Most seniors look forward to retirement as the stage in life when they may do exactly as they choose, whenever and whatever that may be. With proper planning and foresight, your retirement years can be just as active, interesting and productive, but less stressful, than your working years. Retirement communities, friends, co-workers and numerous support organizations are aware of the pitfalls, and can help ease the transition for you.
Reaching retirement age is not like graduation or marriage: Your life should not suddenly change for better or worse. Rather, giving up the "daily grind" can open new opportunities, and offer a more relaxed way for you to participate fully in the lifestyle you embrace. But, it is not all sweetness and light either.
Nurse Practicioner Carla Mills speaks about the ups and downs of getting older, and offers great ongoing advice, in the blog “Maverick Health.” Here are 5 bits of advice to hold close as you embark on that retirement journey:
- Experiment. Look at retirement communities and your new lifestyle in the same way as you would try a new recipe. If you sample the result and don't like it, look for a new taste treat. You have earned the right, by virtue of age and experience, to make yourself happy. Be fearless and embrace it!
- Be Open to Adventure. Retain your club memberships, expand your social life and renew your volunteer commitments, if those things are important to you. If you've never had time to garden, play bridge, learn Chinese or practice calligraphy and you want to do so, now is the time to take advantage of your increased leisure time. Emulate President George H.W. Bush and try skydiving or zip-lining if you want to. Travel to exotic destinations, either alone or with a compatible group. Get busy and keep busy at something that will keep you happy and young at heart.
- Choose Work! Remember that you won't fail at retirement if you choose to return to work on a part-time basis, embark on a second career or open a "post-retirement" business. A Pew Research study completed a few years ago reported that more than 70% of seniors expect to work following retirement. Another fine option, of course, is to pass along the knowledge and skills you possess as a mentor, a consultant or a volunteer.
- Ease into a New Environment. Carefully consider your options before moving, whether it's to be closer to those beloved grandchildren or to escape the yard work and home repairs. There are many good reasons to make a move, but there are also valid reasons for making changes gradually or "trying it on for size." Take that long vacation first before moving permanently to a new location. Opt for a seasonal rental in a new community to sample a different locale before you commit to it. As you explore retirement communities, look into the spectrum of options and continuum of care available if your needs change.
- Strive to Be Wise. It is said that the ancient Sumerians inscribed practical bits of advice on clay tablets, introduced with the words, "We are doomed to die; let us spend…" It is also said that wisdom comes with age. Speaking honestly with loved ones about the future, about aging, about loss, and about personal wishes is a wise move as you contemplate a change of lifestyle and navigate the new landscape of retirement. This is not the time to be reticent or less than honest about your expectations, your fears or your personal condition.
Finally, mind your health. Even though you've heard it before, it's perhaps the most important advice.