Retirement — 04 December 2012
Retirement is not an end but a beginning

Due to increased life expectancy retirement is no longer viewed as just the cessation of employment, but as the start of one’s third chapter in life. Our extended lifespan challenges us to plan for the senior years. How can you maximize your ability to have a healthy and satisfying post-employment life?

Donald Reitzes and Elizabeth Mutran found that seniors’ quality of life during retirement contributes to one’s health and vice versa. Another study of retired and employed seniors by Dr. Lorraine Midanik at Kaiser Permanente found that, “there were no differences between the groups on self-reported mental health status, coping, depression, smoking, alcohol consumption, and frequency of drunkenness.”

Gender differences were also researched to assess both women’s and men’s retirement in view of their partner’s employment status. Drs. Phyllis Moen and Jungmeen Kim found that, “Newly retired women tend to be more depressed than continuously retired or not-yet-retired women, especially if their husbands remained employed. Newly retired men experience more marital conflict than non-retired men. In addition, newly retired men with employed wives tend to show higher marital conflict than newly retired men with non-employed wives. However, men who are retired and re-employed with wives who are not employed have a higher morale than couples where neither spouse is working.”

Psychologist Nancy Schlossberg, author of Retire Smart, Retire Happy: Finding Your True Path in Life, suggests that people think of retirement as a career change… “not only are you leaving something, you are about to begin something new.” In her study of 100 retirees, she identified the following six styles of retirees: “Continuers who continued using existing skills and interests; Adventurers who start entirely new endeavors; Searchers who explore new options through trial and error; Easy Gliders who enjoy unscheduled time letting each day unfold; Involved Spectators who care deeply about the world, but engage in less active ways; Retreaters who take time out or disengage from life.”

Whatever your style or circumstances of retirement, it may be helpful to think about it not as a “downturn” in life or just a reprieve from schedules and stress, but as a new opportunity to reshape your life in a way that may bring you great satisfaction and joy. Michigan State University psychology professor Norman Abeles found that “those people who are most happy in retirement enjoy a variety of activities ranging from volunteer work, exercise, continuing education and so on.”

Some people regret having retired and others delight in this new status. Knowing yourself well will help you select a plan that considers your interests, passions, talents, skills and sources of self-esteem. Staying involved in what matters to you will keep you healthy and happy.

Plan your retirement well:

¨     Envision yourself engaged in activities that will give meaning to your life, health to your body, purpose to your actions and pleasure to your soul.

¨     Coordinate your plan with your spouse to create the best golden years for both of you.

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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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