Advice to my newly retired mother
There are thousands of articles, books, and websites to help financially prepare you for retirement. You can calculate how much you will need to live on, when to begin collecting Social Security, and how to downsize to minimize living expenses.
There is considerably less guidance to tell you what to do when you actually reach that distant dream. As someone who works with retired people every day, it amazes me how many people are unprepared — truly at a loss — when it comes to being retired, day in and day out. Days that you thought would be filled with grand adventures tempered with siestas and happy hours are suddenly very busy with doctor appointments, phone calls to insurance companies, and obligatory babysitting. The next thing you know you’re counting the hours between Kelly Ripa and Jeopardy.
The formula for a successful retirement is simple: each and every month, without fail, try something new. Here’s why: 1. The older we get, the smaller our world could become. We might go from monitoring our goal of 10,000 steps a day and to the 12 steps between the kitchen and the easy chair. It is important that we continue physical activity to maintain strength and mobility, thereby reducing the risks of falls and disease
2. The older we get, the more risk averse we could become. As children establish their own families and/or we leave paid employment, we will have more time on our hands. And then we begin to spend that time worrying! We worry about the kids, the grandkids, our health, their health, our savings, escalating costs, etc., etc., etc. Our worrying could stop us from getting out of the house. We are increasingly hesitant. We can become more afraid.
3. The older we get, the fewer people we will likely have in our inner circle. If retired from paid employment, we go from numerous activities and work friends and colleagues … to spouse and family, to television personalities and the mailman. We can get lonely. A simple Google search about loneliness and isolation in seniors reveals a world of illness that no amount of financial planning will mitigate.
Committing to and scheduling something new every single month once you retire will keep you engaged mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. You will develop the skills and reserves you will need for a
full and engaged “golden years.” If you keep learning – keep exploring – “things new” you will keep you young.
Learning, indeed, is the fountain of youth.
We are blessed in Chester County to have so many opportunities to try new things. We have wonderful outdoor spaces and lots of walking trails. We have senior-friendly classes at local community centers and fitness facilities, cooking classes at adult schools and area grocery stores, extensive volunteer opportunities at social service agencies, day care centers, theaters, or other nonprofit organizations in the area.
Go to a local house of worship and stay for coffee hour. Join a book club.
Do something – do anything! If you try it and hate it – who cares? There is always next month.
Promoting Senior Wellness is provided by The Hickman, a Quakeraffiliated licensed personal care home in West Chester. This column was written by Monica Paulino, Assistant Executive Director.