Gone seem to be the times when people retired and stayed home, played bingo, and gradually reduced their activities as their physical conditions deteriorated and their energy waned. Up until as recently as twenty to thirty years ago, when people retired they were OLD, often sick with multiple ailments, not interested in travelling and developing new interests and lifestyles. Often they lived close to family, their main activity being involvement with grandchildren and partaking of family life. A few of them, the adventurous and those who could afford it, moved to states like Arizona and Florida to live in retirement communities. These, however, were the exception, not the norm.
The idea of retirement today is quite different. A whole new industry has sprung out to cater to this growing segment of the population. A lot of people, at retirement, are still vibrant, healthy and full of energy, so this new industry is busy offering new housing facilities, new amenities, new opportunities to explore and be active in, and new medical care.
The new retirees tend to regard retirement as the time when they finally can do all the things they had to put aside when they were too busy working at their jobs and raising a family. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the ideas, plans and expectations of retirement are now quite different than what they used to be.
Because of all these differences – and because people live longer, hence they have more retirement years ahead of them – planning for retirement is an extremely important part of reaching this stage in life.
In most studies that address what makes people happy two elements are constantly reported as fundamental: having a purpose and being connected to loved ones. So, whatever you plan for your retirement, these two elements need to play a central role in it.
Having a purpose is an important driving force in selecting what we want to do and how to do it. When we work, whether we are professionals, have a trade or are stay-home parents, we like to feel that our work makes a difference. Perhaps we help people in need, or raise organic vegetables in our garden and sell them to the local farmer’s market. Or, we work in an office, or answer the phones, or clean houses, or do surgery. Or, we choose to raise our kids and spend many years involved in PTOs, immersed in after school activities and teenage angst. Whatever we do, we have a purpose, and this drives us to continue to do what we are doing …or change it, if we feel we don’t contribute enough.
As you plan your retirement, think of what purpose you want your days to have: do you want to learn new skills? Or, do you want to volunteer and give back to your community? Do you want to travel, and share with your local school the slides and experiences from your trips? Do you want to get more involved in your neighborhood? Do you want to do philanthropic work? Whatever you do, think of what purpose your choice will provide in your life and then ask yourself if this is what you want.
Retirement without any planning may lead to boredom, disorganization, and at times isolation and depression.
Being connected to loved ones is another important element that needs to be included in any retirement plan worth exploring. Isolation, particularly as we age, is a very hard thing to tolerate. Loved ones don’t necessarily have to be members of your biological family. They could be good friends, neighbors, fellows in the church or synagogue you attend. They can be people with similar interests to yours, with whom you resonate and feel close. Choosing a community where you can find the kind of neighborhood spirit that makes you feel ‘at home’ is very important, as isolation is dreadful, particularly as we age. Stay involved in their lives. Ask what’s going on with them. Be interested.
If you have planned your retirement right, you will get up each morning looking forward to a new day. You will be active, but not overwhelmingly so. You will feel positive. You will be better able to stay in the present and enjoy it, rather than worrying about what the future will be like for you.