Improve the quality of life after retirement
Welcome back to my monthly series of guest blogs, where I invite writers from my Retirement Rebellion network to feature their work on my site. This month I welcome Rosy Prose, of Seeing It Clearly Now. This post was originally published on her blog here and has been republished with permission. Rosy, over to you…
It’s so easy to let time slip through our fingers. After we retire, we face a stream of unstructured days before us. Some of us don’t think about how we’re going to spend that time, just put the TV on and relax. Suddenly the day is gone – and the one after that, and the one after that.
For so many years our lives were filled with demanding jobs, commutes, raising children and maintaining homes that we’re not used to having choices about our time. We had few choices. We just did what we had to do, hoping to fit it all in. Now we have choices and maybe that choice IS to just put the TV on and relax! That’s our choice and that’s OK for a while. Some down time is a good thing. However, I would predict that if the rest of your life went that way, every day for many years, you would be bored, lonely, depressed and unhealthy.
Of course, there are those who go to the opposite extreme. They’re so excited about being “free-to-be-me” that they program in extensive travel, join 100 groups, start a side-hustle business, begin writing their memoirs, and sign up for lessons of all kinds. Before long they’re burned out. They might even have exhausted their retirement funds.
It’s really a good idea to spend a little time evaluating your quality of life. When you’ve done that and have it where you want it, you should also update it from time to time because things change. You get older, your health and physical abilities change, your finances change, and your interests change. Stop long enough to take stock.
My goal is to help you get better with age, to help you enrich each day. Each day is a privilege, so let’s make the most of each one. Let’s have the very best possible quality of life. That will vary for each of us, of course, but it should be the best for each of us at that moment.
Are you happy with your life? Are there areas of it that could stand improvement? In keeping with my theory that baby steps are the way to go, I suggest choosing one part of your quality of life that you’d like to work on and then take a baby step toward that end.
Some of the major things that affect your quality of life are:
– Financial security plus
– Good relationships
– A strong sense of purpose
Financial security plus
Worries about having enough money to pay all our bills or outliving your retirement funds sure puts a damper on enjoying our retirement years. In addition, it’s nice to have a little bit over what we need to spend on whatever we enjoy. I call it Financial Security Plus.
We can’t go back to your pre-retirement years and save more/spend less and we can’t redo our investment strategy. We can’t redo the past. So, here we are retired from our job and living on a fixed income.
There are still many things we can do to cut our expenses and supplement – they include things like getting a reverse mortgage, cashing in a life insurance policy, getting a part-time job that we can manage, perhaps with physical limitations, couponing and discounts, cutting food costs while still maintaining a healthy diet and lots more. No winning lottery tickets here – but every little bit helps!
Having people in our lives certainly enriches it. A good support group helps us weather adversity and taking part in enjoyable activities with one person or a group can add fun to life. Fun is always good! If you’re fortunate enough to have quality family relationships or good friends, then you know what I mean, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have that. Perhaps family lives at a distance or the ties were broken. Perhaps friends have retired to scattered locations not nearby. Perhaps you’ve moved to a new location. Or maybe your spouse has passed away and you never had a network beyond your marriage. If you come up short on the relationships area, it would help improve your quality of life to work on that.
Certainly, it’s harder to make friends later in life. We no longer have the advantage of work colleagues or parents of our kids or the PTA to bring us together, so we have to work on it a bit. I’m a big believer in organisations.
I’m a joiner. That’s hard for some people but it can be overcome. Baby steps. Start by picking something that’s logical or of real interest to you. By logical, I mean something like getting active in your condo association if you live in a condo. Or a support group if you have a health issue. And there are so many interest groups! Do you like to paint, or read, or hike, or knit?
If you don’t know where to start, start with your local senior centre. Most of them have dozens of activities you can select from. The library is another great source and sometimes the YMCA and Adult Ed at the local schools or Lifetime Learners. Or just google “book groups near me”, etc. If you have a particular interest and can’t find a group, start one! There are many neighbourhood groups where you can throw out feelers, or Meetup.com.
