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Sharp Health News

Making the mental shift to retirement

May 21, 2019

Making the mental shift to retirement
When you think about retirement, do you think about leisurely days on the links or good books by the fire? Is world travel on your bucket list or are there classes you’ve dreamed of taking?

For some, retirement is the well-earned reward for a job well-done. However, for others, retirement can feel like a punishment for simply getting older. Either way, being prepared for what’s to come is paramount.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average retirement age in the United States is 63. Unfortunately, some older adults are unable to retire due to financial concerns, which should be the first consideration before retirement.

“Double or triple check finances, as well as medical insurance, and set time aside to put your affairs in order well before retirement,” says Dan McNamara, program coordinator with the Sharp Grossmont Hospital Senior Resource Center. “It’s best to plan ahead.”

If you feel confident about your financial security, there are other retirement-related issues to consider. First, it’s important to manage your expectations about retirement and be aware that it’s not all fun, travel and relaxation.

Retirement can trigger emotional changes
You must be prepared to address some of the more challenging sides of retirement, says McNamara, including the following:
  • Loneliness
  • Boredom
  • Lack of structure
  • Loss of professional status
  • Lack of purpose
  • Changes in personal relationships
  • Others’ expectations about how you’ll use your time
“You can — and should — prepare for retirement by using some of your vacation time to spend time at home and get a feel for it before handing in the keys to your office,” McNamara says. “There are few instances we stay home from work and they’re usually affiliated with being sick, caring for another or getting tasks completed. It’s important to see what it’s like to be home without clinging to a tissue or having a full list of errands and household jobs.”

Fill your time with meaning, instead of meetings
Because your job may also provide your daily social interactions, McNamara recommends that you research the many social clubs, religious organizations or hobby-related groups (such as gardening or book clubs) available near you.

“Get active, join the local YMCA or become a tourist in our hometown, San Diego,” he says. “We have a vibrant arts culture, historic landmarks, gorgeous trails — the list goes on and on.”

McNamara also recommends volunteering or finding a “bridge job” to help you ease into retirement. This might be a part-time position or a consulting role in your area of expertise. There are plenty of places where you can donate your time while building a new identity separate from your former career position.

AARP, a national organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older, also suggests you “warm up” to retirement before taking the plunge. Steps you can take before you retire include:
  • Trying out a variety of activities on weekends, in the evening or while on a vacation from work to find what you most enjoy.
  • Establishing a new routine and schedule — test how long some of your planned hobbies or activities will truly take.
  • Taking a lengthy trip to the cities you’re considering retiring in and getting a feel for the local weather, services and residents.
  • Not immediately diving into volunteer roles that will require too much of your time — do your research and allow yourself to enjoy your retirement “honeymoon period.”
  • Discussing “ground rules” and expectations about the time you’ll spend together and how household tasks may be redistributed with your spouse or partner and other family members.
  • Sharpening your tech skills to keep in touch with former colleagues and loved ones, staying on top of current affairs, learning about local events and services, and even taking online classes.
  • Finding a form of exercise you enjoy — group classes or walking groups are a great way to get fit and meet new people — and setting an intention to do it at least five days a week.
“People plan more for vacations than they do for their retirement,” McNamara says. “Retirement is the vacation of a lifetime — be prepared so that you can truly enjoy it.”

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