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:
- Make a list of your abilities and skills. Your work experiences may help you succeed in a small business or do valuable volunteer work for a favourite charity.
- Renew your interest in the hobbies and activities you enjoy. You now have time to play – enjoy!
- If you can afford it, consider travel. There are probably places you have wanted to see all your life. The early years of your retirement can be the ideal time to become a nomad for a while.
- Stay socially connected in whatever way works for you.
- Review your finances and living costs for the peace of mind that you can sustain your living needs. Get help from someone to plan if needed.
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.
- Try to make friends with people of different ages. You may be pleasantly surprised to find how much you have in common!
- Spend time with grandchildren or other young family members.
- Volunteer to help part-time in a local school or day-care centre. Very young children can brighten up your life with their enthusiasm and energy.
- Learn to recognize and deal with the signs of depression. Your family doctor can refer you to a mental health professional for treatment if needed.
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:
- Accommodate to your physical changes. Get the things that will help you – eyeglasses or hearing aids for example.
- Keep a positive attitude. Chances are you will still be able to do almost all the things you used to; you may just need to take a little more time and learn to pace yourself.
- See your family doctor or health and wellness providers regularly.
- Be careful about your medications, they may begin to effect you differently than before. Make sure your doctor and health care providers know about all your medications. Keep an up to date list in your wallet.
- Take responsibility for your own health. Do not hesitate to ask your health provider questions.
- Adopt a balanced nutritious diet, and try not to over-eat.
- Drink less alcohol. Your body will have more difficulty coping with it as you grow older.
- Regular exercise and physical activity can be both healthy and enjoyable like walking, swimming, dance classes etc.
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.
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.
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