1) Become a Mentor
Retirement is the ideal time for a person to become a mentor. Throughout the retiree’s life, he or she has gained knowledge, insight and first-hand experiences that helped them develop into the person they are now. The retiree has also overcome many challenges and made a few errors along the way. Mentoring is the ideal way for the retiree to embrace the benefits that come with age and experience such as humility, wisdom and discernment. Mentoring opportunities may exist within a place of worship, a school, a hospital or within his or her previous place of work. Consider this, when someone retires from the position he or she held for 25 years, the retiree takes all of their acquired wisdom with them. If someone inexperienced is hired to fill this role, major gaps will exist. Therefore, mentoring new employees or students within the retiree’s field of expertise is a wonderful way to give purpose to the retiree’s new life. Mentoring also sets the stage for success for the next generation of workers.
2) Realign and Redefine Life Mission and Values
Retirement is a huge transition for the retiree and his or her spouse. During this time, the retiree will benefit from, firstly, acknowledging that this change is happening and secondly, that it may not go as smoothly as hoped. Being prepared and knowing it’s ‘normal’ to feel a variety of emotions during this time will make for a milder transitional period. Working with a skilled coach or therapist can provide insight, and more importantly, help the retiree acknowledge that the future will be different than the past. Additionally, the retire may be surprised by feelings of sadness, apathy or boredom even though she or he was looking forward to this change. Because the retiree may go through a grief process in this time, a skilled coach can provide the assistance needed to gain valuable perspective throughout this change. A skilled transitions coach will also help the retiree realign their values with this new version of themselves. Throughout this process, the retiree can also develop a value aligned mission and purpose for this next stage of life. Counseling or coaching during retirement can be a great investment of time and energy with a high value return as the retiree is laying the foundation for this next stage of life.
Retirement often provides a feeling that time is abundant rather than lacking. One way to fill this void and improve mood is to volunteer for an organization that fits within your skills, values and passions. The freedom inherent in retirement means that the retiree can finally spend time doing exactly what he or she loves without the demands of a 9–5 job. I once worked with a retired gentleman who had a passion for football and for the local NFL team. In his retirement, he volunteered his time by giving tours around the local stadium. This was the perfect act of service for him; he loved the sport, the team, the city and he loved sharing his knowledge with eager school kids and tourists alike. He never suffered depression, apathy or boredom because he was constantly immersed in his volunteer work. It brought him great joy and he made many new friends along the way.
4) Keep an Active Mind
When a retiree transitions from working full-time to retirement, the lack of activity can have dire effects on cognitive function. Without the bustle and need for reading, preparing, presenting etc. the retiree can easily fall into a sedentary lifestyle which involves copious amounts of watching TV and trolling the internet. One way to sharpen his or her cognitive and mental health is to actively engage in recreational activities such as reading, completing puzzles and playing strategy-based board games like chess, Scrabble or Chinese checkers. Keeping an active mind reduces the risks of developing depressive symptoms because cognitive health is an important factor in mental health. These types of games can be played in person or online with people across the world. Either way, connecting in meaningful person-centered relationships while stretching the mind is an awesome way to stay healthy in retirement. The retiree may use a website such as Meetup to find teammates with whom to play or she or he may find local chess or Mahjong tournaments through their local senior center.
5) Engage in novel and new experiences
Another way to eliminate risk factors for developing depression and anxiety in retirement is to engage in novel activities. The process of engaging in unique activities creates new neural pathways and increases neuroplasticity within the brain. Without neuroplasticity our brains become stuck and unable to develop as they should. Retirees have access to a variety of classes and experiences through their local senior centers, community colleges, libraries, gyms and places of worship. Retirees may consider the following activities: learning to play an instrument, joining a choir, taking a photography class, improving their tennis skills or attending bus tours to new cities. I once worked with a retiree who joined a local church group on a trip to Washington DC’s National Cathedral. Although this gentleman had lived in this area his entire life, he had never been to the cathedral. He was amazed by the architecture, he made new friends and he continued to research this national treasure long after the trip was over. These types of ‘wow’ moments not only build neuroplasticity but they lift mood and encourage a curiosity about life that is important for a healthy mind.
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