Moving to a new home in a retirement community is both an exciting and nerve-wracking time – you’ll probably be leaving the home you’ve lived in for some time, which you might think would mean leaving your support networks behind as well.

Don’t fret, however: as Anna Learmonth, former GM at Stockland Retirement Living, said on The Donaldson Sisters radio show a few years ago, coming to a village brings a whole new sense of community to your life.

“While people come and find new friends, they don’t lose their old friends.

“They stay connected with the community they are already in; they create new friends and have this support which gives them a real peace of mind.

“What we encourage people to do is talk to friends and family and of course, go and visit [a village],” she said.

In fact, according to research led by UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), forming strong community links can help keep your brain active and healthy.

“We found that sharing a home with one or more person, and weekly community group engagement had the most robust results across studies, indicating these factors are fundamental components in the link with less cognitive decline,” says study co-author and CHeBA co-director Professor Henry Brodaty.

“We also identified an association between never feeling lonely and a slower rate of cognitive decline. Through research such as this we are able to develop and implement societal shifts to reduce risk of memory decline and dementia.”

So what are the best ways to cultivate strong friendships in your new community? Here are some tips:

  • Join a group: This can be a hobby group, a community group like Lions or Rotary, a sporting club or RSL, or just a group of friends who get together for tea or a barbecue every weekend. Look at local message boards – be they online, at the shops, or in your retirement community – to see who and what is out there.

  • Volunteer: After you retire, you’ll probably have plenty of time on your hands – and donating it to a worthy cause is a great way not only to do good and feel good, but to meet good people, too.

  • Go on a group holiday: There are plenty of companies out there offering tours for retirees – you’ll get to visit new and exciting places, and have the opportunity to bond with your fellow travellers over life-changing experiences on the way.

  • Have a housewarming: Invite some of your old friends over, and see who else in your new community might be eager to come and welcome you in. Perhaps even try a potluck, if you want to figure out which of your new friends are good cooks…