What will stop you enjoying your own retirement?
Retirement is a major change of lifestyle for many. Is it something to look forward to with joy – or filled with new worries and unknown? Here are a few of the reasons those embarking on retirement might struggle, and how to address those issues.
A couple of years ago many of us may have thought that we had our retirement finances organised. Some had even decided to take early retirement, keen to enjoy the benefits of more leisure time and less travelling that they experienced working from home during the pandemic.
The cost of living crisis has changed all that, and those already retired and approaching retirement are having to make some difficult calculations. That has included a drive to go back to work, supported in some cases by employers struggling to find enough staff for a variety of reasons.
If you’re reading this article on When They Get Older, then there’s a good chance that you have already been balancing caregiving for your older relatives and friends with working life. If you’ve retired, it may be tempting to spend more time giving care. This is likely to be particularly true if you live nearby, or if you can’t find or afford professional care when it’s needed. And if you have grandchildren, you may be tempted to add childcare into the mix.
However, if you completely subjugate your own welfare and life enjoyment in favour of caring, the long-term effect could be burnout from caring, where it might once have been work. If you’re not happy and well, the people you care for will be affected. Having a good care/life balance is just as important as having a good work/life balance.
Loss of social interaction
If you’re a ‘chat round the water fountain’ sort of person, then losing that easy interaction with other people throughout the day can be more unsettling than you might expect. Many will have already experienced this during lockdown. The obvious answer is to get back out into the world in other ways. Join clubs, take group exercise, share diy projects in a Men’s Shed, or visit real shops in real high streets. You have the time now to explore new interests at a gentle pace. Volunteering is often advocated, which brings new interactions, but isn’t necessarily right for everyone.
One thing we did notice during lockdown though – not everybody missed social interaction. Those of a more introvert nature might actually be relieved that they can now choose when and for how long they want to have the company of others – and enjoy it more as a result.
Loss of identity and purpose
One day you have a role, responsibilities and an identity that are all associated with your work life. And then those identifiers are not there anymore. If you’re not [insert your role], then who are you? Apart from being someone else’s partner/parent/child/friend?
It can be tricky to find a new way of looking at yourself positively once you’ve lost that work label. It’s not surprising to feel a little lost for a while, and possibly bored, until you’ve established your post-retirement self and what you want to achieve and enjoy in your new life.
I have found that supporting the older members of my family have made me more alert to the health issues that could be down the road for me. And already I am feeling new aches and pains, and find my GP surgery is pursuing me to take all sorts of preventative health measures. I do however actually welcome the proactive approach to testing for later-life issues, which can take some worries away. There’s also a wealth of advice available (some contradictory admittedly) about how to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible in retirement years.
Retirement means there is more time to exercise, which is said to be good for your body and mind.
You may not want to take up wakeboarding, but watersports are really popular now with all age groups, so you could take a look at rowing (indoor or out), paddleboarding or wild swimming.
Half an hour a day spent walking at a reasonable pace is said to have huge health benefits. Slower activities such as yoga, pilates and tai chi can all help with maintaining strength and balance.
Eating healthily is advocated throughout our lives, and retirement can bring the opportunity to learn new cooking skills, of that appeals. If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, or any other chronic condition, you’ve probably been given advice on your diet already.
For most people it’s suggested that low saturated fat, low sugar and low salt, for example, will benefit our bodies at any stage in our lives.
Sleep can be an issue too. As we get older we probably don’t need as much sleep, which is just as well as our nights can be disturbed more often. Sleeping pills seem to be a possible answer, but sleeping pill addiction is a worry in the long term.
Should we nap in the day instead? This is a surprisingly controversial question. On the one hand, it’s argued that it will be even harder to sleep at night if you nap after lunch. On the other hand, it’s said that a short day-time nap can improve your mood, reduce fatigue and boost creativity and problem-solving skills.
It’s much more clearly recognised now that mental health is as important as physical health. If you are feeling anxious or are finding that retirement is a depressing lifestyle, then there are self-help steps you can take. If those don’t help, it’s important to ask for professional support.
Recent years have seen reports of a growing number of older people becoming dependent on alcohol. That’s not good at any age, but alcohol abuse can be harder on older bodies.
Retirement can take some getting used to. The advice offered by the experts is to not expect too much of yourself from day one. Discover what you enjoy, and with whom you want to enjoy it. Care for others, but care for yourself too. And try not to be disappointed if the retirement you thought you wanted is not the one that you are able to experience.
This article’s author is Kathy Lawrence, writer and editor at When They Get Older
Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash