Here’s a thought-provoking question: What does “a good retirement” look like? The answer probably varies widely depending on whom you ask. Yet chances are, we all hope a good retirement involves the same three basic things: good health, a sense of purpose, and overall happiness.
Sounds easy enough – until you consider those things don’t just grow on trees. Even the best-laid retirement plans can go awry without a clear direction of what to do after retirement. We all have to continually feed and nurture our health, happiness, and sense of purpose as if each were fragile little saplings.
Fortunately, each of us can learn how to foster our purpose, health, and happiness because the rewards are definitely worth it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says regular physical activity boosts brain health, lowers disease risk, and helps manage weight gain. And one study suggests older adults who have a sense of purpose are happier and healthier, both mentally and physically.
If your next question is, “Where do I begin?” then read on!
PUT YOUR HEALTH FIRST
Your health should always come first on the list. As the old saying goes, “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” And no matter how healthy we eat or how much we exercise, we can always do just a little bit more. But how?
- Make exercise fun again. Go for a walk in the woods instead of walking on a treadmill. Go hiking on a trail instead of walking on a sidewalk. Listen to music or a podcast or even an audiobook. Consider getting a dog. (They need lots of walks, and they’re a great way to meet people. You won’t believe how everyone will want to know your new best friend!)
- Do a health check on your health insurance. Annually re-evaluate your supplemental Medicare coverage and any other policies you may have. You should also consider a long-term care insurance policy since long-term care costs are typically not covered by Medicare.
- Cut out the stuff you know is bad for you. If you smoke, it’s not too late to quit. Reduce the number of alcoholic drinks you consume in a day. But that extra bowl of ice cream at night? Go for it. People who are slightly overweight seem to live longer than those who are underweight.
- Practice mindfulness. Stress can be a killer – literally – and life can be stressful even in retirement. So consider taking up yoga, tai chi, meditation, or breathing exercises. You can just create a daily gratitude journal to reflect on all the positive things that happened in your day.
PURPOSEFULLY LOOK FOR PURPOSE
People who retire sometimes lose their identities because they were so tied to their careers. They may suddenly feel irrelevant and rudderless. They go from waking up one morning to go to work to waking up so they can … mow the lawn.
So find and fulfill your new purpose in life:
- Get a retirement coach. It’s really no different than seeking out a career coach or a financial planner. A retirement coach helps you get ready for your new life transition and helps you plan and prepare for your days when your career ends.
- Or don’t end your career at all. Love your career field? Don’t leave it. Volunteer instead, cut back to part time, become a mentor, or embark on a similar job in the same field.
- Keep learning for the fun of it. Remember how much you enjoyed your college years? Go back to school. Take culinary classes at your local community college. Enroll in courses at a university – many allow nontraditional students to audit a class, which usually costs less and you don’t have to earn a grade. There are also senior living communities popping up around the country that are located on or near university campuses or that are affiliated with colleges.
- Learn to play an instrument. That old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” no longer holds up, according to multiple studies. Learning anything new improves brain function. So learn to play the trumpet, try your hand at watercolors or pottery, or learn how to make pasta. If you have a curiosity and a passion, tap into them. That’s where we find our purpose.
HAPPY IS AS HAPPY DOES
Let’s be honest: Aging can be a challenge. Our health changes and our friends and family may no longer live close by. Aging is a part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept gracefully. The secret is to take control of what we can – and that includes taking control of our own happiness.
- Stay socially connected. Humans are social creatures. Being around others makes us happy and being isolated can lead to anxiety and depression. Join a club or group, volunteer, or reach out to family. Have a friend you haven’t talked to in a while? Make a phone call or send an email. They’re probably missing you, too.
- Create your legacy. This may mean monetarily, such as a scholarship fund, a land donation, or a private foundation, but it can also mean writing your memoir. Knowing you’ve left behind a meaningful, positive legacy for others can bring you a sense of happiness.
- It’s OK to look back – just keep looking forward. It’s OK (and healthy) to take a moment and reflect on what you’ve accomplished in your life. Perhaps you’ve had a satisfying career, raised children who’ve become happy adults, or left things just a bit better than how they were when you found them. But quickly start looking toward tomorrow. You have so much to look forward to in your next chapter.
HEALTH, HAPPINESS, AND PURPOSE IN ONE PLACE
You may not realize this, but senior living communities like Viamonte at Walnut Creek are ideal places to discover numerous healthy opportunities, find your purpose, and just live happily. But you won’t know how much your life could change for the better until you come for a visit. So learn more about Viamonte. Call us at 925.621.6600 or contact us online!