- You’re probably not ready to retire — psychologically
- Three years to retirement: anticipation
- One year to retirement: check-in
- Year 1 of retirement: liberation
- Three years post-retirement: reorientation
- Mental Health Matters: How to Cope with Depression after Retirement
- Why post-retirement depression affects so many Canadians
- Why it’s so important to get treated for retirement depression
- Depression symptoms to watch out for – in yourself and your loved ones
- Ways to avoid retirement depression
- How to seek help
- The first steps to recovery
- 10 Ways to Kick Post-Retirement Depression
- 1. Pinpoint Why You’re Feeling Down
- 2. Identify What You Enjoy
- 3. Find New Ways to Spend Your Time
- 4. Try a Change of Scenery
- 5. Create a New Routine
- 6. Connect With Other Retirees Who Are Having a Hard Time Adjusting
- 7. Get a Pet
- 8. Take Financial Worries the Equation
- 9. Remind Yourself Why You Retired
- 10. Talk to a Professional If You Can’t Shake Post-Retirement Blues
- Tips for Enjoying a Happier Retirement
- Retiring minds want to know
- Working toward well-being
- The pursuit of happiness
You’re probably not ready to retire — psychologically
Retirement ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, if they’re not careful, a lot of folks will crack once they retire.
Perhaps no other stage of life triggers such intense feelings of excitement and liberation, on the one hand, but, on the other, fear and anxiety. Retirement for many entails a leap of faith after decades of routine.
You’re not simply at work Friday, doing your job, and retired Monday, dancing for joy, though.
Retirement is a major transition that unfolds over many years, as we move from the life we know into the life we will get to know.
Many pre-retirees do not fully comprehend how dramatically their lives will change.
“I struggled with it,” Nancy Schlossberg says of retiring more than two decades ago from a university teaching career. “It wasn’t what I expected.”
And she’s an expert on transitions and how to navigate them; the author of “Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age” and other books on aging, and creator of a respected academic theory about transitions.
A few lucky souls know exactly what their retirement looks . The rest of us figure it out as we go. If we go, that is. Many people are simply not psychologically ready to retire, even if they’re financially able. Their job is their identity. They believe that “I work, therefore I am,” and its plaintive corollary, “Without work, what am I?”
Research shows that adjusting to retirement is difficult for such people, who report more boredom, anxiety, restlessness and feelings of uselessness.
Retired men, for example, were found to be 40% more ly than employed men to experience depression, and the greatest increase in suicide rates between 2000 and 2016 occurred among 45- to 64-year old men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sociologist Phyllis Moen suggested that “people spend more time planning a wedding than planning retirement,” says Schlossberg, who at 89 years old enjoys a prolific second act as an author and public speaker. “It’s very important to think about your identity and what you’re losing, and how you get a new identity. What would give you a sense of meaning and purpose?”
““Visualize the kind of person you want to become [in retirement], share it with other people and get their feedback.””
— — Karl Pillemer
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are ways to carry the relevancy of your work life into retirement. Constructing a framework for your retirement should start at least three to five years before the planned date.
Assessment and course correction occurs about a year before. A year or so after retirement, the honeymoon period will ly have waned; it’s time then to review how things are going. Give yourself another couple of years for retired life to become your new normal.
That’s a six- to eight-year journey that will require flexibility and resilience.
“This is an entirely new experience,” says gerontologist Ken Dychtwald, co-author of the 1989 best seller “Age Wave” and founder of a consulting firm that bears the same name. “You’ve been in patterns for decades. How is a person to know what will satisfy them?”
Start by finding your spot on the retirement transition curve. Dychtwald has identified five phases of retirement: imagination (15 to five years before retirement); anticipation (five years prior); liberation (first year of retirement); reorientation (years 2 to 15); and reconciliation (more than 15 years after retirement).
