New series aims to tackle the dark side of retirement

Feeling a bit let down in retirement? You are not alone.

The psychological impact of retirement is being highlighted in the first of a series of initiatives by suicide prevention group R U OK? The series aims to raise awareness of the mental difficulties many face after leaving work behind.

Your retirement years are meant to be the best of your life, a reward for decades of hard work. But for many people, the transition to retirement brings with it feelings of lost purpose, social isolation and of course, financial stress if the retirement was forced or unexpected.  

These are big issues, and dealing with them alone is difficult, if not impossible. That’s why it’s important to be able to reach out to those around you, and to be able to help when someone needs you.

Know the signs – in yourself and others

Of course, both of those things are easier said than done. Many people, men in particular, find it difficult to discuss these negative feelings for fear of being seen as weak.

Similarly, when a friend opens up to you asking for help, it can be hard to know what to say beyond offering meaningless platitudes.

These are the problems the ‘When Life Happens, ask R U OK?’ series is aiming to tackle.

Put together by the R U OK? Folks, in conjunction with ING Australia, the online and print content series looks at how we can support those going through life’s ups and downs. And the first subject they’re tackling is retirement.

Former school principal Geoff Leary was interviewed as part of the project and says when he retired he struggled with feeling he had no purpose.

“It can be hard to have so much on your plate each day, then to turn around and feel, well, there’s nothing really that I need to do today, that I have to do today,” he says.

Creating trust

“Blokes find it quite difficult to share feelings; I know I do. I think the best way to encourage more open conversations is to create trust with people around you.

“I’ve found catching up regularly, not being judgmental, and just listening after you’ve asked has been the best way to build that trust.”

Rachel Clements, director of psychological services at the Centre for Corporate Health, says there are signs you can look out for in loved ones, even if they’re not likely to ask for help.

“As a loved one, friend or colleague of someone retiring, it is important to be aware retirement can be both a celebratory and challenging time,” she says.

“Signs someone might be struggling include irritability and frustration, withdrawing from usual activities, and sleep disturbances.

“If someone in your world is retiring, keep in touch and have regular conversations with them about how they’re really going. So, if they do find themselves struggling, they know you’re someone they can talk to.”

But what do you say to someone who’s struggling?

If someone reaches out to you asking for help, R U OK? Recommends first letting them speak uninterrupted, and without judgement. Take what they say seriously and don’t try to rush them along.

You may need to encourage them a little bit with probing questions such as ‘how are you feeling about that?’ or ‘how long have you been feeling this way?’. Repeat back to them what they’ve told you in your own words to show that you’ve understood them.

Further probing questions may be needed. Try asking questions such as ‘what have you done in the past to manage this?’ or ‘what’s something enjoyable we could do right now?’ or even just ‘what can I do to help this?’

If they’ve been feeling really down for more than two weeks, encourage them to see a health professional. Offer to help them find a professional if needed and be positive about the role they play in dealing with mental health.

One of the most important ways you can help your loved one after they’ve reached out is to continually check back in with them to see how they’re feeling, and if any progress has been made.

Did you or anybody you know struggle mentally when they retired? Do you think you could spot the signs if someone in your life needed help? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Don’t let depression ruin your retirement

Disclaimer: Australian readers seeking support and information about suicide and depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information on treating depression, please visit Beyond Blue.

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -