Retirement today is a far different reality than what it was decades ago. In the era of the company man, it was the edge of the cliff. You were heading there, like it or not. On the way out, you got a party and a gold watch (if you were lucky). And then you went home—and pretty much did nothing. But now, given longer life expectancies, better health, and multiple jobs or even careers packed into one individual’s lifetime, retirement may span a full third of your life.
That’s a lot of time to do nothing—or learn how to renew your life. Doing nothing can trigger depression, anxiety, and deteriorating physical health, if you get too isolated and don’t seek help.
Instead of doing nothing, if you’re facing retirement or are already there, here are five great ways to see this as a time of renewal—and thrive!
Make some new friends
Women tend to maintain close friendships over their lifetime, and their friends serve as their confidantes and support system. But often, men are set adrift emotionally when they leave the social cradle of the workplace. They’ve likely spent most of their time with their co-workers and work associates, and suddenly, that camaraderie is gone.
Don’t let solitude take its place. Resolve to make new friends, as well as keeping the old.
Attend to your partner
There’s a long-standing wife’s saying about marriage that rings true: “I married him for better or worse, but not for lunch.”
Many marriage partners aren’t used to spending a lot of time together, and thrive on a separate but connected relationship, with separate interests and schedules. But now, upon retirement, you’re probably going to have to eat lunch together. Spend this time consciously reacquainting yourselves with each other, and make an effort to share your hopes and expectations.
If she’s still working and you’re not, you may experience a sense of exclusion, as she’s still out in the world. Figure out ways to bridge your two lives.
Talk about love
With your doctor, your partner, a new love interest—society is much more open about sex and intimacy now than it was in the past. Increased longevity can mean you end up working through some physical and emotional changes. It’s smart (and it’s your right!) to be honest with your doctor if you’re disturbed by changes you’re experiencing. If your doctor doesn’t seem informed, or is a poor listener, get a new doctor.
If your doctor doesn’t seem informed, or is a poor listener, get a new doctor.
Intimacy works best when it’s an expression of deep love or affection, and it may take new forms that are just as pleasurable as familiar ones to both concerned. If you’re finding new love, remember that you’re not immune to sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, they’re on the rise in some senior communities.
Stay active in your field
Some men find they’re happiest when they keep up with their field of work. If that means learning new technology or skills, there are ways to do that, such as attending conferences and workshops, and interacting with younger practitioners. You may find that your wisdom and experience are much welcomed.
For so many of us, our passion for our field doesn’t diminish just because we don’t have to make a living at it any longer. And staying active in your field is not only stimulating, it can be immensely gratifying as well.
Focus on feeling well
Feeling well is a sign that you’re paying attention to your own physical and mental well-being.
It’s best to learn about the warning signs of dementia, such as forgetting not just something minor like a neighbour’s name, but your own address. Don’t let yourself spend each and every hour alone. There’s a key difference between satisfying solitude and isolation, and there’s a difference between being sad and being depressed.
Stay active, resolve to get out of your house at least once a day and find ways to socialize—civic groups, seniors’ centres, religious organizations, Neighbourhood Watch, volunteering. You’ll be welcome, and in some cases, needed. Don’t be surprised if you’re pressed into service. Enjoy it!
A whole new phase of life
Some men choose to keep working well past the usual retirement age, and just scale back as it’s comfortable. Some men are “phased out” before they’re ready, which can sting. Some can’t wait to be done with work so they can finally get to a new passion or an old interest.
The common ground is that life expectancy has given senior men a whole new phase of life to explore. There’s no reason to see this as a dead end. More likely than not, it’s a whole new beginning!