Three years to retirement: anticipation
You’re past the imagination stage and its fantasies, hopes and wishes. The anticipation stage is reality. Friends are retiring; you’re tired of working, the finish line is in sight. It’s time to seek wise advice on how to handle feelings about leaving regular employment and the supportive social network it typically provides.
Set aside any money concerns for now. Of course, money matters, but there’s plenty of guidance for retirees about your financial portfolio; not so much about your emotional portfolio.
“People make the decision to retire an economic state rather than a life state,” says retirement coach Mitch Anthony, who teaches investment advisers to help clients plan their life in addition to their finances. “Retirement is a mental-health consideration,” he adds. “We’ve treated it as if it’s something you have to do, then, ‘Do you have enough money?’ — and conversation over.”
Read: Here’s exactly where you should retire — what’s important to you
Being emotionally grounded going into retirement will ly lead to better, more mindful financial decisions in retirement. Moreover, retired life may require less money than you expect. Find purpose and ways to feel relevant, and your financial plan will seem a piece of retirement cake.
In this anticipation stage, ask yourself how you’ll spend time in retirement, which could span 25 years or longer. What activities, interests and lifestyle would be compatible?
One way to answer that question is to think about retirement not as the end of work but as the start of a late-career transition. “Use some of the tools you might use in conceptualizing a career,” says gerontologist Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development at Cornell University. “What are my aptitudes? What are things I to do?”
“Retired men are 40% more ly than employed men to experience depression.”
For instance, if you climbed the corporate ladder, you ly had a mentor and learned how successful people got that way by observing and asking questions. Do the same around your retirement. Find people with a few years of experience living the retirement life you want, and learn how they got it. Asking for direction is a sign of strength, not weakness.
“Identifying goals in retirement and having perseverance in pursuing them leads to better retirement,” says Pillemer. “Visualize the kind of person you want to become, share it with other people and get their feedback — especially people who have successfully made the transition.”
One year to retirement: check-in
It’s time for a pre-flight review. Says Norman Abeles, emeritus professor of psychology at Michigan State University and an expert on aging: “Develop concrete steps.
What am I going to do the week after I retire? How about six months after that? Talk with your partner — what are the two of you going to do together? After you visit the grandchildren and have done the traveling, what are you going to do day by day?”
One helpful preparation tool comes from transition expert Schlossberg: the “four S’s” of coping with life changes and assessing your social and emotional strengths and weaknesses.
These include: your situation with work and family at the time of the transition; your sense of self (outlook, resilience, spirituality); support (self-esteem, social network, role models) and strategy (optimism, reframing, self-management).
Realize there’s a light at the end of the retirement tunnel. “There will be many surprises along the way, but over a couple of years you will develop a new sense of purpose, a new sense of who you are, and a new way of negotiating relationships and building new ones,” says Schlossberg:
Year 1 of retirement: liberation
You made it; you’re free to be…who, exactly? Schlossberg has identified several types of retirees: “adventurers” who shake things up; “searchers” looking to fit in; “easy gliders” who live one day at a time; “involved spectators” who are still connected to their careers; and two kinds of “retreaters” — those who pause to regroup and those who essentially don’t leave their rocking chair.
You may take on several of these personas, especially in that initial, exciting honeymoon period when being old is new again. Studies show that older people tend to be happier than younger people, reporting greater psychological well-being and life satisfaction. “Learn to have fun again, to make new friends, to have less structure, to try something and fail at it,” says Dychtwald.
At the same time, the loss of structure and routine understandably can bring up sadness and depression. “Ask retirees what they miss most, and No. 1 is the social connection, the stimulation, the action,” Dychtwald says. “People don’t think that through.”
Be resilient and resourceful. Maintain social contacts, stay physically active, practice self-compassion and consider part-time work.
“Not only do you have the possibility of doing something new; you have to have at least some sense of what the choices might be and which might be a match for you,” says Dychtwald. “Stop, take a deep breath and look inside. Meet the modern age halfway.”
Three years post-retirement: reorientation
The honeymoon’s over. It’s been over for a while, in fact. By now, ideally, you’re a year or so into the reorientation stage of retirement. You’ve taken twists and turns, and, finally, you’re settling in.
