What first comes to mind when most of us hear the word retirement? For me, it has always been “not working anymore,” and “having enough money to live on.”
Indeed, when most people refer to planning their retirement, they are talking about getting their funds in order — figuring how much money they will need in the years to come — and if it is in fact feasible for them to stop working when they would like to.
And there is no question that these are important things — some might say the most important things — to consider when entering this period of life.
Money, however, is definitely not the only issue to be considered. While good financial health is essential for retirement, let’s not overlook the importance of other aspects of our lives — mainly our physical and mental health.
If we are fortunate enough to have reached retirement age (which these days is quite variable) in relatively good physical health, we need to be sure to do everything we can to maintain our healthy bodies. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and visit our healthcare providers as necessary.
But what about our mental health? Retirement, indeed any transition in life, comes with its share of changes and adjustments. Again, if we have been lucky enough to enjoy good mental health throughout our lives, we want to continue along that path. And if we have previously struggled with a brain disorder we want to be sure that this life transition doesn’t exacerbate our illness or illnesses.
So how do we ensure a smooth transition? I believe we need to spend just as much time thinking about what we need and want from our retirement as we spend planning for it financially. While each person’s needs will likely differ, there are some general areas that deserve close consideration:
- Maintaining social connections. For many people, the work environment involves socializing, friendships, and camaraderie. When this is lost, it needs to be replaced with other ways to connect with people, whether through a part-time job, clubs, or any type of organized social activities. If you are already blessed with a plethora of friends, then it is important to make the effort to maintain those friendships as much as possible. Loneliness is an all too common issue for older people, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Staying active. Whether it’s organized sports or activities, or taking long walks on your own, it’s important to keep moving. Walking, particularly in nature, has been shown to stave off depression. Gardening, tennis, golf, bowling, anything!
- Use your now freed-up schedule to try something new. Getting stuck in a rut is not a good thing at any phase of our lives. Always wanted to kayak? Give it a try! It’s also a great way to expand social connections. Have the ways and means to do some traveling? Go for it! Getting out of our comfort zones and into a new environment can do us good as well as spark new interests.
- Stay true to your values. If you’re a compassionate person, for example, think about volunteering at an animal shelter. This not only allows you to immerse yourself in your passion, it keeps you active and allows you to meet new people. The choices are endless — think about what brings you joy and fulfillment and then pursue it.
- If you are fortunate enough to be in a committed relationship with someone, make sure to communicate openly about any issues that might arise as you (or both of you) transition to retirement. You are lucky to have each other, but even if you’ve been married “forever,” partnerships continually take work!
As someone who has worked hard to embrace mindfulness and living in the moment, it hasn’t been easy to even think about, let alone plan, retirement. It won’t be for a while, but I’ll certainly try to follow my own advice!