert, and also one about no longer being the life of the party. I definitely have less casual friends now than I did in my younger years, but I have managed to keep a few close friends who I value (and who take the pressure off my husband by sharing the load of being my support network – much to his relief!) That being said, I did notice that I was losing connection with the real world during covid and with being really engaged online with my blogging friends, but not so much with people in my community. I’ve adjusted that a little and feel like I have a good balance these days – but I’m definitely more introverted than I used to be – and that feels more like the real me – I’m not trying so hard to be all things to all people anymore!

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  3. Suzanne, thanks for this thought provoking post. I can relate to a lot of what you have said. Although I love to strike up a conversation with people, I think I fall somewhere in between. I believe socializing in very important for our well being. My husband and I laugh about how we don’t get out much any more. As we’ve aged, neither of us are comfortable about driving at night so we are usually the first ones to go home. I have several social groups where I live – water aerobics, book club, neighborhood friends, etc. My blogging friends are important and I keep up with high school friends who live all across the country.

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    1. Beth, it helps to have an active neighborhood, doesn’t it? I can relate to not wanting to drive at night. That’s another good reason why a lot of folks begin to withdraw from socializing. Funny how our world narrows as we age. I can see that I have hit a topic that a lot of folks relate to. Thanks for your input.

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  4. Like all introverts who are able to be extroverted when necessary [ambiverts?], I can socialize. However these last few years of staying at home to avoid Covid-19 have taught me that I don’t need to socialize in person to feel connected. This has been a revelation, an unintended consequence of the pandemic, that makes me realize how much I love blogland. And how free I feel not forcing myself to be social.

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  5. I enjoy talking with people – if I am interested in the subject. I like to help others if I see a need. However, I am not a “joiner” (unless it’s something I’m interested in) nor do I want my time over scheduled. Time is precious, and I only want to spend it on that which is valuable to me. I enjoy being with my husband and the rest of our family. I do have a handful of close friends.

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  6. Such an insightful topic, Suzanne. I’ve been contemplating socialization as well, recently, because we spent about ten days on a remote beach without reliable internet, but with like-minded campers and some friends.

    I do think humans are social creatures. Few people are genuinely happy as hermits. But always hanging out with others and planning activities together can get too much. For me, anyway. So, I agree this kind of thing has to do with your personality.

    I’m somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert, so I assume the ambivert label would fit me. Outsiders probably presume I’m an extrovert, because I can be quite social and engaging. But, I’m just as happy on my own, reading a book or enjoying nature.There has to be a balance.

    In general, I prefer smaller gatherings. I’d rather have drinks and dinner with one other couple that with a few. I actually wrote this exact statement in my diary two evenings ago.

    To socialize or not is food for thought, especially as we age. My father-in-law was a very quiet man, but he enjoyed having family around – not too often and not too loud. Because of his caring wife, he could stay at home and peacefully pass away at age 91, last week, surrounded by loved ones. Having people around who care is important. I’m sure the same is true for your MIL.

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    1. Liesbet, first of all, our heartfelt condolences for the loss of your FIL and Mark’s dad. That is sad news to hear. Yes, you are right about Malcolm’s mom. She is satisfied with our company and the attention of her granddaughter. Contented is a word I often use to describe her.

      I do think you are right about finding balance. I cannot imagine, nor would I want the life of an extrovert! But, I do enjoy the occasional company of people in a quiet one-on-one setting. That’s where I find my balance. Take care and all the best at this sad time in your life.

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  7. “I came, I saw, I left early…” That pretty much describes me at most social gatherings. I am very good in small groups or one on one but I find anything else quite tiring and usually disappointing. It’s getting worse (wait…or is it better?) as I age and now that I am retired. Now that I have more time to myself I guard it much more fiercely. Didn’t see that one coming. Thanks for a very thought-provoking post, Suzanne!

