How to be Happy in Retirement
Some of my Toastmaster friends
I've been 'retired' eighteen years and loving it
Yesterday my youngest child turned forty-six. This brought home to me the fact that my second child is now fifty and my eldest fifty-three. They’re middle-aged people! Today, we know that a lot of us retire at fifty-five. So, with my eldest now only two years off that age, it’s time for me to write a word or two about ‘retirement.’ After all, I’ve been retired for over eighteen years. You could say I’m experienced in this segment of our lives. Oh, and I might add, I’m loving it.
Part of the audience at a Computer Pals educational session
Now we can be 'retired' for two or three decades
There was a time in the not too distant past when most men retired from paid employment at sixty-five and went home to die. They didn’t last long. Many never made it to seventy. Today, in Australia, it’s very different. The average age Australian men live has risen by ten to fifteen years since my dad passed away in the 1970s. And women commonly live another five years on top of that. The point I make is that you might well be ‘retired’ i.e. from paid employment, and live another twenty to thirty years. That’s a long time.
Remember how long it took to get from one to thirty years of age
Think how long it took you to get from one to thirty! Think how much you packed into those years. So what to do in these two to three decades of retirement? How are you going to fill your days? More importantly, how can you live a happy contented life during this time?
Firstly, you need to maintain your physical and mental health so that you can enjoy retirement. Secondly, you need to be financially secure. You don’t need to be rich, but you don’t want to be eking out an existence to the point you’re stuck and home have very little freedom. The Aged Pension alone isn’t really enough. However, if you have health and some money, then you will be entering into what could be the most enjoyable years of your life. I say could because it will depend a great deal upon your attitude. Attitude is so important.
Volunteer for things - It really is rewarding
Attitude is so important.
Oh, and there is another proviso. If you’re stuck with being a carer for someone else, it might not be quite as simple as I intend to describe below. Obligations are obligations; duties are duties. However, I would like to stress that if you’re a grandparent, you’ve already had your turn at being a Mum or a Dad. It’s now up to your kids to look after their own kids. Don’t let them foist them upon you. You’ve had your turn of that sort of responsibility. Now it’s your own children’s turn.
You've earned the right for your retirement
Of course, it’s a moral decision. But the moral decision also lies with your children. Why should they expect you to carry on ‘nurse-maiding’ them simply because they want more material things more quickly than you did when you were young? You might have had two or three decades looking after your own children. You can’t be expected to look after your children’s children to the point where you’re then too old to have a reasonable life of your own.
Volunteers at the Country Women's Association
Retirement is YOUR time, so have a good time
Oh, and this business about ‘spending the kids inheritance.’ You don’t owe them anything. They owe you. As it is, they’ll probably split up the proceeds of your home when you’re gone. You don’t have to leave them ready cash in the bank as well. Retirement is your time, so have a good time.
Now you can pursue your true passions
Okay, you will have now entered upon a period of your life whereby you can be anything you want to be (other than perhaps being a retired billionaire – but even that’s not out of the question, look at Colonel Sanders!) Moreover, you can also pursue any interest fully for the first time in your life. Your hobbies and interests – your real passions – can be taken up without the restrictions placed upon them by the time restraints you had whilst earning a living. So many wasted hours, too, like commuting to and from your place of work can now be dropped. Chances are that new car you bought on retirement will last your three times as long as the one you used to commute in. Great!
University of the Third Age bus-holiday group
If you love your work and are self-employed, never retire
Of course, if you’re already doing what you love and loving what you do, in your full time paid employment why the hell would you want to change! You’ll be one of those fortunate people who has had the privilege – a privilege probably worked for – to be able to live your dream for much of your working life – so carry on with that. But so many people, for one reason or another, did not – and cannot. Hence, the time of retirement is so important. You’re probably one of these Now you can live your life the way you’ve always wanted to as far as your ‘pursuing happiness’ is concerned. Now you can do what you want to do. You’ve earned it. You deserve it. So take the rewards you’ve strived for all this time.
Keep physically and mentally fit.