“The most important thing people need is to reframe their mindset in terms of what they have to offer the world, and their perspective on aging,” says Chip Conley, author of “Wisdom @ Work: The Making of a Modern Elder.” After selling the successful boutique hotel chain he founded, Conley, 58, is now a strategic adviser to Airbnb, the worldwide home-sharing company.
Conley views retirement as a time to reinvent yourself and pursue what you’ve always wanted but never dared to chase. Increasingly, older people are doing just that.
According to the Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, entrepreneurship in the U.S. is growing fastest among people over age 55. “Instead of being the end of the book, retirement is an added chapter,” says Conley, who in his new role calls himself a “mentern” — a mentor to younger colleagues and an intern who is eager to learn.
As the reorientation stage unfolds over a decade or two, people start paying attention to their legacy, which ushers in the reconciliation stage. Your legacy is not the material wealth you leave in a will; it’s how you will be remembered. This is a literal opportunity of a lifetime — the chance to distribute the wealth of knowledge, depth and wisdom you’ve acquired just by being alive.
“The storyline of retirement will be less about winding things up and more about transforming oneself,” says Dychtwald. “Rather than just becoming elderly, we become elders — wise, well-traveled and deeply experienced.”
Read more of the Best New Ideas in Retirement
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Mental Health Matters: How to Cope with Depression after Retirement
The 68th annual Mental Health Week takes place this May, organized by the Canadian Mental Health Association. Its aim is to raise awareness and start conversations about mental health issues.
Here we take a look at depression, one of mental health’s most serious conditions, and how it affects retirees.
Why post-retirement depression affects so many Canadians
As many as 10% of Canadians who live in the community suffer from depression after retirement. That figure leaps as high as 40% when it comes to retirees who live in an institution, such as a nursing home.
There are many reasons why depression after retirement is so prevalent. When we stop working, many of us feel a loss of purpose or even identity.
We suddenly have a lot of extra time on our hands and many people struggle to fill that time meaningfully. Social lives that revolve around work are suddenly taken away from us and we can become more isolated.
As we get older, physical health issues can affect our mental wellbeing and the drugs used to treat us can have side effects that include depression. Living with chronic pain or losing independence due to mobility issues can also lead to retirement depression.
Another unfortunate reality is that retirees start to increasingly lose their friends and loved ones the older they get and can become isolated, it’s understandable that depression can sneak up on them. However, you don’t have to stoically live with depression after retirement, there is help available.
Doing the things you love can help you have a fulfilling retirement. Find out how you can pay for your hobbies!
Loneliness and isolation after retirement can be very tough to deal with. Participating in things we love to do can help us to cope with depression. Find out how you can pay for your hobbies and things you love to do in retirement.
Why it’s so important to get treated for retirement depression
Many people are unaware that highly effective medication and therapy are available for depression – over 80% of people recover completely after treatment.
However, 90% of depressed retirees either won’t seek or don’t receive any help. Some retirees had an upbringing where they didn’t talk about their emotions or didn’t complain when feeling sad, so they struggle to discuss their mental health issues. Others are unaware that depression is an illness and that treatment can help bring a full recovery.
For these Canadians, the symptoms of depression after retirement can be misdiagnosed as being caused by another medical condition and so they don’t receive the necessary treatment.
When depression is left untreated, it can lead to many unpleasant consequences. Depression after retirement can last considerably longer and this in turn could lead to unnecessary institutionalization.
Untreated depression can lead to physical ill-health. It can worsen existing health conditions and also bring on heart disease, infections and immune-related diseases.
Risk of suicide among depressed retirees is high, especially among men.
It is therefore hugely important to speak up about how you feel and to recognize the signs of depression.
