Washington, DC - There’s more to consider than your financial wellbeing if you are planning early retirement. You need to give thought to the impact that the change in your daily routine when you retire can have on your physical and mental health, says senior advocate Dan Weber.
“There’s the idealized version of retirement. The one that has you on the golf course whenever you feel like it; the one that envisions a life of leisure and more time for yourself, away from the stress and strain of work. And then there is the reality, that retirement can be hazardous to your health unless you are prepared for the lifestyle changes that await you,” says Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens.
Few people give thought to the stress of retirement. But it is something everyone needs to do, whether you work in an office, a store or in the field.
Researcher Patrick J. Skerrett suggests, in a Harvard Medical School report, that to properly prepare for retirement you need a social network, which in some cases may require you to make new friends. This is especially important if you are without a spouse and your social network consists mainly of co-workers, customers and clients.
It’s critical, too, that you remain physically and emotionally active. “If you’re a golfer, go ahead and keep playing. And, if not, you may want to take up the game or get involved with other hobbies and activities. It’s important to have a reason to get up in the morning, albeit somewhat later than you needed to when you had a job. In addition, it’s a good idea to exercise your brain by taking up creative activities such as art, writing or going to school to expand the scope of your knowledge. It will keep your mind active and provide your gray cells with the intellectual stimulation they need,” says Weber.
It’s noteworthy that those unprepared for retirement are more prone to physical illness. A Harvard study of 5,422 individuals showed that retirees were 40% more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than those who keep working.
“Studies have shown that work can be good for your health and happiness and because of that more and more older Americans opt to stay on the job. It provides them with a sense of contentment. And, working makes them feel that they have purpose,” says Weber.
A survey conducted by Fidelity Investments and the Stanford Center on Longevity backs up Weber’s conclusion. It shows that “when asked why they are working in retirement, 61 percent of respondents indicated that they like what they do, and nearly half (48 percent) added that ‘feeling valued’ was an important reason to continue working in retirement.”
Says Weber, “remaining at work in a permanent or part time position as you get older, even if you don’t need the income, has become an acceptable alternative to the tradition of retirement. The point is that the key to growing old gracefully and successfully when you are no longer working is knowing what you will be getting yourself into and preparing yourself for a new lifestyle.”