What comes to mind when you think of retirement planning? If you’re like most people, it’s probably something to do with finances. And then the nitty, gritty details like completing paperwork for your employer. And while those steps are essential, what’s equally or perhaps even more important is the work you’ll do to support your well-being in retirement.
Flourishing in retirement doesn’t always happen by chance—the transition to retirement can be a challenge. And you won’t know what it will be like for you emotionally until you go through it. The good news is there are things you can do to prepare.
Whether you’re just starting to plan, about to retire or already retired, it’s never too late to take steps to support your happy retirement and overall well-being.
Everyone has experienced plans going awry—best-laid plans, right? Life is full of uncertainty, and retirement will be no different. You may have the most detailed plans about what retirement will mean for you, from what you’ll do, to who you will spend it with. But have you considered what you’ll do if those things don’t work out?
People lose spouses and loved ones. Health issues can affect activities – unfortunately, these things happen. We also know that major life changes, like the death of a spouse or significant health issues can increase the risk of social isolation.
One way to protect yourself is to create contingency plans—consider your plans B and C! What will I do if I can’t do an activity the same way anymore? (Hint: you could adapt it or find another activity you want to try). Thinking about these things ahead of time will help you to be prepared if the unexpected happens.
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You may have spent much of your career caring for others—colleagues, students, your family. And sure, your caregiving roles may not stop, but retirement is a chance to replace the time you spent working with some activities and learning to benefit your health and well-being.
Any increase in physical activity will be beneficial. You can also explore nutrition information online or through community programs. Daily habits accumulate over time, so things that may seem small—like a daily walk—could have a significant impact on your future well-being. Plus, routine is good for us!
Beliefs about aging are an important health factor. Self-directed ageism can impact whether individuals believe they can learn new skills or think a health issue is inevitable versus being something they can affect through behaviour. Research has shown that the association between ageism and health is strongest with self-directed ageism.
Supportive relationships are critical to overall happiness and well-being. Strong relationships can support stress management, mood, and motivation and even influence positive behaviours, like exercise. Social connection reduces the risk of dementia, heart disease, and mental health issues.
Getting involved in different activities (see the next tip!) is a great way to build and maintain social connections and also provides a sense of purpose. Building supportive relationships can also help you form allies who will look out for you in social situations, making you more likely to go out and try different things.
There are likely retirement and seniors’ groups in your community, and volunteering is another great way to meet people. If you’re an RTOERO member (your membership is free until retirement!), you can connect with your local RTOERO District and participate in social activities.
One of the greatest gifts of retirement is all of the time you’ll have after devoting so much time to your career. So, what will you do with that time? Many of our members suggest exploring a range of activities. Others say it’s a good idea to think about how you want to use your time before you retire—maybe there’s a hobby you used to do that you haven’t had time for when working? Some of our members suggest starting a new hobby in the year leading up to retirement.
Whatever you pursue, be ready for new opportunities to pop up. You never know who you may meet and what you may be introduced to when you try a new activity. Also, recognize that you may feel uncomfortable at times. You’ve no doubt heard before that it’s helpful to leave your comfort zone now and then, so ride out the discomfort, and soon you will have a new hobby, experience or skill!
If you need some help coming up with ideas, we’ve put together a list of 50 activities to try in retirement based on input from our members.
People who practice positive thinking tend to live longer. Positive thinking is linked to better health outcomes, including lower risk of chronic disease and memory loss, less isolation, faster recovery from injuries and more.
Some ways to create a habit of positive thinking include focusing on what’s good in life, reframing events to find the learning or growth, practising gratitude, spending time with other positive people and paying attention to your thoughts and internal dialogue.
Thinking positively doesn’t mean you gloss over or ignore the things that are hard in life. It’s important to feel emotions and allow yourself to work through challenges so you can move forward. You might find it helpful to create a list of the healthy activities that help you feel better during or after a tough time. You may also benefit from showing yourself some compassion during challenges—some people are hard on themselves! Try to speak to yourself as you would a dear friend.
There are things you can control in life and other things you can’t. It becomes a lot easier to navigate life’s inevitable surprises when you have plans and safety nets in place to help you. As you prepare for retirement, be sure to use our retirement checklist to make sure you’ve taken care of the necessary financial and administrative tasks, including choosing retirement insurance and calculating different income scenarios. During retirement, you’ll want to make sure your estate plan is kept up-to-date, including having a power of attorney named for emergencies. You may also find it helpful to create an inventory of important documents. Taking care of these to-do tasks can prevent them from piling up, helping to reduce stress!
These suggestions can help you create a happy retirement. Like our physical health, caring for our mental well-being is ongoing.
With your care and attention, the prognosis is good! Research suggests that in general, happiness increases with age. The U-Curve of Happiness shows that at around retirement age, happiness returns to what it was during adolescence and then goes up from there. Happy retirement!