NEW WRINKLES: How to be a social butterfly if you’re more of a hermit crab

An estimated 11,500 people 65 and older pour into Sarasota County every year, maybe knowing one or two friends or family members before they arrive on our sandy shore.

So I thought it was a smart move by the Ringling College Lifelong Learning Academy to include a session on networking at its recent Boomer Conference. It’s one thing to say that a social life keeps us healthier and happier; it’s quite another to go out and find one.

And I also thought it was interesting that when speaker Andrea R. Nierenberg asked the 30 or so participants how many of them were new to the area, only a few hands went up. When she asked how many had lived here more than five years, a few hands went up again. This meant that most people in the audience — who had come to the workshop for help figuring out what their retirement years would look and feel like — were in that nebulous zone of Florida residence, where the novelty of cottony air and friendly egrets has worn off, but somehow it still doesn’t yet feel like home.

And for some retirees who don’t get out there and make some personal connections, it never really does.

Nierenberg — as a three-year resident, in that nebulous zone herself — is a networking consultant from New York who has written five books on the subject. Creating a network of friends and supporters, she told the group, “is common sense — just not always common practice.” In retirement, without a workplace to provide automatic structure and connections, she suggested that it helps to think of the process as “netfriending.”


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