Like any life situation, there are retirement factors that are both within your control, and outside of your control.
Organisational psychologist Dr Sarah Cotton, from Transitioning Well which helps people deal with major life changes, said some of the factors outside of your control include being made redundant, being overly invested in your work, your financial status and whether or not you have strong partner support.
But the key to a successful retirement, according to Dr Cotton, is to “harness the heck out of those factors that you can influence”. These include:
1. Maintaining your physical health pre-and post-retirement
Follow a good exercise and diet routine and have regular check-ups, both before and after retirement, as we know physical and mental health have a strong impact on one another.
“We have to be very intentional about how we are going to maintain our physical and mental health,” Dr Cotton says. “We have to be pro-active and take responsibility for it.”
2. Plan for retirement
“Often when retirement starts, the planning stops but you have to keep planning for retirement even in retirement,” Dr Cotton says. This includes making sure your ongoing physical, financial and mental health needs are being met.
3. Having adequate social and emotional support
Having people to rely on, and good relationships in your life, is a basic human need. “Social isolation is one of the biggest risk factors for depression, so investing in your relationships is crucial to good health,” Dr Cotton says.
4. Maintaining pre-retirement lifestyle
Make sure you have alternative non-work activities and social connections before you retire. This can include “bridge employment”, such as volunteering, and being a member of different groups, such as a bowls club.
5. Ongoing learning
Dr Cotton points to the University of the Third Age as an excellent example of ongoing learning in retirement. “We often underestimate the mental stimulation work gives us,” Dr Cotton says.
Continued learning, which can be formal or informal, through hobbies and interest groups, can also enhance self-esteem at a time when you no longer identify with your work persona. “Post retirement work is about finding the new rhythm and routines of your day.”
6. Setting goals
“A positive outlook is vital in retirement. Look at ‘what am I retiring to?’. Don’t focus on loss, focus on opportunities,” Dr Cotton says. Volunteering can be anything from community programs to using your own skills to help others such as mentoring disadvantaged people to help them secure work.
7. Receiving pre-retirement advice or education
One of the best places to get retirement advice is from those who have retired well, and are happy. Preparation for retirement can help you understand what is ahead, and fosters feelings of control and mastery over the process.
For more information about a mentally healthy retirement, learn about our Retiring Well program here.