Why does the notion of becoming part of the retirement world fill so many of us with a vague and persistent terror? We must firstly emphasise the often traumatic transition from a career, in whatever field of business or professional practice, to a career-less existence. Even though we can and do complain frequently about the demands of a job, our work life takes up 40 to 60 hours each week; presents us with goals, targets and deadlines. And then suddenly, one day, we turn 65 and all of that is gone. What happens next? What will take the place of the career that once was?
In our view, the answer to that question, in the case of far too many people, is not much. Yes, there are plans to visit grandchildren and improve golf handicaps but we find, with a scary suddenness, that there are many hours of the day, not knowing what to fill them with. Holidays used to be fun because they’re of short duration, but this holiday is permanent.
Time and again we have witnessed newly retired people suddenly plunged into life without a sense of real purpose. There must be a better way, perhaps in the form of a planned career step down. Early retirement should not involve ceasing work but, perhaps, working initially a half, then a third, then a quarter day, ending on just a few hours a week. There should be many more recruiting agencies putting retired folk in touch with companies who require their skills, knowledge and expertise, not on a full-time basis but for a few hours a week.
The other option is for retired persons to involve themselves in community and voluntary activities. That involvement should be passionate and committed. Every one of us should be able to name a few community upliftment causes closes to our heart. Reach out, sign up, and join in.
The problem with the weekly bowls, golf or yachting is that we don’t have to turn up and we can allow the particular activity to wither away and die. A part-time job for example, a seat on the committee of a voluntary organisation is a fixed commitment aimed at making your skills and knowledge available to the younger world, an essential part of the retiree survival kit.
The second component of the retired lifestyle worth noting is the slowing down and decline of general health. The story is disturbingly familiar with an active and bouncy 65 year old who retires and, within 5 years is a hospital regular.
My view, not as a scientist or healthcare practitioner, but as a practicing member of the human race, is that this particular battle begins, and must be won or lost, in the mind. It is the mind which to a large extent determines our level of self-belief, enthusiasm and zest for life.
To help the mind fight that daily battle, here are a few lifestyle tips, in no particular order, which could greatly assist in maintaining a zest for life:
- Walk, even if slowly, as often and as far as possible. Walk through nature, under the open sky, admiring the surroundings all the while;
- Music must remain embedded in your soul. Listen to it, sing it and continue playing instruments (if you have that gift) ;
- Befriend technology. The world has become digital, and we’re able to access knowledge and information, and connect with individuals and interest groups, to an extent which was unimaginable 30 years ago;
- Never stop growing and learning;
- Treasure your friends. Treasure human contact. Always.