How to make a smooth transition into retirement

One of the highest suicide rates in the UK is among men of 65 years of age who are in retirement. The main reason for that is that many men find the sudden isolation, the lack of job status and significance, the feeling of being useless and of having nothing worthwhile to do after the initial euphoria of retiring, very difficult to deal with. But this happens mainly because of the perception around retirement and what it is actually for. Some people see that stage of life as the end of work, where one just relaxes and does little else. Of course, when that novelty wears off, depression tends to set in as the person begins to feel isolated and undervalued.

The transition to a new kind of life, devoid of most of the familiar things and people, can be a lonely, stressful, even painful time for some retirees. So ensuring a smooth transition is the key to appreciating that new situation. However, this is more likely to be possible if there is a focus on four main areas by the retiree:

1. THOUGHTS

How the person thinks at this time, whether positive or negative is crucial, especially before retirement. Thoughts affect perceptions and perceptions affect everything else in one’s life, especially actions. If someone sees himself as being on the scrap heap at 65 instead of starting a new life, then those thoughts will block out a lot of other positive ones which could help towards a more enjoyable life. Thoughts at this time should be about celebrating the life one had, the achievements and the enjoyment already experienced, as well as looking forward to starting a NEW LIFE, to fulfil all those dreams one might not have had the time so far to attempt. There should also be definite plans around the options for retirement and how personal time will be spent almost on a daily basis. Boredom, a lack of purpose and low-self-esteem combined together is a literal killer at this time of life.

2. PERCEPTION

This should be positive with a focus on the kind of life that will be lived after retirement, especially an emphasis on the opportunity to begin a NEW life, no matter what form it takes, instead of seeing that time as simply the end of the old one. By living in the past and merely thinking about the old life with regret, the options for the future become limited. It is then difficult to see the transition as a positive one. Many people look forward to their retirement with rose-colored views only to find that the reality can be a rather barren and disappointing one, much lonelier and isolating than expected. Thus how one perceives one’s actions, especially before retirement, is very important for the kind of things that can be done, the kind of life that is desired and the kind of success one will have in making the adjustment to that new life.

3. HOME

Home can seem like a trying place to both partners in retirement. If one partner already had a life of doing a particular thing which then is intruded upon by the new retiree, it can create immediate conflict and feel quite claustrophobic. That is why many partners tend to fall out soon after retirement because everything is suddenly changed from how it used to be to accommodate someone who is now going to be home all the time. Often the retiree will treat his home like a place of work where he still has some control and responsibility. This can then put added pressures and strains on a relationship. It is very important that the retiree does not intrude too much on the world and structure of the other party, otherwise it then makes coping much more difficult as his/her presence begins to be resented.

4. SKILLS

This is a time for finding out new knowledge, for exploring the avenues and directions which might be rewarding and for discovering the other skills one possesses, or the new ones that can be learned. In fact, retirement is a most exciting time in one’s life to be one’s own boss and to develop the self to new heights of capabilities at one’s own pace, especially to use one’s expertise as a consultant or adviser. Better still, to develop skills in a new field entirely. This is a very good time for discovering the self and who we are and so much can be achieved during this period with the right perception and focus.

The main thing to remember for a smooth transition is that retirement offers the opportunity to begin a brand new life of discovery and to make the most of it. Not just to look back in regret. Fifty years ago, if one retired at 65, one was likely to be dead within 2 years. That was the average age of mortality for men in the UK. Today the average is 77 for men and 83 for women, with lots more people living well beyond that. The question to ask on one’s retirement is not what one will be doing after retirement, but this one: Today is the first day of the rest of my life. How can I have a real blast for whatever time I have left and exit with a big smile of satisfaction?