Friends and Whānau


It is a reality of older age that friendship situations will change. It is inevitable that some of your friends will move away, move into a retirement village, become unwell or die. These realities of life can mean that you might start retirement with an active social circle but find it shrinking as you get older. Continuing to make new friends and connections and being open to new people coming into your life may feel hard, but it will be beneficial in the long run. Similarly, your closest family relationships will inevitably change. Taking the time now to share your thoughts about these big changes and how to adjust to new living arrangements will help everyone.

Fresh friendships

New friendships don’t just happen. We need to be intentional about it, and continue working at it. Friends come in all forms, from very close friendship bonds to friendships where simply spending companionable is time rewarding and satisfying.

Activities and groups can be great ways to meet new people, however most of us have experienced attending an event and leaving again without really connecting with anyone and this can leave us feeling even more isolated. So if your groups and activities do not enable you to get to know people, you might want to think about how you could increase your involvement, or add other activities that are more social.

Primary relationships

If you are in a relationship now, you need to plan for being on your own at some point. For some, this is a difficult topic to discuss, but couples should talk about what each hopes for the other, if they were to die first, or need to go into care. Being honest and realistic about what the future may hold is important as it enables us to plan ahead, and when the time comes to be comfortable in the knowledge that wishes have been understood.

We need to give the people we love our blessing to go on living and being as happy and connected as they can be, so it is important to maintain your “own life” as well as your “couple life” so that each can continue their social connections in the event they find themselves alone.

Extended Family

Some of us live in an extended or multi-generational family households already, and some of us expect to move in with family as we grow older. Living surrounded by family/whanau/aiga has lots of positives, but even in a busy household loneliness can still strike.

If everyone else is at work, school or day-care, you may experience long, solitary periods. There may also be expectations that you are always available to care for grandchildren or the household, leaving you with little time or energy for yourself. Talking about what support you need, and to agreeing on expectations around what support you can provide will help you get best out of living with family.

Things to think about:

Friendships, old and new

  • How will you maintain existing friendships, especially if friends move? Can you budget for out of town trips from time to time?
  • Rekindle old friendships – who could you spend more time with that you haven’t contacted in a while?
  • Be intentional about making new friends. Who do you currently know a little, that you would like to get to know better? What could you do, and where could you go to meet new people?
  • How can your whanau/family and social circle assist you to make new connections?
  • Do you have personal connections of your own beyond your partner or immediate family?

Family relationships

  • Have you talked with your partner/spouse/family about managing life as a solo, and about your expectations of them as you age?
  • If living with extended family, how can you make time for your passions – cooking, church, gardening, exercise etc, as well as helping out at home?
  • Holding on to your independence: Think about one or two things you can do without family support. For example, can you get to your group or church by public transport, or taxi, or by getting a ride from others outside the family?