It’s one of the most popular water cooler conversations — what will you do when you retire? People who are in the midst of their careers with countless more 9-to-5 shifts ahead of them love to dream of the possibilities. They imagine all of the free time they’ll have to spend doing the things they love most, leaving the stresses and responsibilities of the daily grind behind. So why, when the time comes, do so many people struggle with retirement?
Was there ever a day in your life you weren’t working toward something or felt that your life had purpose? When we’re young, we spend our time learning how to live and take care of ourselves. From the time we’re 5 years old, we develop a schedule that revolves around attending school. Upon graduation, we decide what we want to do with our lives and begin taking steps to accomplish those goals. Some days are more productive than others, but overall, we wake up every day with a sense of purpose and direction. For many of us, working is not only a means of ensuring financial security, it also provides a sense of personal fulfillment and usefulness.
it’s important to discover new ways to fill your life with joy and meaning. Whether it’s adopting a pet, volunteering at a community center, participating in local government or getting a part-time job at the local library, those approaching retirement need to make a plan for ways to spend their days. The key is to find activities that occur on a regular basis and offer the same sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that work used to provide.
When people meet each other for the first time, one of the first questions they ask each other is what they do for work. It’s a source of pride, identity and what we spent most of our daily efforts working toward. Taking away that sense of self-worth without leaving something of equal value in its place can leave people with an overwhelming sense of loss and depression. This leads to an increase in daily stress and anxiety.
Depression can also be brought on by the lack of social interaction associated with retirement. Work provides people with built-in social circles and common bonds. When those relationships are harder to maintain or no longer exist, it can leave people feeling lonely and isolated, especially if their new routine involves a quiet, empty household. In addition, those who struggle to maintain social lives are at risk for more rapid cognitive decline.
Humans are naturally social beings, and maintaining relationships are vital to our overall health and well-being. As you approach retirement, think about the ways to maintain or forge new connections with people. Make weekly lunch dates or plans to meet up at the park for a walk. Get involved in activities taking place in the community or pick up a new hobby. You may even consider moving closer to family, which offers an array of benefits that help combat retirement woes.
Cognitive decline also can be brought on by a decrease in mental stimulus, which is common among recent retirees. Think about it. Regardless of what your job entailed, you had daily responsibilities, managed a workload and solved problems. Without those regular brain boosters, it’s more important than ever before to think about ways to keep your mind sharp. Exercising the brain is vital to combatting the onset of memory problems and conditions such as dementia and Alzhiemer’s disease.
From learning a new skill to working on a puzzle, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule and socializing, there are a variety of ways to keep your mind active. One of the best ways to exercise your brain is to read a new book, which helps you think creatively and absorb new information. Check out our list of 11 Must-Reads for the 55+ Book Lovers
For the most part, work dictates people’s schedules, helping them decide when to wake up, eat, exercise, engage in personal activities and sleep. Without that foundation, people find themselves struggling to organize their time. Maintaining a daily routine is important for older adults, as it helps reduce stress and anxiety, enhances feelings of safety and security and improves sleep.
Set yourself up for success by considering what your new daily routine will look like before you retire. This will give you time to consider your plan and make adjustments before it becomes your new reality. Although you’ll have more flexibility than you did before, you can still start and end your day and plan your meals at the same time to help ease yourself into retirement and maintain a schedule that is familiar to you. Those who establish a daily routine experience lower stress levels, are more committed to their mental and physical health and adapt more easily to change.
People who dream of retirement often have big plans — taking a luxurious vacation, building a pool or planning an addition to the house. When the time comes, those facing retirement often have the opposite reaction. Instead of splurging on something to celebrate their newfound freedom, they find themselves stressed over the change to their financial situation. Even those who have set themselves for success find it difficult to cope with the idea of living on a limited income, especially with the potential for people to outlive their current savings and ever-growing medical expenses.
When it comes to managing your new financial situation, planning ahead will do wonders for your stress levels. Meet with a financial adviser to assess your current situation and determine how much you’ll need in retirement. Also consider a living situation that allows you to avoid unforeseen home maintenance costs and consolidates all of your monthly bills into one payment, allowing you to manage your finances more easily and avoid surprises.
At Upside, we believe in elevating the quality of life for older adults. That means helping to remove the barriers that prevent you from living a stress-free life on your terms. Our Upside Managers aren’t landlords. They are trained caregivers who are available to help you manage your health, well-being, finances, social engagement and anything else that is holding you back from settling into true happiness.