While everyone’s definition of an enjoyable, fulfilling retirement may vary, there are no doubt some common situations that we can all agree are better avoided if possible. Here’s a short list of problems to avoid and how you can overcome them, leading to more happiness in retirement.
Avoid loneliness. Get involved in an active social group, preferably one that is involved in issues or hobbies that interest you greatly. You’ll gain several psychological benefits, such as a feeling of connectedness, a sense of purpose, and maybe a new or higher-level skill. Some of your best social support will come from age peers who really understand what you’re going through. Having a spouse is another way to avoid loneliness. Ideally your spouse will retire at the same time you do (or within a few months or so). When one spouse is retired but the other still works, it is more challenging for the retired spouse to really feel “free” to enjoy retirement, such as taking an extended road trip of weeks or months—something most workers cannot do because of limited vacation time.
Avoid TV and other mindless activities. While the research isn’t conclusive, there are studies hinting that regular mental activity as we age can help limit or lower the risk of dementia. Stay intellectually stimulated. Try games like bridge, crosswords, Sudoku, and chess. Write articles for a local newspaper or create a blog on a topic that calls for some expertise on your part.
Avoid defining your life by your work/career. At some point, your career will wind down and you will find yourself with time on your hands. When you were working, it was easy to answer the question “What do you do?” (I’m a teacher, an engineer, a waitress, a reporter). Envision yourself being asked that same question after you retire from your main career. Will you answer, “I’m retired” and leave it at that? Imagine how you will feel about yourself having that conversation at a party, at church, or at an event where you volunteer (like a local non-profit board meeting).
Avoid poor health. A recent Watson/Wyatt survey showed that retirees in poor health are 50% less likely to be happy, which seems on the surface to be somewhat obvious. But as we all know, how many of us are in the shape we know we should be? The last time you were at the doctor’s office (or the dentist’s), your doc may have suggested that you lose a little weight, or lower your cholesterol level, etc. So did you act on the doc’s advice? There are many studies coming out now showing the physical and, interestingly, mental benefits of exercise, particularly as we age. So follow a good diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check, get plenty of rest, etc.—the common-sense advice we’ve heard for years can help you maintain good health in your retirement years.