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Help! I got laid off and I don’t know what to do with myself

Q. I am female, age 67, and was laid off in December 2021 after years as vice-president in a large company. I am at a loss of what to join. Any suggestions? S.J.

Thank you for asking a question that recognizes the importance of connections. So often one’s work is more than just work. It is a source of relationships and even work-based friendships. When we leave the workplace, those associations often disappear, even though we may hear, “Let’s make sure to stay in touch.” Often that does not happen.

Here’s a stunning finding that supports joining a group in retirement. According to a study conducted by Niklas K. Steffens and colleagues at the University of Queensland, Australia, membership in a social group in retirement is associated with a reduced risk of premature deaths. The study was conducted six years after participants retired. Researchers concluded, “The effect of social group memberships on mortality was comparable to that of physical exercise.” Being part of a group cannot only be stimulating, affirming and fun, it also may relate to more years of life.

The following groups are a small sample of group opportunities.

Fitness: SilverSneakers offers Medicare recipients free access to their fitness programs in over 16,000 gym locations as well as parks, recreational centers and clubs. Classes are offered for all fitness levels. To stay motivated, you might have a fitness buddy that can help you stay on track to reach your fitness goals. See For both physical and mental fitness, consider groups for yoga, tai chi, meditation, pickle ball and more.

Learning: GetSetUp, founded in 2019 and based in San Francisco, is an online community of people who want to learn new skills, connect with others and unlock new life experiences. They offer 4,000 free classes or about 500 classes a week in about 160 countries – 24 hours a day – with an astounding 4.6 million learners. GetSetUp also has about 100 community members who host weekly classes as well as provide feedback for marketing and testing new activities. Some classes are skills-based; others are fun classes on fitness, meditation, cooking, decluttering, drawing, business topics, and other enrichment or socialization activities. A recent addition is a cookbook project where community members submit recipes and then show other learners how to make them – live.

Roads Scholar is another good learning example, combining a passion for travel and love of learning. This nonprofit organization is directed to baby boomers and those older, offering 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and in all states. It also offers grandparent trips where your grandchildren join you in the adventures. Financial aid is offered on a needed basis.

Then there is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI) that offer 125 programs on university and college campuses across the country. Annual memberships vary. Check for one in your area.

Giving back: Elders Action Network is a movement of thousands of vital older adults from 50 states and several countries that are taking action to make our world a better place for grandchildren and future generations. They address climate change, democracy, social injustice and work nationally to affect federal policy and legislation as well as explore new potentials and practices for regenerative living. Their work is accomplished through chapters, courses, community conversations and team meetings.

Eldera is a new global intergenerational mentoring program for wisdom sharing; it’s a global virtual village where generations come to connect and learn from each other, having fun while creating a better future. Eldera pairs mentors aged 60 and older with children ages 5-18 from 22 countries with over 2000 participants. Children connect to vetted mentors who share their stories, experience and wisdom. The children benefit from the art of conversation, listening, collaboration and empathy skills as they get undivided attention. Older adults benefit from a sense of purpose and community. The founders call Eldera a virtual village with a real soul. See

Something new. You might want to explore something new such as birdwatching with the Audubon Society, garden clubs where you can get your hands dirty and marvel at new blooms, book clubs to exchange ideas about books of interest. AARP, a nonprofit membership advocacy organization offers educational programs, organized activities and local chapter events. See

In choosing some groups, consider three questions: What am I curious about? What excites me? What have I always wanted to know or do but never had the opportunity? Then take a few risks, participate and enjoy.

Thank you S.J. for your good question. Embrace this time of choices and new experiences. Stay well and be good to yourself and others.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Visit Helen at and follow her on


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