Participating with a group of like-minded strangers in an activity you enjoy is a fabulous ice-breaker. Don’t assume that you’ll join one group and meet a “bestie” on day one. Give it time. At the very least, you’ll be doing something you enjoy, so be sure to pick something that really appeals to you.
Volunteering is another wonderful way to meet people and it has the great side-effect of doing something to help others. We’ll talk about that more when we talk about Purpose.
There is another very simple way to expand your social network and it’s so often overlooked. TALK. Easier said than done, I know. I’m pretty reserved myself but I watched my husband do this all the time. He talked to anyone and everyone he encountered – the waiter, the neighbours, the person in the elevator. He would make simple comments that just came naturally to him, like “this elevator seems slow”, “I like that jacket you’re wearing”, “Are you from the south? I seem to detect a very slight accent”. Do you know the name of the person who mows your lawn, or the guy behind the deli corner who makes your sandwich? Does the person who cuts your hair have kids? I’m not suggesting you’re going to meet your best-friend this way, but you might, and being interested in people, getting to know them better, really does enrich your life. It just comes naturally to some people, like my husband, but it can be learned by anyone. Practice. Baby steps.
A sense of purpose
In your younger years you probably had some very big jobs – growing your career, raising your children, caring for ageing parents. Many people retire from their jobs, look around and ask themselves, ‘what is my purpose?’. A reason to get out of bed in the morning, contributing in some way, having a purpose adds to our quality of life. Human beings like to know they have worth, that they’re here for a reason.
Not everyone retires. Many, who have the kind of work that permits it, continue to work forever. Some, like me, help with grandchildren and find that very fulfilling. Not only are we helping our children out, but I like to think we’re also adding to our grandchildren’s lives and maybe teaching them a thing or two! And some don’t want any purpose other than to travel and enjoy themselves after a lifetime of hard work. That’s a purpose!
If you feel that you’re lacking in that area, that you wake up in the morning and proceed to decide between reading your book or going for a walk in the woods, and you’re saying, ‘Is that all there is?’, like the line in the song, consider adding something meaningful. There are so many options. Consider becoming politically active, on a local or national level. Or volunteering at your local hospital or library or school. Or doing volunteer work for any worthwhile organisation you care about. Or get an appropriate part-time job. Maybe even start a business! There are many older adult entrepreneurs – in fact, older adults are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs.
Last, but certainly not least, if you’re not having any fun, be sure to add some to your life. Laughter, joy, add years to your life, enhance the quality, and even make you healthier. Everything impacts everything else. All of the above topics are vehicles to help you add more fun to your life.
Financial Security Plus: A little extra money in your pocket pays for that trip you always wanted to take, or that expensive camera for your photography habit, or just that fabulous outfit you want to buy. And yes, shopping is fun!
Good Relationships: The more people in your life, the more opportunities for fun – someone to go to lunch with, an invitation to a party, a social event at the senior centre.
A Sense of Purpose: Most of the activities you’re doing with purpose in mind, also provide social opportunities that can be fun.
No matter what else you’re doing, program something in that makes you smile or laugh. Read a book that’s humorous, binge watch a funny old TV series or watch a comedy. Call up your little grandchild and have a deep conversation with them! These little people are funny!
The other day, my grandson asked me ‘So, do you ever do anything exciting?’ Then we proceeded to talk about the story he’s writing about the bunny who went into outer space. You don’t have a grandchild? Borrow one! A friend of mine has offered to babysit for her 6-year-old neighbour, free, when her mummy goes to the store, because she thoroughly enjoys this little girl’s company.
If you’re loving every aspect of your life, have purpose, lots of money, meaningful relationships, and are having fun, you can skip this exercise. If you’re a little short somewhere, or just want more, then let’s proceed with baby steps and a plan.
Books by George Jerjian
Dare to Discover Your Purpose is an innovative new online retirement course designed to help you change the way you feel about this important but often misunderstood life stage.