How to make your retired years the best ones yet!
From the black and white TVs and meat and three veg of your childhood, to the fine food, wine, flat screens and business travel of your adult years, you’ve achieved a lot in your lifetime and you’re hardly ready to stop now.
After decades of working for the dollar, building a career, a family and a home, the idea of retirement being your ‘golden years’ sounds sickeningly more like the ‘golden girls’ than the best years of your life.
But the truth is, there’s a lot to savour about retirement – you don’t have to set an alarm, you can spend all day in your jocks (if you really want to), you can start that Eagles cover band, or have long lunches with your friends on a Wednesday.
And while that’s all fun and games, Rachel Clement, the Director of Psychological Services at the Centre for Corporate Health and member of R U OK? Conversation Think Tank says that for many, retirement can be quite polarising, and can be a major cause of mental health issues in older Australians.
That's why planning for your new ‘life of leisure’ is essential, not only for your bank balance, but also for your psychological and physical health.
“When people retire, those who have strong social support and who are engaged in the community usually have the smoothest and most enjoyable transition,” Rachel said.
“This is important when going through any change in your life, because supportive relationships are one of the strongest buffers for our mental health and resilience.”
So if you’re looking to embark on an idyllic retirement, here are a few ways you can ease yourself into your golden years without feeling like a Golden Girl…
Gear up to volunteer
What are you passionate about? Local Government? Treatment of Refugees? Legacy? Women’s Rights?
There are a number of not-for-profit organisations that are looking for smart and savvy people to join their ranks, and volunteering is not only a great way to meet new people, it’s also the perfect way utilise the skills you’ve developed during your time in the workforce.
According to Mind Health Connect volunteering has many benefits for mental health including:
- Increased confidence and self-esteem;
- Relieved stress and symptoms of depression;
- An increased sense of achievement and purpose; and
- The opportunity to build a solid support base through regular contact with people with similar interests.
You could end up teaching someone to read, preparing and delivering food for vulnerable people, caring for the environment or local wildlife, or even participating in your favourite major events, like WOMAD, Writers Week, or the Adelaide Fringe. The list is endless!
One great way to give back and pass on your valuable skills is by becoming a presenter at the University of the Third Age. If presenting isn’t your thing, there are a variety of courses that you can attend for personal development, and best of all – you can meet new, like-minded people.
Keep your mind sharp and your body moving
Joining a club whether it’s tennis, swimming or your local book club, will expand your social network and keep the body and mind ticking over.
Swimming, yoga, and pilates are great sports to try because they’re gentle on joints and low impact, while still great for your physical and mental health.
You could even whip out your Dad’s old bowls and start up a bowling team at the local green – it’s low impact and the drinks are cheap!
For those more interested in working out their mind, book clubs are a great way to challenge yourself and your perspective.
Even if reading wasn’t a part of your everyday working life, you will quickly learn to appreciate the advantages of getting lost in a good book, particularly if there’s the added incentive of discussing it with enthusiastic and interesting new friends.
Research shows that reading improves brain function, reduces stress and also expands memory, and is especially helpful if you want to stay up-to-date with new books, authors, and issues relating to society.
Treasure family time
Your greatest support network is your family, and retirement provides the ideal opportunity to reconnect and spend quality time with your parents, siblings, adult children and grandchildren.
Why not set aside a regular time to spend with your grandkids? Little ones fill your day with the kind of adventure, laughs, love and energy you could never get from behind your desk, and it’s so rewarding to see their minds grow and develop, week in, week out.
Getting your grandkids into the kitchen is a winner, and it also enforces family traditions – like passing down Great Grandma’s old carrot cake recipe! And with your grandchild measuring the ingredients and following instructions, you’re also teaching them to plan, develop patience, and follow instructions.
Abe Lemons – a well-known American college basketball coach and player – once said, “the trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.”
But if you immerse yourself in new activities, develop new networks, make inspiring new friends and cultivate old friendships and family relationships too, your retirement will be so fulfilling, you might have to start setting an alarm again!