How to Embrace Retirement with a New Sense of Purpose

Posted by martin.parnell |

The New Year is a time to look to the future and many of us will be setting new goals, personally or professionally. We will look forward to the challenges they will bring, despite the trepidation we may feel. For others, it may be the year when they are looking to leave the workplace and face another kind of challenge, the one of being a retiree.

To call it a challenge, may seem like an odd turn of phrase.  To some, not having to go to work every day may have the appeal of an extended vacation, all the time in the world to do exactly as you please, not be accountable to anyone, not to have to face that daily commute.

Of course, that’s all true, but there are other aspects to retirement that should be planned for, if you want it to be beneficial to both your physical and mental well-being.

It may sound great to have all that time to do as you please and you may see it as gaining your freedom. But what about when the “holiday” feeling has passed and your days stretch before you, waiting to be filled?

What about the things you lose? You will no longer have a schedule, no colleagues to bounce ideas off, perhaps your social life is diminished or you have less money to do the things you’d like to do.

Preparing for retirement is not an easy thing to do. None of us knows how it’s going to affect us, but it is something we should all consider before that “last day” arrives.

One thing you can do is to carry on a practice you will have used in the workplace i.e. set yourself goals. This will entail using strategies such as scheduling, budgeting and time management.

Even if you have a partner, you can feel somewhat isolated, especially if they are still working or have pre-established routines, some of which may not include you.  Of course this is an opportunity to share activities, but your partner may feel this is something of an intrusion. These are things worth discussing.

If your partner is still working, his can be a bone of contention. They will still be carrying on as usual, whilst you now have your freedom from work. Be supportive, look for opportunities to help them in as many ways as you can. Are there chores you can take over? Can you help them with their work. If your partner is running a business offer to do some volunteering in that business to help out when the pressure’s on.

Speaking of volunteering. Look for ways to support your community. Volunteer for the local food bank, see if your local senior’s home could do with some help.

 I  heard a wonderful story, on CBC radio, just thetheir day, about Betty Wilson, who goes into Belvedere Park School, Calgary, every Thursday, to read with the children. Betty will be 101, next month.

Retirees can often experience a feeling of loneliness and isolation, which is not good for their mental health. Volunteering, or finding a part time job, has the added benefit of being connected to other people. 

Volunteering will provide sense of purpose a person can feel by committing to charitable causes. It’s not only going to boost your psychological well-being, but it could improve your cardiovascular health and lower the risk of hypertension, too.

Studies show that seniors who incorporate a low to medium level of volunteering in their life report more satisfaction with life and fewer symptoms of depression than those who didn’t volunteer.

There are also organisations, such as Rotary, that offer friendship, connections and the chance to get involved in projects that benefit your community.

If you have an existing hobby or find you now have the time to start one, why not look for local groups that focus on that activity. Join a class and try something new, most community libraries can tell you where to find out about these things and many will provide workshops, talks, book readings etc. and are sometimes free to attend, especially helpful if your budget is now somewhat limited.

It’s also important to keep active. Look at the opportunities around you. Explore your local area by taking walks; join your local sports center or YMCA. Dig out your swimming gear or invest in a pair of snowshoes. Look for activities that are free or inexpensive, so that you do them more regularly.

Retirement can be a challenge, if you’re not prepared. You may feel a loss of identity or self-worth. But, perhaps if you consider some of the things I’ve mentioned, it may not seem so daunting and will provide you with the opportunity to experience new thing, find a purpose and lead to many years, feeling fulfilled and happy in this new phase of your life.

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