People dream their entire lives of retirement. While it’s easy to imagine a life unencumbered by work deadlines or early-morning alarm clocks, there’s one part of planning many retirees fail to envision: just how they will spend their wide-open days.
The reality of retirement differs greatly from the fantasy, and the novelty can quickly wear off. With too little to do, many retirees find themselves bored in a matter of weeks or months. Boredom, combined with the changes that usually accompany aging, can surround retirement in a shroud of losses, says Denise Flowerday, life enrichment manager at Paradise Valley Estates, a northern California continuing care retirement community. “Some people are grieving loss — of their home, career, driver’s license, or different things — rather than embracing newfound freedom,” says Denise.
One reliable trouble spot is relationships which can begin to suffer. If your spouse or close friends are still working, they may resent how much time you have, as they are still tied to careers or personal obligations. A busy spouse or partner, who has their own well established routines, may struggle with the fact that there is now someone else in the house with them for much of the day.
One solution might be to meet up with friends now and again in the local bar for a companionable drink. Making this part of a daily routine, however, is not a good idea. Vices such as gambling and alcohol can have far reaching consequences when they become the focus of your life.
Focus instead on treating retirement like a relaxing job. Learn new skills, stay active, and get involved in your local community. Share your skills in service to others. Start a new hobby. However you choose to spend your time, select activities you find enjoyable and soon your days will be filled in positive ways.
Denise also suggests making a bucket list as part of retirement preparation. “You may have 20 to 30 years, so get exercise and stay engaged in your life, she advises. “Take responsibility for finding things that float your boat and explore new things you’ve never done before.” Just don’t push yourself too hard. There’s little sense in working hard for many years, only to retire and end up feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.
Retirement may not be as perfect as you imagined; but it shouldn’t be a time of loss or mourning. Make it time in which you pursue your dreams. That’s a concept worth embracing with your body, mind and spirit.