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How to Dodge Social Isolation in Retirement

May 17, 2024

Loneliness is a real and painful risk as we get older. We lose a spouse, miss our far-away children and grandchildren, and lose touch with friends who have moved away or slipped into poor health.

Being an older adult with ADHD is a double whammy. In addition to older-age loneliness, we struggle with maintaining old friendships and making new friends in our later years. Building and maintaining relationships requires skills that are often impaired by ADHD — initiating contact, making and noting plans on a calendar, and showing up on time. Many older people with ADHD have told me, “I talk too much,” or “I annoy everyone by interrupting, but if I don’t interrupt, I’ll forget what I wanted to say.”

What can we, as older adults with ADHD, do to fight the looming loneliness of our 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond? Think structure, strategies, and support.

[Self-Test: How Severe Is Your Loneliness? Take This Quiz]

Prevent Loneliness with Structure, Strategies, and Support

  • Find an environment with structure. Adults with ADHD function best within structure. Consider moving to a community that plans activities designed for older adults. You won’t need to organize anything, and no one will be upset if you run a few minutes late. Some senior centers also provide many of the same kinds of planned activities.
  • Develop strategies to keep in touch with people. I often encourage older adults with ADHD to make it a daily habit to reach out to a friend or relative. Send a text, message friends on social media, or make a phone call. Set up a daily walk with a neighbor. It will keep you socially connected and provide exercise and exposure to nature and sunshine.
  • Interact with other neurodivergent people your age. Socializing with a group of people who get and accept you can be emotionally supportive and validating. It may also improve your mood and decrease your social anxiety.
  • Need help making changes and decisions that will help you re-establish ties with friends and family? Working briefly with an ADHD coach or therapist may be the catalyst you need to reconnect with your social world.

How to Deal with Loneliness: Next Steps

Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., is the author of Still Distracted After All These Years. (#CommissionsEarned)

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