Mental Health Minute

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Aging & Retirement:

Retirement can be a time of freedom and reward after a lengthy career of service. For many it’s a chance to get to things they’ve always wanted to and finally are able. Most people live active fulfilling lives in their retirement years. But it’s also a time of change that can catch some people off guard. At first, the time away from work can be a relief, like an extended vacation. But retirement may mean a loss of your work role and authority, and you no longer have the routine of getting up and going in to the social atmosphere of most workplaces. With time you may feel unproductive with no purpose or contribution from yourself. Some people start to feel like they’ve gone from a somebody to a nobody without a job or work to help define them. And it’s easy to get isolated from social contacts. With time, this can be unhealthy for your mental and physical health.

It’s best to think ahead and prepare for the changes. Before retiring think of activities you enjoy or find meaningful. Participating in these social activities before you retire can ease the transition and give you a network to tap in to later on if you choose. Find interests and activities that stimulate you and give you a sense of purpose and make you feel you’re contributing to the world in some way. And try to stay connected to social networks and community. For some people this is more time with family. For others it’s volunteer work, or involvement in their spiritual organizations. Some people feel they want to be productive by starting a new business, or contribute to the next generation with their time and experience.

Despite the ads for Freedom 55 describing retirement as the best time of your life, growing older is not something everyone looks forward to. As we age, we face many changes and sources of stress – we are not as strong as we used to be, illness is more of a problem, children move away from home, we retire from work, and we may become lonely.

These changes may contribute to an increased level of sadness and sometimes clinical depression. In Canada, about 6% of the over-65 age group suffers mild to severe depression. Retirement and isolation also increases the risks for developing problems with alcohol.

Coping with all these changes is difficult, but it can be done, and your retirement years can become some of your best!

Dealing with retirement

Retirement can be a major source of stress because your job may have been a very important part of your life. This stress may be even greater if you have been forced to retire because of your employer’s retirement policies. You may lose your sense of identity and feel worthless. You will probably miss the daily contact with friends from work.

However, retirement does not have to be a sad time, and there are things you can do to meet the challenges facing you, such as:

Dealing with loneliness

Everyone needs some time alone, but being alone against your will is very painful. You risk losing your sense of purpose and self-worth. Being retired changes your social life but there are things to do to avoid loneliness:

Stay active, and look for new social contacts. Most communities have a number of programs.

Staying Physically Healthy

The physical changes you undergo throughout your retirement years can also be a source of stress. Here are some things you can do to stay as physically active and fit as possible:

Although your body and lifestyle are changing, your personality remains the same. You are still you! Remaining active and with a positive outlook can allow for many more years of enjoying life.

More information

For further information about retirement and aging contact a community organization, health care provider or your family doctor to find out about support and resources available in your community.

Related Web Sites:

To be advised at a later date

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