Last weekend I was invited to speak at a church in my local neighbourhood. I use their facilities for my workshops. Not sure what age the group would be, I decided to talk on restoring balance in your life after retirement. In the question time, someone asked me if it is OK to simply feel you want to sit and watch the sea after you leave work. When I discovered he retired at the beginning of this year, I referred to Robert Atchley’s 6 phases of retirement. You can read more in my book .
Robert Atchley’s Phases of Retirement
The first phase is the pre-retirement preparation and then comes the big day when it all happens. Atchley describes 3 very different reactions immediate following on retirement:
- The ‘honeymoon’ – when you get to enjoy the feeling of ‘being on holiday’ with no more work stresses and pressures. People on this route may start working through their travel bucket list or catch up on leisure and social activities they had no time for when working.
- The ‘rest and relaxation’ path – after 40 years of work some feel they have earned a protracted break in order to unwind and relax.
- The ‘immediate retirement routine’ – for those who have done their planning beforehand and the new life is ready and waiting for them to slip into.
Atchley’s third phase of retirement is the ‘Phase of Disenchantment’. For me, this is a crucial issue. Many might simply spend one evening contemplating the fact that they are moving into the last phase of their lives, but it is fleeting. It is when this phase of disenchantment becomes protracted and spirals slowly down into a depression that it becomes a problem.
The Risk of Depression is Great
So when might this happen? When the period of rest and relaxation becomes so drawn out that the retiree has difficulty getting mobilized and never really finds an exciting reason to get out of bed in the morning. In other words, their retirement never takes on any real meaning or purpose. Gradually they start to feel irrelevant, direction-less and it is only a short step from here to losing self-confidence with a lack of motivation to do anything about it. The next step is depression.
Older Adults are now the Group most at Risk for Suicide
Suicide in recent years has become an issue with retirees. An article from Forbes magazine refers to the fact that older adults have overtaken teenagers as the group most at-risk in terms of suicide. They quote a psychiatrist at Rochester University School of Medicine, who said:
“Older adults tend to die on their first attempt,” she says. Their frailty often makes them less likely to survive; their isolation makes them less likely to be rescued and “they tend to be more planful and determined in their suicidal behaviour.”
Shortage of money or the fear of running out of money, also play a part. For some, it is the discovery that their pension income is not going to cover their everyday living expenses. They may not have planned to continue working, but now find themselves having to, completely unprepared for the event.
Loneliness and isolation also play a part. But in essence, they are often a by-product of the feeling of irrelevance, the lack of confidence and the fading motivation to turn things around. Some people have a limited circle of friends because they have been so caught up in work, their families have migrated and the loneliness creeps in now that they no longer have the structure of work and colleagues to carry them.
What can you do?
What can you do to avoid this deep, dark pit, or to turn it around? Of course, I am going to say you can find yourself a retirement coach. But, awareness is the first step. Then it is about adding some structure to your life, replacing the balance between routine and exciting new adventures. It is about finding a circle of friends where you feel you belong and carving out a new identity for yourself. It is also important to find ways in which you can continue to grow and put something back into the society in which you live.
Feel free to contact me to find out whether retirement coaching is the right fit for you.