Making the most of a new life stage
If you’ve been working for much of your life, starting retirement is likely to bring some significant changes to your routine. By taking the opportunity to make the most of all this extra time on your hands, you can plan for a retirement that’s as exciting as it is rewarding. Enjoying a retirement that keeps you active and social is also a great way to invest in your mental and physical health, now and in the future.
More time for your health and wellbeing
According to a 2016 University of Sydney research study of 25,000 older Australians, retirement often means healthy and positive changes to lifestyle habits. Compared with their working peers, retired people are likely to sleep more, spend less time sitting down and more time being physically active.
“A major life change like retirement creates a great window of opportunity to make positive lifestyle changes – it's a chance to get rid of bad routines and engineer new, healthier behaviours,” says lead researcher Dr Melody Ding, Senior Research Fellow at the University’s School of Public Health. “When people are working and commuting, it eats a lot of time out of their day. When they retire, they have time to be physically active and sleep more.”
Whether it’s spending more time planning healthy meals, getting into the habit of going for a regular walk or bike ride or joining a local gym, sports club or team, there are plenty of ways you can use your time in retirement to keep yourself in the best of health.
Stay social to boost your health even further
Some of these activities will also come with the added bonus of new social and community connections. After stopping work, you could find that your social circle will change. Opportunities to connect with work friends may be less frequent, particularly if they haven’t retired yet or you’ve made a move to a new location as part of your retirement plan.
It seems pretty obvious that keeping up with friends and family will be good for your mental health, regardless of your age. According to 2013 research from the German Centre of Gerontology, seeing more of friends in your later years has a very positive impact on life satisfaction. A 2010 research report from Brigham Young University in Utah goes even further. Their review of data from 148 studies found that social isolation can actually be as bad for your health as smoking and drinking alcohol and has a bigger impact on life expectancy than lack of exercise or being overweight.
It can take time to build up your social network in retirement, so start to make a plan for how you’ll connect with your local community while you’re still at work. Your local council will be a good resource for information about groups you can join and finding out what’s going on locally. Searching online is also a great way to discover activities you’d like to take part in.
Feel good about giving back
Volunteering can also be a great way to meet people and make a positive contribution to your community. If you find yourself missing the routine and sense of purpose you experienced with your job, volunteering can be a good substitute. “Keeping active and getting involved in voluntary work definitely brings retirees a lot of benefits that would have been brought about by keeping on working,” says Chenkai Wu, lead author of 2016 research based on an 18-year Healthy Retirement Study conducted in the US.
Speak to local community groups or search online to explore opportunities that interest you or could benefit from your skills. As well as organised volunteering programs, you might be interested in sharing your skills in a mentoring or tutoring arrangement. You can choose to offer your time and skills as a volunteer, or by working part-time if you need an income boost.
Spread your wings
Your retirement is also the ideal time to tick off some destinations on your bucket list. Many companies organise travel programs specifically suited for people who are travelling in retirement. These trips can be ideal if you’re looking to meet and travel with like-minded people and have all the hard work and planning taken care of. Remember to arrange insurance to make sure you’re covered for unforeseen events and any medical issues on your travels.
Keeping busy on a budget
Staying social and active in retirement doesn’t have to cost much. While some interests, like golf or crafts, may involve spending on memberships and materials, there are plenty of recreation activities that are low-cost or even free. Investing in a sturdy pair of shoes is all you need to join a local walking club and showing your support at a local sports event likely won’t cost you a cent.
With life expectancy rising, you could have many years ahead of you to enjoy new interests, friendships and opportunities to support your community. But it’s also important to plan for a secure retirement income so you can enjoy all these things with peace of mind about your financial future.