    Deb

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    1. Deb, I’m leaning toward ‘it’s getting better’ at this stage of life. I like my narrow little world. The people in it, both virtual and IRL satisfy my need for connection and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Thanks for contributing to the conversation. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Suzanne,
    I read this post twice because I see so much of myself here. There is no doubt about which side of the spectrum I landed on. I’m an introvert and Myers-Briggs confirmed that many years ago. Fortunately, I have the ability to “push out” well enough to succeed at work and make friends, but when it’s time to “crawl back in” at the end of the day, I am ready. I love our church friends and am grateful for them, and I attend exercise classes at the YMCA when home, and have a lot of fun with my classmates. If it weren’t for those activities, I probably would be content to let my wife, my family, and a few friends fulfill the need to socialize (paraphrasing your line above). Again, I found this very timely…the subject has been on my mind a lot lately. Joe

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  9. Hi Suzanne,
    After reading your post (and Joe’s comment) I can easily place myself in the ambivert camp. Dan needs people, and I don’t mind being around them most of the time…but for me they are purposeful. Like a class, or work (while working), or club/shared interest. But I’m just as happy with family or just Dan. Having said that, I do have 3 close friends over my entire life – including one I met in retirement with whom I just “clicked.” And I am grateful for those relationships and try to be a firm friend in return. I spend a lot of time in my own head, and I’m jealous about who I share that space with!

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    1. Nancy, I understand that you see people as ‘purposeful.’ I feel that way about most of my acquaintances. It isn’t that we use them, but that they serve a purpose in our lives. Unfortunately, it also makes them dispensable, which sounds harsh, but I think you get my meaning. It is wonderful that you met someone that you clicked with during retirement. Malcolm had the same thing happen and I couldn’t be happier for him. We all need one special someone.

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  10. Such an interesting post, Suzanne… and one I can relate to in its entirety. My husband and I were talking about introverts (we both are introverts with some ambivert traits) last night and how, it seems, extroversion is what our society strives for (you hear about introverts wanting to become more extroverted, but never about extroverts who want to become more introverted). I’m okay with the way I am although I do feel that I’d like to reach out more, which has been curtailed a bit by Covid.

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  11. Interesting question – I often get along better with people I’ve just met than people I’ve known for a long time. Many old time friends can’t understand the fact that I prefer to spend time along writing and blogging than playing golf and I can’t really explain it to them. But it is nice to get together and reminisce about the things we did have in common. Getting older is not for the faint at heart! Like everything, it’s a balancing act.

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    1. Jan, conversations with new people come easily to me because I don’t think beyond the moment and just enjoy it for what it is – a pleasant encounter. Friends, on the other hand, require maintenance. Yes, indeed, aging is not for the faint at heart!

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  12. Hi, Suzanne – The topic of social integration and its infuence on our longevity fascinates me.

    Researchers at Brigham Young University combined data from 148 studies that looked at factors that lengthen our lives. Within this research, numerous lifestyle behaviors were examined and ranked based on their impact on longevity (diet, exercise, heart health, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, doctor visits, flu vaccines, air quality, etc.). Social integratoin steadily took the number one spot of positively impacting our health and longevity.

    What fascinated me even more was that social integration does not need to mean BFFs. The definition used in this study was the amount of daily interaction with others, regardless of how strong or weak the bond. This interaction can be as casual as chatting with the cashier at a local grocery store.

    Canadian psychologist, Susan Pinker, did an excellent Ted Talk on this subject. Ted Talk, ”The Strongest Predictor of How Long You’ll Live,” Lots of food for thought!

    I’ll quit nerding out now. But as I forwarned, this topic truly fascinates me! 😀

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    1. Donna, you are welcome to ‘nerd out’ any time you’d like with me. It is a fascinating topic that I’m sure we could speak about for hours. I am surprised, but pleased (and a little relieved) at how the study defined social integration – my MIL considers social contact a trip to the mailbox at the same time as the neighbor. I am also surprised that it is on the top of the list in terms of healthy habits. I would think that exercise and diet would hold that spot. Thanks for linking the Ted talk. I’ll get to that in a while.

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  13. Hi Suzanne, I’d say it’s worth our time to build a strong support network and to do so would require some socializing, making yourself visible and available to new friendships, hopefully including younger people, not just friends at our age. If we build that network in advance, they’ll support us for years to come. At midlife, from approx. age 40 to age 65, our support network may come naturally such as having a spouse, children, BFFs, pets, social clubs, etc. By the time we get to 70+ or 80+, our options become more limited.

