You are a pioneer, embarking upon a quest never-before encountered in human history. Thanks to better public health, housing, education and healthcare, you will live an additional 30-40 years. Unlike previous generations, however, you will do it without the support of a large family or a close-knit village to help.
Why? Families today are smaller, separated geographically and disrupted by divorce. Women – traditional caregivers – who do live close by have jobs. These factors, along with geographic mobility, have weakened deep ties to social institutions like neighborhoods, clubs, and churches.
Already, 14 million seniors – called “elder orphans” – are aging alone without any family. Many of the 25 million childless Baby Boomers will join them. Even those who have family may be “geographic orphans”, since 40% of adults move, on average, 700 miles from where they grew up and 20% of retirees relocate.
Modern-Era Villages Can Help
Pioneers of old needed a village. You do, too. Fortunately, you have one; it’s just “hiding in plain sight.” Knowing where to look is the secret to finding it. In all, there are eight groups of people in today’s modern village. As you connect with the people in these groups, they connect with one another; they are “networks.”
1. People in your family-of-origin and other families you have been a part of, including any you created for your children and any people who are not related but who feel “just like” family are your family network.
2. Physicians, dentists, vision care, walking buddies, tennis partners and your golf foursome are your health and vitality network. Those who help you look good are in this network, too, since appearance influences how others treat you and how you feel about yourself.
3. Your education and enrichment network prepared you for a job and introduced you to the arts. Anticipate a new career during this stage of life? If so, you’ll have teachers to help you prepare. If not, you’ll have even more time than ever to enjoy culture, travel and the arts.
4. Clergy and members of houses of worship, and others with whom you share your sense of what is meaningful in life, are your spiritual network.
5. Neighbors, friends and those in your clubs, or civic and political organizations and social-media connections are your social and community network.
6. People in your workplace: your boss, direct reports, colleagues and cross-functional teams, as well as clients, and customers are your career network. Even at retirement, this network supports you with enduring connections you created during your years at work.
7. Those who help you maintain and improve your home – plumbers, electricians, roofers and painters – and others who support your legal and financial needs – bankers, accountants, and attorneys – are your home and personal affairs network.
8. You also have a ghost network, people who were once in your life but are no longer because they have passed away, moved away, or drifted away as life changed. Some loved and supported you. Others did not. Both impact you even now.
Building Your Village
Some people prefer to remain in their hometown in retirement; others choose to venture to new territory. Regardless of your choice, now is a good time to prepare for the future by exploring your networks.
Planning to stay where you live now? In that case, strengthen your connections with those who help you live a high-quality, healthy, vibrant life. Find any gaps in the support you need? If so, build new connections to help you thrive. Contemplate how you needs may change over the next three or four decades. Might you need additional support? If Identify those in your networks who can help. You may drive, garden and shop independently today, but if the day comes you cannot, will family or friends help? Does your community provide mass transit or driving services? Are lawn-care or grocery-delivery services available?
Planning to relocate? Doing so will be far easier if you explore the village you have now. Being aware of all the people in your networks today will show which connections you’ll be able to maintain and which you’ll need to replace. It is an adventure to move, but doing so separates you from family, friends, colleagues and others in your networks with whom you built longstanding, trusted connections. They will not be close by for impromptu visits or to help during an emergency. Even family and very close friends may be unable to travel to visit you except on rare occasions.
Information about your current connections might also help you choose the best location based on your needs. “Best places to retire” lists consider factors like safety, income, the sense of well-being of retirees, recreational opportunities and health care. “Age-restricted communities” offer the lifestyle ease of convenient access to amenities like golf, clubhouses and swimming pools. In each of those locations, health care overall might be accessible, but can you find a physician who accepts your type of insurance? Or, is the area growing so fast – as it is near The Villages in Florida – that medical care, household handyman and tree-trimming services are difficult to find?
Whatever your choice – to remain where you live now or to relocate – you’re our newest pioneers. Just as the pioneers who settled this nation, you are charting a course for others to follow. Children born today, for example, are destined to live to be 100 years old and experts say the first person to live to be 150 has already been born. Imagine how grateful they’ll be to learn what you discover!
My book to tell you more: Networksage: RealizeYourNetwork Superpower