Depending on how you feel about your work, moving towards retirement can feel like a loss. It's certainly a big transition for most people, and especially so if you liked your work and enjoyed the people you worked with. It's important to consider what you will be retiring to do in the years ahead. I've heard it suggested that we should REFIRE rather than retire.
I'm working in life coaching with people who are coming up on the retirement transition, and planning for their next chapter of life. Here are some factors you may want to consider when you begin planning yours:
1. Figure out how you are going to stay active and keep moving. We know people age better if they keep active, so figuring out how you can safely get your 10,000 steps a day is key. Can you walk where you live? Swim? Go to a gym or exercise class regularly?
2. How are you going to contribute to others? Can you continue some volunteer work you have done earlier in your life? Do you have some ideas about how you could help a cause you care about, like seniors, animals, the environment, people with disabilities, children and youth, church, politics, hospitals, or something else? If you are not sure and need ideas, google your local volunteer center. In Orange County, California, where I have my counseling practice, we have a great organization called One OC that has a job bank for both board positions and direct service volunteer positions from non-profits all across the county (www.oneoc.org).
Think about whether you want to use the same skills you've used at work, or have a chance to do something different. Would you like to work on projects alone and independently, or work with people? Volunteer work is a source of meaning and contribution. It's also a great venue for making new friends with great people with whom you share some common values with.
3. Keep learning new things. Upgrade your computer skills, take a class at the community college, look for opportunities with your local city community services, work crossword puzzles and otherwise challenge your brain to stay engaged. I like to encourage being a lifelong learner, so look for activities that will keep you learning and thinking. Would you like to join a film society, book club, or check your local university for continuing learning opportunities for seniors? Many retirees find new groups to learn with or do activities with on meetup.com. In Orange County, Cal State University, Fullerton has the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) with wonderful classes for retired and almost retired adults. You can contact them by phone or email, (firstname.lastname@example.org, or 657-278-24460).
4. Keep up your people contact daily. Don't get isolated. Figure out how you can set a goal of being in contact with four or more people each day for maximum wellness. In the 1980's, the California Department of Mental Health did a campaign called, "Friends Can Be Good Medicine" about the mental and physical health benefits to being in relationships with others. It's still true. Put it into practice in your retirement, when you will need to reach out more to others than you did before.
5. Consider working part-time or reducing your hours gradually to ease the transition.
6. Consciously add new friends to your group.
7. Make sure to do at least an outing every day. Don't become a recluse.
8. If you are married or partnered, you will need time together, but you will be happier if you maintain some separate activities. You may be retired, but you still need some autonomy and different interests to keep things fresh. You don't want to suffocate each other. I've heard this called "retired to have dinner together, but not always lunch". You will have more to share with each other if you each pursue some of your own things. Everyone needs a separate sense of self.
9. If you are already, or become a grandparent during your retirement, that's another incredible opportunity for reaching out, transcending self, and creating meaning. Wouldn't it be meaningful to make the grandparenting role an important one? You may have skills to teach or be more available or patient than the children's parents who are at a busy stage in their lives. Making positive memories with your grandchildren is an incredible legacy. I know my girls will never forget Gram teaching them to make homemade pasta and bake pies, or Gramps teaching them to drive and garden.
10. Cultivate flexibility. There are losses that occur as we age, with our own aging process and with our partners. Try to develop an ability to adjust gracefully when it's time, knowing that the changes will continue.
If you begin thinking creatively, your retirement years could be some of your very best ones. People are living longer, so recreating your life after the working years is a whole new chapter to choreograph and build health, connection, learning and contribution. Now that's a life well lived. Let's think not just about retiring from, but retiring to.