I said, earlier in this essay, that you need to be in good health both mentally and physically. Good health does not mean super-fit. It does mean that you need to be healthy enough to be able to forget about your health. If you are constantly dwelling on it then, you’re probably not as well as you’d like to be. So you need to work on becoming fit to that extent. Do exercise regularly. Do eat healthy food. Junk food occasionally won’t harm you. Eat it every day and that’s a different story. Do have a wine or a beer if you like to. These add to life’s pleasure. But don’t get drunk or every day, or every weekend for that matter. This advice is, of course, common sense.
U3A bus trip holiday group having a good time
Be careful of diet fads. There is an optimum weight for your bone structure
If you’re overweight, don’t go on a crash diet. It will upset your natural metabolism. You’ll find that you’ll not only put the weight on when you finish that diet, you’ll be even fatter. Nature will see to that. Severe dieting upsets our metabolism in awful ways. So take a long term approach. We put on weight because we’re taking in more calories than we’re burning up. The answer to the problem doesn’t need to be spelled out. But don’t crash diet. Simply cut down intake and exercise more, with a long term goal of sculpturing to the optimum weight for your bone structure over, say, a four or five year period. Even longer if you’re grossly overweight. With the long-term approach our eating and exercise regime will become our habit…and habits are far easier to maintain than ‘will-power projects.’
A habit is formed in three weeks - that includes good habits
Is it difficult? Of course it is…for about three weeks. That’s how long it takes to establish a habit providing we don’t miss out on one day in that three weeks. If we do, start the three-week regimen again. Don’t say, “I can’t do this.” If you do, your subconscious mind will accept that seed-thought and you won’t be able to do it. Know this law: We bring into our lives that which we think about most.”
Train to the North Coast, bus from there.
Don't get anxious about the normal aging processes
For our mental faculties we need to accept that as we grow older our speed of recall will probably slow down. You might find you cannot recall names as quickly as you used to. This is common. It doesn’t mean you’re going senile. It is a matter of the brain being part of your body. Reflexes slow. Your whole body is not a quick and energetic now as it used to be. Why would you expect your brain to be?
We humans were made to socialize as well as spend time alone
Sir Francis Bacon (1561- 1626) said, “Reading makes a learned man, writing an exact man, and discourse a ready man.” You might not be a writer, but you do need to read to keep yourself interested in the world at large, and you do need to mix and talk with people if order to keep your mind quick and sharp. So it is imperative that you mix, socialize, and do not become a recluse spending the greater part of your life watching television and pottering around your property. Have things to do that take you out of your home, other than just the grocery shopping.
A stroll along the river refreshes. We do need some time alone
Australian in retirement have never had it so many opportunities
Australians in retirement today have more opportunities to socialize with other retirees than ever before. There are just so many organizations in which you can be a part. There are hundreds of volunteer organizations to which you can belong. Some are charitable, others are not. During my years as a retiree I’ve done volunteer work for Mission Employment. I’ve taken courses. I’ve joined and left a men’s church group. I was a member of Sydney University for the Third Age (U3A) for ten years. Also, a member of Probus. Additionally a member of a computer club. And I’m a continuing member of Toastmasters International. One of my passions is to speak to audiences as a storyteller. I do a lot of this. I’m also an avid writer, so I meet every one of Sir Francis Bacon’s three communicative requisites.
Enjoy the music - you've earned it
Be willing to keep learning all of your life
You, of course, will have your own interests. Keep them active. But I’d advise you to go further. We’re now living in an age of increasing technology. You don’t necessarily have to keep up, but you do need to get involved to the point where you can join a greater world. Learn about personal computers and how to use them. Join the huge fraternity. There is so much available to you if you’d just take the trouble to learn the basics.
Enjoy the Golden Years of Your Life. Twighlight lasts a long time
So I hope you have gained something useful from what I’ve written here. Retirement is that very important Third Age. Life is not rounded off the way it should be without out it. We have growing up and formal education. We have our working life and the raising of children. And we have our retiring age when life should be at its very best for us. Keep that in mind and enjoy the Golden Years of your life. You truly do deserve it.
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- Tom Ware Public Speaking The Prince of Storytellers
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