Are you ready for retirement? That question brings to mind the usual laundry list of preparations: the right financial plan, the right legal strategy, adequate insurance, and so on. But what if the question were, “Are you emotionally ready for retirement?” I think most of us who read the AgingOptions blog on a regular basis would agree that that’s an entirely different matter.
In this recent NextAvenue article, a writer named Michael MacDonald, who describes himself as “a semi-retired psychologist” living in Ontario, Canada, expands on this idea of mental and psychological preparation for that next phase of life called retirement. He has recently published a free e-book, How to Feel Younger in Your Retirement Years, and he blogs at www.AWarmHeart.ca. We liked his NextAvenue article simply called “5 Ways to Feel Younger in Retirement,” and we decided to share it here. Note: none of these involves running a marathon or competing in a triathlon. Read on for some good inspiration and food for thought.
What Will You Do with the Rest of Your Life?
It’s normal to see retirement in light of what is coming to an end: the end of a career path, the end of a chapter in your family life—such as being a parent to young children—and the end of certain routines. But MacDonald—who is 67—points out that retirement is also a beginning, one that requires us to ask: “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”
Hobbies are fun, of course, and sometimes work isn’t completely over after retirement. MacDonald likes to play hockey and golf, and he rides his bicycle to stay in shape. He and his wife also work one or two days a week as psychologists. But hobbies and part-time work are merely activities. And while staying active—both physically and mentally—can contribute to feeling youthful, MacDonald wants to go deeper. He wonders, is that all retirement is? Just a series of activities?
Avoiding the “Abyss of Insignificance”
Riley Moynes, a former CEO of a financial services company and current author, describes one of the biggest and most common pitfalls of psychology after retirement, something he calls “the abyss of insignificance.” According to MacDonald, “This fall can occur when you lose structure, identity, purpose, power and relationships during retirement. Losing any of these is like losing a part of yourself.”
He adds that life after a career ends or other responsibilities cease with retirement can cause older adults to lose focus and purpose, unless they are careful to design their retirement around what fulfills them, gives them joy and provides a sense of usefulness. MacDonald breaks his own ideas for staying younger in retirement into five goals. Let’s explore them.
Goal #1: Get Creative
“Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin defines creativity as the generous act of solving an interesting problem on behalf of someone else,” says MacDonald. “I love that.”
He writes that retirement is a good time to pick up that creative pursuit you’ve always dreamed of trying. Whether that’s visual art like drawing, painting and sculpture, or putting your thoughts to the page through writing or poetry, or even pursuing dance or a musical instrument, creativity brings added enjoyment and purpose to retirement living. MacDonald’s creative outlet is website design, which he calls “creative, challenging, and rewarding”.
Goal #2: Stay Engaged with a Wide Range of People
Seeking out like-minded groups can have enormous benefits on the psyche after retirement, as we’ve mentioned on AgingOptions before . Along with activity groups such as exercise classes, book clubs, and religious gatherings, volunteer work is also very popular after retirement, both for the service aspects as well as the social benefits. And, he adds, the wider the range of people you engage with – age, background, lifestyle – the better.
MacDonald encourages retirees looking for these kinds of connections to “try to combine social engagement with keeping updated on technology and social media. You don’t have to become as proficient as some younger people, but you can avoid the feeling of being out of step with the modern world.”
The way MacDonald does this is through promoting his blog through major social media platforms, which has pushed him out of his comfort zone and taught him to be fairly proficient at Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s good for stretching the brain, and it’s good for social connection, too!
Goal #3: Live with Passion for Things You Care About
MacDonald suggests that you lean into the current issues—locally, nationally, globally—that spark passion in you. You could do this by writing about those issues, either privately or publicly on a blog or social media post, or you could support the work of others who are active in those issues.
“While doing this, you may learn more about what you stand for,” MacDonald explains. “For me, becoming more open and informed about today’s complex issues helps me feel younger and a part of what is going on in the world.”
Goal #4: Give Back by Making a Difference
Whether monetarily or with your time, attention, or other resources, supporting causes you care about can pay back dividends emotionally and psychologically.
“Your commitment doesn’t have to involve money,” MacDonald says, “but even a little bit can open new worlds for you. Many worthy organizations would love your support. When you become a monthly donor, with even a small donation, you will receive access to information about the organization you want to support and become part of its team and mission.”
When MacDonald found and started supporting issues he cared about, he discovered incredible meaning in sharing those issues with friends. He also loves watching YouTube videos from younger people about those issues, and he derives a secondhand joy from seeing their passion and accomplishments.
Goal #5: Keep on Growing Like You Used To!
Just because you’re not a kid anymore – developmentally, anyway – that does not mean you can’t keep growing!
“When you were younger, you likely had many interests and dreams,” MacDonald writes. “You might have even thought of these activities as a basis for work or career. Now, at retirement age, you can free yourself from this constraint and follow your dreams because they excite you, not worrying about whether they’ll help pay the bills.”
Today’s world is the best it has ever been for learning and developing new skills, MacDonald writes. There are so many resources available, and many for free!
Shifting Your Mindset Helps You Stay Younger
The most important way to stay younger after retirement, according to MacDonald, is by making a mindset shift, focusing on “activities and ideas that bring you energy and excitement.” Start small by seeking out likeminded people, pursuing issues and causes that you feel passionate about, and offering your help and experience where you can.
With this as your focus, staying young after retirement is not only possible, but practically a guarantee. The cliché goes that you’re only as old as you feel. But MacDonald agrees: age is a mindset. Tap into your inner kid by chasing your fulfillment, and you’ll never grow old.
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(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)