I recently traveled to Washington, DC to train and certify the first group of Your Countdown to Retirement coaches. This meant I left my 94-year-old father at home with his wonderful caregivers. I knew my absence would be stressful for my father, so I figured out ways to stay in touch while out of town.
Notes for him to open every day I was away were written before I left. They gave him something to focus on and to look forward to. I made sure he received a heart-shaped box of candy for Valentine’s Day, as well as an envelope with money inside to welcome Chinese New Year and the Year of the Dog.
We used FaceTime to chat at least once a day and he lit up every time he saw my face. Why do all these things? As we age connection and a sense of belonging are of paramount importance. Keeping in touch with my Dad lessened his stress, helped him to understand where I was and what I was doing, and allowed me to touch base with his caregiver.
I also used this as an example to teach others what a little forethought and kindness can do. Did I spend a lot of money? No. Did it take a lot of time? Between writing the notes (30 minutes) buying the candy while already grocery shopping (5 minutes) and eight, five to ten minute phone calls with my Dad I invested between an hour and an hour and a half of time. This was far less than the amount of time I would have had to spend calming his fears or interacting with his caregiver had I not done this.
Boomers are often in denial about the need to expand their circle of friends and contacts as they begin looking towards retiring. We forget that work, the linchpin of many of our relationships, will no longer bind us together as it has in the past. Yes, we’ll vow to keep in touch and we may at first. But eventually the reality that we no longer have much in common will set in. Lifelong friends may move away. Others will pass away.
We all know that meaningful relationships take time to build. Starting to build a network of new friends and acquaintances now makes perfect sense. It also makes sense to reach out to those in our lives who may be experiencing isolation and make a commitment to bring them back into our lives in meaningful ways.