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Study: Male Retirees Bond Over Coffee

 

New research finds that older men's well-being improves when they engage in leisure activities, such as coffee groups.

Researchers led by Katherine Broughton from Western Illinois University, (Moline, Ill., U.S.A.), observed participants during a six-month period at two locations – a senior centre and a McDonald's restaurant – in a midwestern U.S. city. They also conducted in-depth interviews with 14 retirees, who attended the groups. Participants ranged in age from 64 to 93.

The findings, published in Leisure Sciences (Vol. 39, No. 3, 2017), give unique insight into how male retirees use social leisure experiences, such as coffee groups, to socialize, enhance their well-being and foster friendship.

Social engagement

Studies have shown that the period following retirement can be a time of far-reaching change in a person's life. Routines of everyday life are disrupted, and the externally imposed structure of life in the workplace and the social camaraderie are lost.

Coffee groups offer men a leisure activity that replaces work by providing a sense of routine. As one participant remarked, "It is a good start to the day and it becomes a habit pretty easily . . . It's kind of a substitution for going to work."

According to Broughton, some men arrived up to 60 minutes early for the coffee hour. And some stayed later and socialized outside of the group either with the receptionist at the senior centre or with other customers at McDonald's.

Aware of the importance of keeping mentally active, participants tout opportunities for wide-ranging conversations in the groups, spanning politics to world events to hobbies.

Emotional Outlet

Coffee groups offer men a supportive environment to express their thoughts and feelings.

As one participant put it:

The good side is, I think it is great to have a group of people and it's enjoyable and gives you a release for your emotions. You know, we cover such a huge variety of topics and everything, so that is good.

Significantly, the study found men were comfortable discussing personal issues, such as health concerns, with each other. Don, who was considering surgery after he hurt his knee, was able to discuss the procedure with another coffee group member, who had similar surgery. The discussion clarified things for Don and helped calm his anxieties.

Also, coffee group members supported each other in times of stress. For example, when Steve lost his wife of 62 years after a long illness, a buddy offered him support and friendship. Furthermore, the coffee group provided a place where Steve felt comfortable sharing his emotions and could reminisce about times he had with his wife.

Sense of belonging

In addition to an emotional outlet and a venue for socializing, the men valued the coffee hour because it provided a sense of belonging.

"Just being around friends and sitting down here talking and listening, it makes a big difference," one participant said.

Once the men arrived in the morning at the restaurant or the senior centre, they greeted each other with handshakes and sometimes with a handshake and arm on the shoulder. For the next 90 minutes or so, the men laughed, joked and teased each other, forging bonds of community and fostering feelings of connectedness and belonging.

Notably, the research found that most of the participants expanded their social networks through meeting new friends in the groups after retirement.