by Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA

Q: We moved to this area a few years ago so that my husband and I could enjoy time golfing together. Shortly after we arrived, he had stroke and has not been able to golf. We have had a hard time meeting people but would like to stay in the area. How can I get him to get out and socialize?

A. When we are in the prime of life, we create this vision of what we think our retirement years will be like. We make plans and look forward to a new phase of life. People may take up new hobbies, plan more time for travel and/or relocate to desired areas. When a personal or medical crisis changes those plans, it can be very difficult to adjust to a new reality. There is a grieving process that takes place when life doesn’t quite work out the way we thought it would. 

How long ago was your husband’s stroke?  It can take time to regain functionality, so there may still be some improvement. There are physical therapy programs and golf-specific rehabilitation programs available, and that may help him regain some confidence in his game. Even if he tried in the past, maybe it’s time to try again. If he is open to the idea, encourage him and help provide him with the options and resources.

Anxiety, mental capacity or depression could be factors. Because he may have changes to the brain and be grieving the loss of his previous status, it is important that he talk to his medical team about changes in mood or mental function. Perhaps there is something they can offer to help him adjust and cope with the changes. If his team feels he has reached a plateau in recovery, it becomes important to establish the new normal. Perhaps talking with others who have suffered strokes would help. There may be a local support group he can attend or one-on-one counseling. 

Discuss ways the two of you could modify the golf game. Is it possible to play a shorter or easier course? Focus on putting? If the game is causing more frustration than pleasure, it may be time for something new. Try to focus on the positive. You still have the ability to enjoy retirement together, and you want to remain in the area. Make a list of things to do in the community. Look for community calendars and social media or print publications that highlight local events and activities. If he is resistant to getting out and trying new things, consider making a list of 3 options and asking him to choose one. Start simple: a movie, dinner out, community concern, or having another couple over for coffee. 

Social connections are important, but understand it may take him time. Keep encouraging him and choose activities that will set him up for success. Observe how he responds in different settings and what may be causing frustration or creating specific challenges for him. Set up a calendar and build activity into the routine. He needs to experience independence and success, so continue to motivate him. Lastly, recognize your own feelings. The stroke changed his life, but it also changed yours. Recognize your own grieving and find an outlet to deal with those emotions. Change is difficult and life seldom goes as planned, but together you can find new ways to embrace retirement. 

Readers may send questions to Amy Natt, an Aging Life Care ProfessionalTM, certified senior advisor and CEO of Aging Outreach Services. She can be reached at amyn@agingoutreachservices.com .