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Who Will I Have Lunch With?

July 2016
By Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD

Maintaining a strong social network is critical to an enjoyable retirement.

Lunch is more than just a meal—it’s an opportunity to get out and be sociable. No matter what stage of life that meal takes place—from the elementary school cafeteria to the senior center lunchroom—the people you grab a mid-day bite with are a solid indicator of the wellbeing of your social network.

As it turns out, the more robust that group of folks we have lunch with is, the greater the chances we’ll maintain a high level of physical and mental health as we travel through life. Traditionally, families provided the social core and the emotional support necessary for us to age well. However, smaller and more dispersed families are making that traditional support system less and less common for many.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 28% of people aged 65 and older live alone today.1 Studies have found that this change can have a long-term impact—living alone or living without a robust network could actually negatively impact healthy aging.2 Maintaining and/or re-building this crucial social network should be a key priority for us as we age.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to preserve the community of friends that you have, while finding ways to help ensure you have a strong and meaningful network in the future.

Researchers found that extreme loneliness helps increase the chance of premature death by double digits (14%). Its impact is nearly as strong as that of disadvantaged socioeconomic status, which increases the chance of early death (19%). They also found that loneliness also has double the impact of obesity on early death.

Source: The University of Chicago, 2/14


Maintain Those Close to You

With the proliferation of new communication technologies in our daily lives, working to maintain our current relationships can be both easier and a whole lot harder all at the same time. How can that contradiction exist? Despite the increased ways to reach out to loved ones, the number of potential distractions keeping us from each other has increased, too. There’s also been a rise in impersonal connections. Just because someone "likes" a picture you post online that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be there for lunch—or something even more important.

Identifying who you’ll want to stay in touch with as the years go by is an important first step in nurturing those precious relationships into the future.

Who would you consider to be your most dear family members? Who are your best friends, favorite co-workers, and most important mentors? Who else adds special value or has a specific role in your life? These are the people you will continue to depend on for advice or enjoying shared experiences.

Once you’ve determined who that group is, start to think about some of the regular activities you like doing together.A great way to keep in touch with these special people is to plan a regularly occurring activity. Anything from crafting quilts and playing cards to practicing yoga and hiking trails can be that special event you can look forward to on a reccurring basis.



List your most important connections, what social activities you would like to continue participating with them, and the best method of keeping in touch with them.


Ways to Discover New Connections

Sometimes—whether by fate or by choice—you’re not going to be able to stay connected witheverybody in your life. The best thing you can do isto go out and add new connections. Creating freshconnections can help assure the well-being of yoursocial network. These people and organizations canalso reinforce a healthy and productive lifestyle.


The Benefits of Maintaining a Strong Social Network Include:

  • Lower risk for cardiovascular problems, some cancers, osteoporosis,and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower risk for mental health issues

Source:Yale Medical Group


Ways to Discover New Connections

Sometimes—whether by fate or by choice—you’re not going to be able to stay connected witheverybody in your life. The best thing you can do isto go out and add new connections. Creating fresh connections can help assure the well-being of your social network. These people and organizations canalso reinforce a healthy and productive lifestyle.

  • Do volunteer work
    The surprise many volunteers find is that for all the good they do donating their time, they ultimately walk away feeling as rewarded as those they helped. You can make new connections with fellow volunteers while doing good, too. Visit for additional information to help you pair up with a cause that’s meaningful to you.

  • Enroll in a college course
    Just because it’s been a few decades since you were last on campus doesn’t mean your days of hitting the textbooks are over. Lifelong learning can help keep us stay engaged and challenged us as we age. Check with your local college and university to see about taking free or low-cost classes. There may even be classes that are designed just for seniors, too.

  • Frequent your neighborhood coffee shop
    Looking for a place to hear local music or listen to poetry? Want to discover a regular spot to meet and converse with others? With the proliferation of coffee shops in the U.S. today, there’s most likely one right around the corner from you. There’s a chance you’ll end up meeting people while getting your next cup of Joe that share the same common interests as you do.

  • Use online social networking to meet others
    Meeting new friends online doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did. Today, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) has become a main method that people meet and communicate with others who share the same interests. According to a report by Pew Research Center, 35% of all adults aged 65 and older said they’re on social media.3

  • Join a travel club
    Whether you’re traveling with your significant other, family members, friend, or even yourself, getting out and seeing the world can be a terrific way to branch out to find new connections. Travel clubs present a way to share affordable travel experiences with others. There are even clubs that cater exclusively to seniors.

  • Enroll in an exercise class
    Being physically active is not only great for your health as you age, it also could be a terrific boost for your social life, too. Join the right fitness gym, and you’ll mostly likely find a multitude of age-appropriate classes you can take.

  • Ask family and friends to introduce you to others
    The most time-tested form of matchmaking—the good old fashioned personal introduction. Meeting people the traditional way still works. Don’t be bashful asking for an introduction from others—including your financial advisor. Other people are working to build new connections themselves.

  • Attend a senior center
    Today, 11,400 senior centers serve more than 1 million older adults (their average age is 75) every day.4 Of those, approximately 70% of senior center participants are women; half of them live alone.4 These locations off er a wide variety of program and services for seniors. Compared with their peers, senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction.


Begin Planning for Tomorrow Today

Discuss with your financial advisor how you can best plan to stay engaged in the things—both big and small—that’ll help make you happy in the years to come. Your financial advisor should integrate these issues into a comprehensive planning discussion to make an ambiguous retirement future—that may even be decades away—more tangible to you now. Being able to visualize that ice cream cone today can help you commit to preparing for how you’ll get one tomorrow.

Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD
Director, MIT AgeLab




The MIT AgeLab is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Hartford Funds.

1Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 6/14; Most recent data available
2 Source: University of Chicago, 2/14; Most recent data available
3 Source: "Social Media Usage: 2005-2015," Pew Research Center, 10/164 Source: The National Council on Aging,