Was the pandemic a preview of your retirement? A solo ager discovers the fragility of her social network

<div id=”js-article__body” itemprop=”articleBody” data-sbid=”WP-MKTW-0000219751″>

This article has been reprinted with permission from NextAvenue.org. When we first entered the confinement, I remember the fear in people’s voices as we dealt with our sudden loss of freedom and the anxiety over the possibility of losing loved ones. Little by little, my own fear was replaced by monotony, punctuated with minor inconveniences.

I am 62 years old, I am still employed as a civil servant and I live alone. Masking, hand washing, and sanitizing have become stylized rituals, easy to reverse. If anything has permanently changed, it is my perspective on my own social life. In earlier times, regular interactions with coworkers, neighbors, friends, and some family members kept me from feeling the sting of loneliness. I scoffed at the occasional allusions to my being perhaps a little too self-reliant. I like my own company, and although I don’t advertise it, I often look forward to long weekends and vacations to satisfy my introverted need to recharge my battery. But even for me, a year of alone time has been challenging. See also: Whether you’re 55 or 25, do this to secure your future Social Security benefits. I’ve learned how important even people you don’t know well can become when there’s a crisis. Just noticing one of the regulars in my landscape can give me a boost, like the street kid who works in a costume shop. For several years, I occasionally saw him standing by his car, smoking one last cigarette before going to work, dressed in a different character each time (a hen, a vampire). I used to shake my head in shame for him. Now I feel strangely understanding and it also reassures me that there is still some normalcy in the world because apparently he has not lost his job. Or that young woman who moved into the unit down the hall she used to think of as a nuisance, with her silly invitations to join her for a margarita on Friday afternoons. Your kindness has been a lifesaver for me in the past year. Without the noise of the usual fuss to distract me, I have become painfully aware, and frankly terrified, of how thin and fragile my social network really is. It depends too much on too few people. I catch myself trying to predict what it will be like when my work is in the rearview, more family members pass away, and friends move to be close to their children. Will my life turn into an endless weekend of watching TV, reading, emailing, an occasional Zoom ZM, a -2.03% call, projects at home… sort of like, uh, now? As I write this, I knock on wood, I have been able to make the necessary adjustments to keep my life running, and no one close to me has gotten sick or lost their job. Even luckier may be this unpleasant advance on retirement. Read Next: Live Positive, Age Positive: The Secret To Wealth And Health As You Age Thanks to the pandemic, I found my next mission, which is to build some redundancy in my support system, starting NOW. I hope my next presentation will be about that process and how I am managing to save my own life. Author Cindy Andersen: I am a 62 year old woman, long divorced, still employed full time. Two fat cats let me live with them in a condo near downtown Denver. I plan to retire in 8-10 years and until then I have to fit into a social life, including the occasional dating, around my job writing contracts for the federal government. This essay is part of Telling Our Stories: Reflections on the Pandemic. We invited readers to share their experiences from the past year and selected 12 essays for publication on Next Avenue. Read the entire collection. This article has been reprinted with permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved. More from Next Avenue: