They talk about the ‘darker side of retirement’. This occurs when we neglect to plan for our retirement lifestyle – all aspects of our life, not just the financial – resulting in a meaningless, socially isolated life which can spiral into depression and early aging. Research is finding that the risk of depression in retirement is on the increase. We are seeing that the ‘sugar-olrush’ of well-being and life satisfaction directly after retirement is giving way to a sharp decline and parallel increase in depression a few years later.
As a retirement coach, I believe that a meaningful, relevant retirement is the key to averting depression. I, therefore, spend time in coaching, helping people find their purpose. From my observations, I have collated 7 strategies that I feel will help ensure you are not headed for the darker side of retirement
- Replace the structure and routine of work
For many years, Monday through Friday, your employment provided your life with structure and routine. Without this, your life will meander aimlessly. Structure adds certainty, security and predictability to our lives.
This could include your fitness regime, a regular coffee meeting with friends, or lawn bowls at specified times. Or it could include a part-time job, volunteering or mentoring within an organization.
- Keep learning new things
Because we are no longer being challenged by our working environment and we no longer consider ourselves students, we tend to get stuck in what we know. Learning something new – it doesn’t have to be a degree or certification course – lends a level of challenge, variety and excitement to our lives. In addition, learning something new each day has been proven to stave off dementia.
The internet has made this so easy that we have no excuse. There are not only formal and informal courses on the web, but you can simply surf and watch interesting video’s, find fascinating blogs, read newsletters sent to your inbox, watch educational documentaries, all at the click of a button.
- Find your new identity
For years, who you are has been pinned to your job title. In retirement, this title will be left behind on the door of your office. It is important to find a new identity. Think about how you would catch up with a school friend, as you travel between floors in an elevator. In a nutshell, tell them what you are up to in retirement and who you are these days!! This will help you define who you are now without a job title.
- Join groups that give you a sense of belonging
We felt we belonged at work because we all spoke the same jargon and were involved in the same office politics. That sense of belonging is important for us to have a sense of love and connection. Where will you find this in retirement?
Many will get it within their family groups. But sometimes it is good to step outside of that comfort zone and meet new people. It could happen when you join a sports club – lawn bowls, tennis or even chess and bridge clubs. If you are going to be involved with a small business or network marketing you will want to build up your support groups and networking contacts. Where will you meet like-minded people?
If we are not growing, we are stagnating or dying. Our education, followed by work ensured that we were growing as we went. Now, none of those pressures will prod you into growing, and you are going to have to look for your own opportunities for growth. We all know of someone who has stagnated and become boring with little to talk about in retirement. Do you want to be like that?
It doesn’t have to be formal education, but read interesting books, get out and meet new and interesting people, watch documentaries on TV or Youtube or teach yourself a new hobby or craft.
As we get older, many of us want to feel we made a mark on the world as we passed through it. Now, as you leave full-time employment you will have more time to give back to society. Whether you register formally to volunteer at a non-profit, or simply mentor a friend or a youngster in your community it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you feel you are making some form of contribution.
- Negotiate your new roles with your partner
Communication is the key here. Many people feel that their relationship has stood the test of time, so it will adapt easily to retirement. Whether one or both of you are retiring, communication is necessary to define new roles and adapt to new lifestyles. Talk about it, or you will wake up retired and find he is planning to go to a warmer climate to play golf and she is planning to help with the grandchildren and the two may well be on opposite ends of the globe.
All of the above work together to give our lives meaning and purpose. I will be discussing this and much more in my online course called “Make Retirement Work for You”