Depression symptoms to watch out for – in yourself and your loved ones
Depression doesn’t just affect our emotional state; it also impacts the way we think and act. Below are some typical retirement depression symptoms:
|Extreme sadness||Negative thoughts about life|
|Irritability||Lack of concentration and/or reduced memory|
|Impatience||A sense of impending disaster|
|Restlessness||No interest in things that were once enjoyable|
|Low self-esteem||Trouble sleeping or feeling fully rested|
|Guilt||Changes in appetite or weight|
|Helplessness||Rejecting social interactions|
|Lack of energy||Increased use of substances|
|Aches, pains, cramps||No interest in work, relationships or life in general|
|Mood swings||Decreased physical activity|
|Panic attacks||Neglecting to pay bills, clean, wash or eat well|
Ways to avoid retirement depression
There are a number of ways that you can have a better chance of maintaining good mental health. All of these recommendations have been proven to help when coping with retirement depression or avoiding it, while bringing you greater enjoyment in life:
- Set up a post-retirement routine to fill your time meaningfully
- Make an effort to stay social – visit your kids and babysit your grandchildren or friend’s grandchildren
- Make time to see friends
- Join a choir, a book club or a community centre social club
- Stay active by going to the gym regularly or taking up a sport
- Find a new sense of purpose: volunteer or find work that is close to your heart
- Follow your dreams: now is the time to pursue your interests learning a new language or a musical instrument, traveling more, performing, or writing a book
- Take up mindfulness meditation, Tai Chi or yoga
- Eat well: a lack of essential vitamins and minerals can bring on depression
- Getting a pet can help you cope with stress and reduce blood pressure
How to seek help
For many people suffering from retirement depression symptoms, taking the necessary steps to improve their mental health can be too daunting without professional help.
Recovery often begins with a mixture of medication and psychological treatment. Antidepressant medication can help give depressed people the boost they need to have the mental energy to tackle their illness. Some drugs have side effects, however, so be aware of any changes in your mood and tell your doctor about them.
There are several types of psychological treatments that can help in recovering from depression after retirement:
- Cognitive-behaviour therapy coaches people to reject negative thinking
- Interpersonal therapy enables people to better manage their personal relationships, particularly grief, conflicts and life changes
- Problem-solving therapy teaches skills that allow you to cope with difficult situations, an ongoing illness or moving into a nursing home
The first steps to recovery
If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression after retirement, visit your doctor. They will take tests to establish if you have depression or if an underlying health condition or medication are causing the problems. They may then refer you to a mental health professional, after which medication and psychological treatment may also be recommended.
Remember, 80% of people with retirement depression recover after receiving treatment. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will start to feel better and be able to get on with your life. Contact us at 1-866-522-2447 or try our reverse mortgage calculator to find out how CHIP Reverse Mortgage can help you after retirement.
10 Ways to Kick Post-Retirement Depression
Retiring from the 9 to 5 can open up new possibilities, but it may take some time to get used to. When heading to work isn’t the primary focus of your days anymore, you may feel a little adrift and at a loss for how to spend your time. A post-retirement depression could set in that could leave you questioning your decision to retire.
If retiring has you in a funk, there are some things you can do to combat it. These 10 tips can help you cope with — and conquer — post-retirement depression.
1. Pinpoint Why You’re Feeling Down
There are different reasons why you may feel depressed after retiring. For instance, you may feel that without a job to go to, you no longer have a sense of purpose.
Or, you may not be spending as much time with friends and family as you anticipated, which could cause you to second-guess your retirement plans.
And for some retirees, it’s simply the disruption in their daily routine that’s most difficult to adjust to.
Reflect on what’s causing you to feel depressed. It may be one thing or several things. If you’re having trouble figuring it out, try keeping a journal to record your thoughts each day, then look for the trends or patterns that pop up again and again.
2. Identify What You Enjoy
If you’re feeling at a loss for what to do with your time in retirement, think about the things that inspire you, spark your passion, give you joy.
Brian Behl, a certified financial planner at Behl Wealth Management in Waukesha, Wisconsin, says that recreational activities can sometimes lose their appeal for retirees who suddenly have more hours in the day to fill. Taking time to reconnect with the things you used to enjoy doing could help you break a retirement rut.
3. Find New Ways to Spend Your Time
In addition to devoting time to hobbies or activities you enjoy that might have fallen by the wayside during your working years, you may use your retirement as an opportunity to branch out a little. For example, you could:
- Volunteer your time with a local charity
- Be a mentor to a young person who’s just starting their career
- Start a side hustle or small business
- Take continuing education classes online or at a local college
- Join a senior citizen’s sports league or recreational group
- Take up a new hobby
- Get a part-time job
Think about what you need most. Is it making new connections and friendships? Feeling useful? Making some extra money? A little of all three?
Asking those kinds of questions can help you decide which activities to pursue to break your post-retirement depression.
4. Try a Change of Scenery
If retirement is leaving something to be desired for you, consider whether different surroundings might make a difference.
For instance, you could try spending a few months on a cruise ship or heading to a beach town if you normally live in a colder part of the country. Or if you already live on the coast, exchange it for an extended vacation rental in the mountains or desert.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you might spend a month backpacking through Europe or touring southeast Asia. Changing your world view, even if it’s just for a few days or weeks, could change of your point of view when it comes to your retirement. You may come back home feeling refreshed and more positive about making the transition the working world.
5. Create a New Routine
Having a routine can be reassuring because it lends some predictability to your daily round. If you’re struggling with how to spend your time or feeling disoriented without a set schedule to stick to, then work on establishing one.
A helpful way to do that is to track how you’re spending your time now. Keep a daily time log of everything you do from the time you wake up until when you go to bed. Try doing that for a week to see where your time goes, then use that as a guideline for creating a new routine.
6. Connect With Other Retirees Who Are Having a Hard Time Adjusting
If you’re feeling depressed about retirement, know that you’re not alone. There may be someone in your social circle or someone you know through a professional or recreational organization who’s also having difficulty with making the transition to retirement.
Connecting with those people can help you to support one another as you deal with the mental and emotional challenges retirement can bring.
And if you’re having trouble making connections in real life, consider looking for a support group for retirees online.
This is also a good option if you’d prefer some anonymity and don’t feel comfortable talking to your friends about post-retirement depression.
7. Get a Pet
Science says that having pets can be good for your health and lead to improved well-being. If you don’t have a pet, consider getting a furry companion to spend your retirement with. And if that’s not an option, think about volunteering at a local animal shelter or rescue organization. It’s a good way to stay active and it’s having a pet without actually owning one.
8. Take Financial Worries the Equation
If your finances are a cause of post-retirement depression, consider what you can do to change that.
For example, if you’re worried about your retirement savings running out too quickly, check your budget to see if you can reduce or eliminate any of your expenses.
If you haven’t taken Social Security benefits yet and you’re 62 or older, think about when the timing makes sense to claim them.
And consider whether you might be able to increase your income with a side gig, part-time job or small business.
Getting rid of money stress could make a huge difference in your overall retirement happiness.
9. Remind Yourself Why You Retired
People can spend decades planning for the financial side of retirement but Behl says they may give very little thought to the emotional aspects. Think about what your “why” was for retiring in the first place.
Obviously, taking a break from working might have been part of it but what else? Did you have certain goals in mind or things you wanted to achieve that you weren’t able to pursue in the midst of your career? Remind yourself of what retirement means to you and ask yourself if those expectations are realistic. If they are, then figure out what needs to happen next to make your retirement reality align with those expectations.
10. Talk to a Professional If You Can’t Shake Post-Retirement Blues
Depression is a serious thing and it’s not something to take lightly or brush off.
If you’re having trouble pinning down a specific reason for your depression and nothing else you’ve tried seems to help with lifting the cloud, consider talking to a counselor or therapist.
Choose someone who specializes in working with retirees or older adults to help you get to the root of your depression and create an actionable plan for dealing with it.
Tips for Enjoying a Happier Retirement
- Figure out what matters most to you in retirement. Eliminate those things that may be wasting your time or adding to your depression. And surround yourself with people who motivate you to enjoy your later years.
- Talk to a financial advisor about managing your savings and investments effectively. Having an advisor on your side who understands your concerns about money can help you come up with a game plan for using your assets effectively. SmartAsset’s financial advisor match tool can help you find an advisor if you don’t have one. Answer a few simple questions to get recommendations for up to three advisors in your local area.
Photo Credit: © iStock/wundervisuals, © iStock/eclipse_images, © iStock/bernardbodo
Retiring minds want to know
The questions most people think about before retirement are «How much money will I need?» and «Am I saving enough?» But while financial security is certainly critical, people need to amass more than money for a successful retirement, experts say. They need to stockpile their emotional reserves, as well.
Too few people consider the psychological adjustments that accompany this life stage, which can include coping with the loss of your career identity, replacing support networks you had through work, spending more time than ever before with your spouse and finding new and engaging ways to stay active.
Some retirees ease smoothly into retirement, spending more time with hobbies or family and friends. But others, research finds, experience anxiety, depression and debilitating feelings of loss, says Robert Delamontagne, PhD, author of the 2011 book «The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to Retirement.»
«People can go through hell when they retire and they will never say a word about it, often because they are embarrassed,» Delamontagne says. «The cultural norm for retirement is that you are living the good life.»
Research by psychologists and others has found that working or volunteering during retirement can help stave off depression, as well as dementia and hypertension.
But other evidence suggests that such activities aren't the key to everyone's well-being. Psychologist Jacquelyn B.
James, PhD, of the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, has found that only those people who are truly engaged in their post-retirement activities reap the psychological benefits.
That's why people need to invest as much if not more time in their social or psychological portfolio planning before retirement, to figure out what makes them happy, James says. (Read about seven psychologists' post-retirement lives.)
«Retirement is not jumping off a diving board, it's a process and it takes time,» she says. «There's a lot of work people can be doing leading up to retirement to prepare for it.»
Working toward well-being
Soon-to-be retirees should consider whether or not to continue to work in some capacity, say psychologists. Many people take on new jobs after retiring from their primary careers with part-time work, a temporary job or self-employment — a trend known as «bridge employment» or «encore» work. According to a 2013 Careerbuilder.
com survey, 60 percent of workers age 60 and older said they would look for a new job after retiring, up from 57 percent last year.
In its 2010 «Working in Retirement: A 21st Century Phenomenon» report, the Sloan Center on Aging and Work and the Families and Work Institute reported that 1 in 5 workers has a post-retirement job and 75 percent of workers expect to work or transition to a second career at some point after they retire.
While working has obvious financial perks, it may also offer health and mental health benefits.
A 2009 study led by Mo Wang, PhD, of the University of Florida, found that people who pursued post-retirement bridge employment in their previous fields reported better mental and physical health than those who retired fully (Journal of Occupational Health Psychology).
The Working in Retirement report found that employed retirees report levels of health, well-being and life satisfaction on par with those who have not yet retired — despite age differences. The report also found that working retirees tend to rate their workplaces more positively than those not yet retired.
New research also shows that delaying retirement may stave off cognitive decline. A study of nearly half a million people by French researcher Carole Dufouil of the research agency INSERM, presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in July, found that for each additional year they worked, people reduced their risk of dementia by 3.2 percent.
Still, finding post-retirement opportunities or staying in the workforce as peers retire can be challenging, say psychologists.
«People can be as interested as they want to be, but if the positions aren't available, or if they don't have support through the transition, it can be difficult,» says psychologist Joann M. Montepare, PhD, who directs the RoseMary B. Fuss Center for Research on Aging at Lasell College in Newton, Mass.
That's where such organizations as the Boston-based group Discovering What's Next come in, says Montepare, who serves on its board of directors.
