23rd Nov 2017
How to cope when you leave work for the last time
Author: Olga Galacho
Mending your retirement mentality

You wouldn’t be alone if you admitted to having dreamt about retirement for much of the latter years of your working life. Common to most of us would have been fantasies about escaping the weekly grind, having plenty of time to be with loved ones or enjoy hobbies, and, best of all, sleeping in.

Yet the retirement reality for some newly-minted pensioners is less than idyllic because they have not mentally prepared for the long days, weeks and years ahead that are seemingly without purpose.

A paper published by UK think tank Institute of Economic Affairs in 2013 revealed that retirement increased the probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40 per cent. Lead author of Work Longer, Live Healthier Gabriel H. Sahlgren reported that results from “two distinct research strategies display large negative health effects of retirement among both women and men. These results are robust, according to a range of alternative specifications.”

Ironically, some caring employers are taking a share of the responsibility for the mental well-being of their staff once they exit the workplace. A SuperFriend program called Mentally Healthy Retirement holds seminars at workplaces for employees nearing retirement age.

The main pillars of the program are to:

  • form realistic expectations about retirement by understanding the link between expectations, satisfaction and wellbeing
  • learn which factors contribute to adjusting well or poorly to retirement
  • understand the importance of planning a mentally healthy retirement (not just financially)
  • learn strategies to foster wellbeing during retirement.

While most of us will not have had the benefit of such a program, former US academic Nancy Schlossberg argues all people can take steps to make the transition to retirement healthier for their minds.

After her own difficult journey into retirement, she spent years studying other retirees and went on to write a number of books, including Retire Smart, Retire Happy.

She believes that people who leave the workplace often struggle with their identity, once they can no longer describe themselves in terms of their occupation.

Those who strive to define a post-retirement identity that provides “structure to their days and meaning to their lives”, will be the happiest, she says.

Many retirees need to define a new mission or purpose for themselves. “You can ask yourself what you wish you had done in your life and turn that into a new focus,” Ms Schlossberg says.

When you finish work you leave behind many relationships. New relationships often need to be forged to take their place. She suggests volunteering or joining clubs as an easy way to begin forming new ties.

Strengthening the bonds in existing relationships with family and friends is another way of avoiding isolation.

Among the strategies for staying sane after a paid career ends, Ms Schlossberg recommends continuing to ‘do’ what you most loved about your job.

“Continuers still use their skills, interests and activities but modify them to fit retirement. I am a continuer. I don't teach or have a salary, but I still write and speak about things I've always been interested in," she says.

Former employees whose work involved change-making roles can see retirement as an opportunity to make alterations in their own lives. “These are people who start something new. For example, a bank teller might become a docent (tour guide) in a museum. An investigative reporter might become an artist. It is about adventures in new arenas."

Those whose jobs involved problem-solving can benefit from exploring new options through trial and error. “This means you look into different activities. You talk to people in the fields you're interested in. You volunteer for different projects or programs, and if you don't like one, you try something else.”

Did you make firm plans for your transition to retirement? What were some of the ways in which you coped in the early years after finishing up work? What tips do you have for those on the cusp of retirement?

If you’d like to speak to someone at Lifeline, please call 131114. 



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Bernard Kelly
    30th Nov 2017
    Research shows that "irrelevance" is the worst issue facing retirees, but they only realise that for some years.

    So to maintain your zest for living, you need to find Relevance.

    Don't leave it too long, because there is always the risk that you be considered "an oldie".