    I volunteer in my neighbourhood and have at least 3 situations to share: 1) A widow in her 70s 2) A divorcee in her 80s and 3) A single person in her 60s who has a spouse recently moved into a health facility due to his deteriorating health conditions. All three women are introverts with some ambivert traits, smart, capable, etc. All have family who live in a different state or country. The older lady told me her friends keep dying before her so her circle of friends gets smaller over time. All three had unexpected health emergencies that disabled them temporarily. They were unable to do the day-to-day activities and volunteers like me come in to help e.g. pick up mail, pick up prescriptions, do post-op walks, etc. What I’m trying to say is, keep making new friends as it takes time to build the support network.

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  14. Well, I thought I left a comment yesterday but I must have messed up!!
    I am definitely an introvert (ha) but I have many of the ambivert traits. I like socializing with friends but it needs to be spread out. I reach my limit pretty quickly. I can understand how older people withdraw as I‘ve watched my dad these last two years. Some is physically challenging but I also believe he could do more. He says he’s bored yet he does nothing to participate in anything. I hope I don’t reach that point but you never know!!

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    1. Your dad sounds like the perfect example of what I believe to be true – not all personality types are willing, or even see the need, to make an effort to be social. My MIL has never stated she is bored, but I sometimes believe she is lonely. Our suggestions for interaction fall on deaf ears. Thanks for joining the conversation.

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  15. This is a fabulous post, Suzanne. You touched a lot of nerves, and by that, I mean that people can really relate. I never thought about being an ambivert, but that describes me, too. I love that you found this word and researched it. Thanks for linking up to WQW.

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  16. Reading your post and all of the responses has given me a lot to think about. Far more than anyone would want to read, LOL!! Suffice it to say that I was an introvert as a child and then turned extrovert (through choice, because I thought I was missing out on life by not engaging more). Being too much of an extrovert was exhausting, but I did it for a long time! I think it took me until almost my 40s to have more understanding about what really nourishes my soul and invigorates me, and it’s somewhere in-between the two extremes.

    I treasure my close friendships, most of which were made in my early 40s and will last me the rest of my life. And I continue to add to my tribe selectively. 🙂 I love chatting with friends, small gatherings, and sharing life adventures. And I also treasure my alone time and the opportunity to pursue my interests in art, writing, photography, and music. Although now that I think about it, I prefer taking classes in art and playing music with others. Like I said, this post made me think and apparently, I’m not done evolving!

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    1. Laurel, based on the comments, I think this subject resonates with a lot of folks and I don’t think you are alone in going against your nature for a period of time. I think age and introspection have a lot to do with when we come into ourselves and accept our true nature. I’m pretty sure none of us are ever ‘done evolving.’ Thank you for your thoughtful response.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I always thought I was an introvert, but think I need to explore ambivert a bit more. I like small groups; hate large crowds. I’ve learned how to do small talk, especially with new people. When I’m with people all day, I need major quiet alone time to reenergize. Like you I’ve never had a BFF, but I do have a number of women who I can have an in-depth conversation with. And I do love an in-depth conversation! But, I do believe social interaction is critical to longevity. I’m seeing a huge decline in my mom from the pandemic isolation. I am happy that I’m building a local tribe, post move!

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    1. Pat, I am beginning to realize that ‘tribe’ has a lot of definitions that I wasn’t aware of. Donna pointed out that beneficial social interactions can be as simple as having a conversation with the cashier at the grocery store. Knowing that makes me feel better about not wanting to nurture relationships to the BFF stage. I do love an occasional serious one-on-one conversation, but, like you, I also need my downtime to reenergize. Thanks for contributing to the conversation and good luck with making connections in your new hometown!

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  18. Pingback: WQW #6: Dream Travel Plans for 2022 – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write

  19. Hi Suzanne, You remind me how we learn a great deal from the elderly. Wow, “Ambivert!” This is a new word for me. A goosebump and an aha moment. You make an excellent point on “self-imposed changes” versus “those that have been thrust upon us.” Another goosebump phrase is when you discuss friendships “those connections are rare and valued treasures in my life and didn’t happen overnight.” I have a treasured good friend and my husband, who is my best friend…a constant feeling how time is running out.

    Another good point on “pruning.” I can elaborate although a simple “yes” on this one.

    An excellent post, Suzanne!! You have touched on the core feelings. Thank you for being a like-minded, energetic, positive, uplifting soul.❤️

    An aside: Your posts and sharing on Instagram are a joy, beautiful and always bring me a smile.❤️

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  20. Hi Erica, thank you for your kind comments. You have me curious about your ‘pruning’ statement, but instead of prying, I’ll just wish you well. We’ve all had those times – some uglier than others.. Congratulations on having your article published. I’d love to know more about that. You must be thrilled. Glad you’re enjoying my Instagram feed. Same to you. I’m thinking of moving the focus away from just landscape photography and creating more of a mini-blog there. Not sure if that’s a good direction. Thanks for stopping by.

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  21. Thought provoking post with no right or wrong answers. I’m an introvert, but the pandemic taught me that I do need to interact with people to see their expressions and hear the changes in their voice as they speak. We moved cross country after retiring, and we live in a somewhat rural area. I’d say that has had a negative impact on socialization that I don’t think we’ll ever totally get over. We both work at it, but as one ages physical abilities also play into what you can and can’t participate in. The blogging community certainly had a positive impact during the pandemic and allowed conversations with online friends across the country and beyond.

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    1. Judy, I can imagine that moving to a rural area would have an impact on your options to develop a social life. It’s harder when you don’t have history to support connections. I think that is why so many people choose ‘retirement communities’ – they provide an endless supply of possibilities and instant friends. Baggage comes with that choice too though, so nothing is ever perfect.

      Having satisfying hobbies as you and I both do help a lot, but yes, aging changes that too. I too am grateful for our little blogging community. It serves a purpose on many levels and as long as my mind can keep up with technology, I’ll be here, banging away on the keyboard.

      BTW, where did you move from and how long have you been in NH? I have always thought of you as being from there.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Hello Suzanne. I tend more toward being an introvert, but I do like spending time with close friends or family. That said, if I have more than two or three things happening in the week, I feel “too busy” and need some quiet time at home. I like meeting new people if it is in a comfortable situation. I’m not big on long stretches of one-on-one with someone I don’t know. Brief conversations while waiting in line are nice or small groups where the pressure isn’t all on me to keep the conversation going. I have not yet noticed a dip in my socialization, but I am approaching retirement, so we’ll see what kind of effect that has.

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    1. Christie, I find myself turning down invitations and opportunities a lot more than I used to. I try to do just enough to satisfy my desire to be with people, but not so much that I feel overwhelmed and in need of quiet time. it’s a tricky balance. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation.

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  23. Hi Suzanne! I know I’m REALLY late coming to this party but I had to jump in here with a comment. In some ways this is a perfect perspective to the post that I just wrote on my blog about friendships. As for me I think I am mainly an extrovert who is sometimes an introvert so not sure if that makes me an ambivert or not. ( I read through the description of an Ambivert and I have to say it was a bit like those horoscopes that could just about apply to every one of us. ) I know I do need a “social life” but at the same time I get exhausted if it’s “too much” around other people and things happening. And like you, I have an excellent spouse/partnership that fills that up much of the time/space. But as a couple of your other commenters mentioned, having a strong support system is really important as we age. And as a women without children, I look to friendships to be around me and carry me forward as we age. Based on all your comments, I’m wondering if the majority of bloggers are mainly introverts? I do know that I need IRL friends a lot more than some bloggers do so that might be an interesting area to explore as well. Thanks for getting me thinking! ~Kathy

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    1. Hi Kathy, when I started reading all the comments here, I wondered the same thing about bloggers being mostly introverts. I do think it is a ‘safe’ place to connect on our own terms without feeling suffocated, which is what most introverts crave. So, it makes sense that we would gravitate to this forum. Obviously, blogging relationships are no substitute for IRL and I completely agree that most people need those to sustain us long term.

      As far as children are concerned, that could go a lot of directions. I have a 90-year-old neighbor who was recently rejected by both her children in terms of physical and financial assistance. I also have an elderly friend who is childless and has spent a lifetime surrounding herself with loyal and devoted friends who are always there for her.

      Personally, I think it is important to know yourself well and be proactive about creating the kind of environment that will keep you safe and happy well into your elderly years. It is too important a matter to leave to chance and hope for the best.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here and for furthering the conversation through your own post about friends. So much to think about….

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