Retirement — 09 January 2011
Choosing to retire? Do it wisely

When you have the option to retire and can afford to do so, it would be wise to consider several issues that could significantly impact the quality of your new life. How will you replenish various needs that have previously been met by your employment, such as: time structure, sustained interest, personal identity, social connectedness and a sense of meaning in your golden years?

In “Growing Older in America Health and Retirement Study,” researchers report, “while the majority of older adults expressed high levels of satisfaction with retirement (61.5 percent), others said they were only somewhat satisfied (32.9 percent), and some reported dissatisfaction (5.6 percent).”
We all know people who thrive during their post work years, and others who become unhappy, lonely, detached and even depressed. Research findings are mixed. A 2002 University of Michigan study found that retirement actually tends to make
people happier and less lonely, while a University of Phoenix study, “Old Age Emotions,” reported that retirement was one of “the chief factors leading to emotional sterility.”

Perhaps the solution is not whether to retire or not, but how to do so gradually. Professor/researcher Kenneth Shultz advises, “Choosing a suitable type of bridge employment will help retirees transition better into full retirement and in good physical and mental health.” He adds, “Retirees who remained employed, but reduced their hours, experienced fewer major diseases and were self-sufficient longer than those who abruptly retired.”

A 2009 “Journal of Occupational Health Psychology” reports, “The physical health benefits of working longer were found among retirees who took part-time jobs, temporary positions, or became self-employed.” Mental health benefits, however, occurred only when retirees found jobs relating to their previous careers.

Staying in your field of expertise safeguards your earned position as a mentor with value to less experienced employees.
& Retirement Study
Volunteering was another way Ching Luoh and Regula Herzog reported as affording retirees “better health and lower mortality.”

In considering retirement,

• Avoid abrupt retirement. Choose a gradual workload reduction or find other part-time work or self-employment in your field of expertise for optimal physical and emotional health benefits.
• Consider your personality style. If you are innately happy and optimistic you are more likely to retire well. If you are less happy and more pessimistic, find a gradual path to retirement as you seek related passions.
• Select volunteer work that interests you, gives you a schedule, sense of purpose, social connectedness and personal value.
• Use your new freedom for personal enhancement, physical care and spiritual growth, all of which will help you feel healthier and more vigorous.
• Communicate with other retirees for support and friendship but also connect with younger people and children for increased vitality.
• Stay current with the news, technology, and hobbies.
• Reject society’s habit of marginalizing seniors. Affirm that you are retired but not invaluable.
• View retirement as the blessed third part of your life filled with freedom, time to share wisdom and love.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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