    The solution is to join a community group or establish a small hobby business.
    30th Nov 2017
    Bernard, I think your post hits the nail on the head. Relevance is the hardest thing to find and maintain. I made sure I made a list of goals and contacts before I left my career and this helps. I volunteer for community organisations where I don’t just mix with ‘oldies’ . My same age group friends are very very important because they share my fears and concerns and anyway I like them. I get so cross when people patronise me and call me ‘love’ or ‘dear’ and say so and cheerfully walk out when a salesperson (usually a bloke) tries to sell me a car because of the colour of its upholstery or a computer which isn’t powerful enough for me. It’s great fun asking high tech questions which the young bloke can’t answer.
    30th Nov 2017
    Piglet I think the list of goals is a good idea. Also having good friends is a good idea , old colleagues from work if all they talk is about a job you no longer have or care about is a waste of time and living in the past and not for me.
    But more than half your comment is about trying to put down sales staff particularly men which is a bit petty and sad and shows you are insecure. When I choose equipment the sales staff give me a range of options and I choose what suits whether it's female or male staff. I don't see a problem. But if you want to spend your retirement trying to catch male sales staff in shops,hey it's your retirement.
    30th Nov 2017
    I prepared years before to be financially secure and I stopped work at 52. But I had a terrible time.
    My face hurt for years afterwards from smiling all the time, and I've had to fight the urge to yell YES and laugh out loud. I'm now 61 and better off financially than ever life is easy. I may not have as much money as some but I only need half as much money as most.
    Old Geezer
    30th Nov 2017
    Know what you mean as I often wonder when I actually had time to go to work.
    30th Nov 2017
    OG me too I'm busy enjoying myself I don't miss work.
    30th Nov 2017
    Been there done that. The short answer is never look back and find an interest. Mine is sport and travel.
    The worst thing recently retired people can do is to focus on what they have just escaped. There is life after work and I would never want to go back.
    30th Nov 2017
    You're right Mick some people live in the past. It's also important to keep fit. I'm on the couch at the moment writing this because I've just finished a 30km cycle in just over an hour, keeping busy is a good idea
    30th Nov 2017
    Buy an old car, or anything you wanted 20/30 years ago.

    I bought 2 of the same model, not running, 25 year old sports cars. I knew about 25% of what I needed to know to build one car from the 2. I joined an online club interested in that make, & received overwhelming support & advice on what to do & how to do it. When I was stuck someone always had the experience to advise me how to cure my problem.

    Today, 17 years later I am still there, but I am one of those giving the advice, I have learnt so much. I have friends all over the world, I have a car in beautiful condition, better than new actually, which after 80,000 kilometres in 17 years is worth about 2/3rds of what I have spent on it. How much is a 2 year old new hatch worth?

    I have people come up smiling in service stations, or at the supermarket, with conversation starters like, "That's beautiful; I haven't seen one of those in years; My brother, uncle, mate, father, had one of those.

    My wife & I are always planning our next trip in her. Buying that car has made me younger in heart if not body. Best thing I ever did.
    30th Nov 2017
    Wasn't this the intention of the transition to retirement arrangements? So that you could wean yourself off the daily grind and find things to gradually replace it with? So there is nothing new in this article . It is good to not have yet another piece about the financial side of things though. After all retirement is not all about money!
    30th Nov 2017
    I suppose some people must have problems going into retirement but I had no issues at all I couldn't be happier. I can't even imagine what they miss. I spent my life managing people in one form or another and I was glad to see the end of it.
    30th Nov 2017
    I spend my time socialising, movies, craft classes and some gardening. I try to travel 2-3 times per year.
    30th Nov 2017
    Pamiea I keep myself busy with cycling ,oil painting and classical guitar to name a few. I was interested in your traveling? I was thinking about doing some myself. Do you fly out or do you caravan?
    30th Nov 2017
    I love retirement and find myself ridiculously content with life after work. Time to spend now with friends and grandchildren, in my garden growing my own veges . Also the biggest pleasure now is freedom to travel regularly both overseas and doing road trips within Australia. Just slowing down to enjoy each day is a joy in itself. I don't understand people who are bored.
    Old Geezer
    30th Nov 2017
    Nice to get up each day and decide what you want to do not what others want you to do. I take my caravan and just take each day as it comes. Like a place or don't feel like driving I stay awhile and enjoy it.
    30th Nov 2017
    OG I've been thinking about getting a caravan so I can holiday during the colder months. Sounds like you enjoy it.
    Old Geezer
    30th Nov 2017
    Even in the summer we like to go up on the range to get away from the heat and crowds on the coast. Watching the weather at present as they have forecast lots of rain. If it gets hot and humid might take the van up on the range before Christmas crowds take it over.
    Old Geezer
    30th Nov 2017
    I only got a small one 17 and half foot but with everything I wanted including grey water tank. It is fully self contained that has enough solar to run it without power. The first thing I run out of is water.
    30th Nov 2017
    Yep love getting away on the range too. Cooler than the coast. Can be self contained with 2 water tanks and plenty of solar panels. Especially love travelling in the cooler months enjoying a camp fire at night. This is a beautiful country. Plenty to see and enjoy.
    Old Geezer
    30th Nov 2017
    Yes we can stay away for about a week if we fill both water tanks. We now have our favourite spots.
    30th Nov 2017
    OG sounds great I don't want too big a van , too much trouble. The solar panels sounds like a good idea never thought of it.

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