Retirement is becoming an increasingly important phase in many people's lives. A fifth or more of the life of the average Canadian may be spent in retirement. While retirement is unique for each person, there are stages that are common to many people. Being aware of these stages can help you to prepare for and understand them as you pass though them.
The first phase of retirement is called the honeymoon. In this stage you will enjoy your new-found freedom. It is an opportunity to be your own boss, set your own timetable, and do many of the things that you have put off in the past. This phase may last six months to a year.
The honeymoon is often followed by a time of disenchantment. This may occur within the first year of retirement. It usually begins if you realize that some of your retirement goals were unrealistic or not as satisfying as you first thought. Also, during this period your former work friends drift away and you find yourself needing to make new friends and relationships.
Retirement often causes a change in the relationships of married couples. Each partner usually has a changed role. If you have seen yourself as breadwinner or in a particular role such as secretary or plumber, you may now have self-doubts about your usefulness and importance in the community or even inside your own family.
Occasionally, you and your spouse may find yourselves at loose ends and come into conflict. The delegation of household tasks may have to be renegotiated. You may need to re-examine your roles within your marriage. Some may have to be left behind, others may need to be re-modelled. Conflict can be kept to a minimum by discussing beforehand the expectations each of you has for retirement and how you want to spend your time together.
With retirement, there is usually a drop in household income that will require some adjustment in lifestyle. Before or at retirement, it is important to reassess your family's income and living expenses. You may even want to reconsider your present living arrangements. Perhaps you may want a different type of accommodation or you might choose to live in a location that is more accessible to services.
These are all matters to consider. How you are going to manage your time should be given serious thought. When people are employed, their time is usually strictly regulated. While a job can be demanding, it puts structure into people's lives. Once you are retired, you are in charge of your own time. To enjoy your retirement fully, you must plan for it and use it so that your new life is satisfying. Setting up a loose timetable for yourself for both the short term (the next few weeks) and the longer term (the year) may be helpful.
Retirement is an opportunity to reassess and re-evaluate your personal goals and lifestyle choices.
The first step is to have a realistic picture of yourself. Know who you are and what you can do. To help with this task, make a set of file cards. On separate cards write all the roles you have: parent, friend, church member, committee member, team player etc. Next, write down all your activities and talents in different and new combinations. Consider how you can include some of your past roles and talents into new roles and activities for your future.
Often on retirement, people reassess their health and lifestyle. They go to their doctors for a thorough check-up. This suggestion is a good one for you. A visit to your family doctor can be useful to identify any present health problems and to take preventive measures against future problems.
Your doctor will assess your blood pressure, weight, vision, heart and lung function. Any changes in bowel, bladder and sexual functions can be reviewed. Your doctor will check your risk for future problems from smoking, high blood pressure, poor diet, excessive alcohol intake and inactivity. It is not too late to change these, and the benefits will extend into future years.
On retirement many people wonder about exercising. It is never too late to become physically fit. Exercise should begin gradually starting with 15 minutes, three times a week. This can increase by five minutes a week until you are exercising 30 to 45 minutes three times a week. You should adjust your pace so can still carry on a conversation throughout the exercise.
Walking at a brisk pace is just as beneficial to your health as running. People who have not exercised regularly or who know they have high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease should discuss exercising with their doctors before starting.
As your activity level changes with retirement, you should review and adjust your diet. Depending on how active you are, you may need more or fewer calories. Whatever your calorie needs, it is important to continue to eat regular nutritious meals. Ample servings of fruits and vegetables should be included. Fat, particularly saturated fat, should be kept below 30 per cent of your total dietary calories. Calcium intake should be kept above 1,000 mg a day, particularly in women after the menopause.
Most people adjust successfully to retirement and reorganize their schedules and lives in ways that give them satisfaction and pleasure. For some, however, there are several factors that make retirement more difficult. These are poor health, lack of retirement income, few friends and few social activities or hobbies before retirement. If you have not already retired, these are points to consider and plan for in advance.
Retirement offers an opportunity to spend time on hobbies and activities you have only been able to give limited attention to in the past and to enjoy new challenges and experiences. Plan ahead for this next phase of your life. If you have already retired, consider how you can enhance this fifth of your life, which is yours to plan. Two helpful references are available to help you with your planning: