Relating in Retirement
We are profoundly shaped by our social world, to the extent that it can make or break us. Perhaps this is because we are the supreme social animal, doing all the things that other social animals do (e.g. cooperating over food and our collective safety), but outdoing them in terms of our commitment to and capacity for “social learning” through observing and imitating other humans. More decisively, we outdo other animals in relation to the extent and nature of human society. The word “society” refers to having colleagues, friends, and allies, people who are joined in civil association, based on organizations from nationhood to sports clubs. Key features are mutual dependence (as it is useful and efficient), a shared identity (including a shared language), complex (hierarchical) organization, and solidarity. If you doubt our unique social status, the complex nature of our social world is illustrated in a well-known book, The Social Animal by American Elliot Aronson.1 This takes a social psychology perspective on humans, considering terrorism, conformity, obedience, politics, race relations, advertising, war, interpersonal attraction, and religious cults.
Social support is therefore critical to thriving, as indicated by occurrences when it is disrupted. When researchers at St Andrews University in Scotland studied the records of over 50,000 married couples in 2010, they noted that 40 percent of men and 26 percent of women die within three years of their partner. ...