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Generosity, Sociability, Intimacy: a Few Keys to a Happier Retirement

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Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best – a statement that can certainly be true in retirement. With that in mind we were drawn to this recent article on a website called “Real Deal Retirement” with the title, “How to Live a Longer and Happier Retirement.” Who wouldn’t want the answer to a promise like that?

 The author, money expert and retirement writer Walter Updegrave, wrote the piece in response to a retiree who asked whether volunteering might actually help the retiree live longer. It turns out that the answer seems to be yes. Being a generous person, the type who gives back through volunteering and philanthropy, is just one of several means listed in the article by which we can all enjoy a longer, happier, more fulfilling retirement. Updegrave quoted two studies, one from 2013 and the other from 2015 that indicated those who volunteer their time actually have lower risk of mortality, lower rates of depression, and greater sense of well-being that non-volunteers. These individuals were much more likely to describe themselves as happy and healthy.

Why should this be true? Doing things that benefit others, doctors theorize, also benefits us by lowering blood pressure and reducing stress levels. Helping others clearly can improve our own sense of worth, purpose and well-being. But as anyone who has ever become over-committed to good works can attest, be careful not to overdo it. When we take on more good deeds that we should, our stress level rises and we can become irritable and fatigued. Philanthropy and volunteerism play an important role in a happier retirement, but we each have our own limits.

Here’s another recommendation from the “Real Deal” article that sounds simple: in order to enjoy a more fulfilling retirement, stay healthy. Good health is an absolute key to satisfaction in retirement, and as we frequently point out here on our AgingOptions blog, there are many ways we can take control of our health by making good choices in diet, exercise and activity levels. But here’s one piece of information that was new to us: when it comes to the activities retirees take part in, variety is important. Updegrave quotes Atlanta author Wes Moss whose research led him to discover that retirees with three or four core interests tended to be happiest. In other words, look for different ways to keep body and brain active and engaged.

Sociability is also a key indicator to a happy and fulfilling retirement. Recently we’ve presented articles on our blog pointing out how essential it is for seniors to stay socially active (for example here’s this article on the perils of loneliness from a recent blog post). Pew Research found that those seniors with a good number of friends were three times as likely to call themselves “very happy” as those who felt they didn’t have enough friends. (By the way, as the “Real Deal” article mentions, staying sexually active as we age is also a positive indicator of a happier retirement. Sexual intimacy benefits us physically and emotionally.)

Updegrave’s final recommendation for a happier retirement is to get a clear handle on your finances. This may seem extremely obvious – and we talk about finances a great deal with our radio listeners and clients – but it’s not just about money. The reason financial clarity is important has to do with your stress level. Often the fear of the unknown is the most troubling fear of all. If you take the time to get a true picture of your assets and a clear view of how long they’ll last, acting on this knowledge can truly help you enjoy a more rewarding and less stressful retirement even if you have to make some necessary lifestyle adjustments.

“If helping others through volunteering makes you feel good,” says Updegrave, “by all means keep doing it. And while you’re at it, make sure you’re doing everything else you can to improve your chances of having a more rewarding post-career life.” We strongly agree. That’s precisely why here at AgingOptions we place such emphasis on a unique approach to retirement planning that we call LifePlanning. Your individualized LifePlan answers several questions that are crucial to your retirement future: “How can I protect my assets? How can I avoid unplanned institutional care? How can I avoid becoming a burden to my loved ones?” With a properly developed LifePlan, every facet of your retirement – your housing choices, your medical coverage, your legal affairs, your financial protection and your family communication – is planned out and prepared for.

You can learn more about LifePlanning and how it will benefit you by attending a free, no-obligation LifePlanning Seminar. This will definitely be a few hours very well spent! For dates, times and online registration, click on the Upcoming Events tab – or call us and we’ll gladly answer your questions and register you by phone. If your goal is, as Walter Updegrave put it, to “make sure you’re doing everything you can to improve your chances of having a more rewarding post-career life,” we are eager to assist you.

(originally reported at


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