Recently I met a lovely 75-year-old gentleman who retired several years ago. I will call him Tim.
As Tim and I talked about his life, I came to understand he had a very small social network. Tim’s day consisted of a lot of television watching and “some puttering around” with his tools.
While Tim did not say that he was lonely, he did say that he probably needed to do something besides watch TV but he really wasn’t motivated to do so.
I began to think there must be a lot of people like Tim in our community, lacking the benefits of a strong social network while at the same time feeling unmotivated or unsure of how to cultivate one, especially after retirement.
For the past decade , the United Kingdom has been studying this dynamic in older men and see it as a looming crisis. They found that many older men have low levels of contact with their family and friends, and older men are less likely to engage in projects aimed to tackle social isolation and loneliness.
They concluded that men approaching later life need to make a concerted effort to retain and build their social networks— including friends, family and interest groups.
In the 1990s in Australia, the Men’s Shed was created as a productive place for older men to get together, work on projects and make friends. There are now over 2,000 Men’s Sheds worldwide in 10 countries.
Members can choose activities that include building things for themselves and others, taking part in community service projects or other volunteer opportunities. Right now, there are 12 Men’s Sheds in the United States. There are none in California, but hopefully that will change.
If you are interested in starting one in our community, you can learn more at usmenssheds.org/what-is-mens-shed.
In the meantime, there are some local options where men can build social networks.
Service groups like Rotary and Kiwanis offer opportunities like community service, making new friends with a variety of interests, listening to speakers and engaging in social activities and business networking. These organizations are not male exclusive, and they require annual dues, but they do great work and help to build a strong social network among their members.
Active adult centers like Goebel Adult Community Center in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley Senior Center and Agoura Hills Recreation and Event Center offer classes, special events, excursions and drop-in programs for senior adults. At Goebel, there are two men’s discussion groups: one meets from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and the second from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays (no meeting the fourth Wednesday of the month).
The Westlakers is a men’s only group limited to those who work or live within Westlake Village boundaries. Learn about them at www.westlakers.org.
I see several smaller informal men’s groups meeting at coffee shops around the area.
Places of worship often have men’s groups that meet regularly. Special interest groups also exist in our community for those that enjoy golf, pickleball or classic cars, for example.
And of course, if you are a gentleman interested in engaging in purposeful activities, Senior Concerns has a variety of volunteer opportunities to consider.
The challenge for those looking to join a group is that many are not advertised. And if a person is less motivated to build their social network, this is just one more obstacle in doing so.