The organization offers support and resources to people 55 and over who want to embark on a second or post-retirement career and need guidance on figuring out what they want to do and retooling their skills.
The organization also offers talks on interviewing and networking, as well as group discussions on age discrimination, financial insecurities and loss of career identity.
The organization is also working to increase awareness among local employers about how to tap and manage older talent, and organizing outreach programs at local businesses and nonprofits for older workers considering role transitions or retirement.
The pursuit of happiness
Whether retirees return to the workforce or not, research indicates they'll need guidance on how to maintain their well-being throughout their retirement years.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies by Elizabeth Mokyr Horner, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley, found that retirees experience a «sugar rush» of well-being and life satisfaction directly after retirement, followed by a sharp decline in happiness a few years later.
In her analysis of cross-sectional data from 16 countries in Western Europe and the United States, Horner found that most retirees experienced the rush-crash pattern regardless of the age they retired.
With people living longer, more research is needed on what's causing the crash and how psychologists can help people prolong the sugar rush, she says. «People are going to spend more time retired, even if we push the retirement age back. We need to figure out a way to maximize people's happiness.»
One answer might be to encourage altruism. In a June study in the Journal of Aging and Health led by Eva Kahana, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University, researchers found that people living in retirement communities reported higher levels of life satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms if they were involved with low to moderate levels of volunteer work than those who weren't.
A similar finding by Carnegie Mellon University psychologist Sheldon Cohen, PhD, and graduate student Rodlescia Sneed found that older adults who had volunteered at least 200 hours within the prior year reported greater increases in psychological well-being than those who did not. The study, published in June in Psychology and Aging, was also the first to explore a correlation between volunteerism and blood pressure. The researchers found that older adults who volunteered 200 hours over the year were less ly to develop hypertension than non-volunteers.
That's ly because being a committed volunteer expands one's social ties. «Volunteering may also increase feelings of purpose and meaning in life,» notes Cohen, who says commuting to volunteer sites and activities may also increase physical activity, therefore decreasing hypertension risk. «All of these have the potential of improving cardiovascular health.»
But volunteering may not be for everyone, emphasizes the Sloan Center's James. People who feel duty-bound to volunteer during retirement do themselves more harm than good, she found.
In a 2012 study published in The Gerontologist, James and colleagues looked at people's engagement in later-life roles, including volunteer work.
They found that people who reported low to medium engagement with volunteer work had significantly poorer psychological well-being than those who didn't volunteer at all, while people who reported high engagement had greater psychological well-being.
«When we are doing things that are ‘shoulds,' or things that we feel we have to do and are obligatory, those are hard on our well-being, no matter what age we are,» says James. She is developing new measures of older adult engagement to improve and encourage more research on the topic.
Feeling obligated in one's post-retirement relationships can have the same deleterious effect, says Nancy K. Schlossberg, EdD, author of the 2009 book «Revitalizing Retirement.» Schlossberg says many retirees feel pressured by family to plan a retirement the extended family's needs — such as babysitting grandchildren — rather than their own.
Investing in your friendships well before you retire and talking openly with family about your goals can help you avoid an unsatisfying retirement, she says. She encourages retirees to form support groups and to use their social and former work connections to help each other create internships or volunteer opportunities in areas they have always wanted to explore.
In the end, the years leading up to retirement should be a time to increase your self-awareness, adds Delamontagne. He was surprised to find he felt bored and aimless almost immediately after he retired at 63 from a highly competitive job as a software company executive.
In talking to other retirees for his book, he found that people with certain personality characteristics — such as being competitive and assertive — had more difficulty adjusting to retirement and were more ly to make impulsive decisions with their time and money, compared with more mild-mannered people coming from low-pressure jobs.
«The very attributes that make people successful in their work life often work against them in retirement,» he says.
While there's no way to prepare for every high and low, retirees will fare better if they familiarize themselves with the emotional challenges well in advance, Delamontagne says. «Once you know that these are the areas that cause problems, you can craft solutions,» he says.