A growing segment of our population and one that is sometimes overlooked when it comes to mental health is the senior population. As healthcare and medicine continues to improve the quality and length of life, people sometimes push retirement off as long as possible. In part, because they fear it. The thought of leaving something they've known for so long can be a scary one. Certainty and a routine that has been in place for decades will no longer exist. One might wonder, "What will I do with my time?" "Is this the next step before death?" "Am I getting old?" "Who am I if I am no longer a valuable employee?" And many more doubt-inducing and negative thoughts.
Here's how to approach retirement in a healthy way and eliminate any fear:
- Pinpoint the underlying fear. Think about where it comes from. Is it about making ends meet without a steady income? Is it about what you'll do with your abundance of free time? Is it about how you'll get along with your spouse now that you'll be seeing more of each other? How do you envision retirement? What are your expectations? Have a plan or an idea of what you'd wish it to be like.
- If you have a spouse, then discuss it together and be open to compromise. Recognize that any differences you might have are OK and can be worked out. Accept the notion that time apart is healthy. You've spent time without each other for years in your respective careers, so you've proven that you can make it.
- Reduce financial uncertainty. Meet with a financial planner to discuss how to manage finances, expenses and investments.
- Stay active, both physically and mentally. This will help keep you healthy and provide structure to your day.
- Remember, you don't lose the skills, expertise and experience you've amassed over your career. There's a place for them. Perhaps it is in mentoring or simply providing support to someone.
- Volunteer and get involved. This will fill any void that is left by retiring and will create for you a sense of belongingness.
- Be open to learning new things. It's never too late to take on a new project, hobby, or activity; make new friends, enjoy travel, be open to great expectations.