For many years there has been a certain mythology surrounding the idea of retirement as a golden era in life when the cares of the working world miraculously lift from our shoulders and we are free to take it easy and do as we please.
Advertisements for any number of goods and services have played relentlessly on this concept – freedom and ease tantalizingly offered to those caught in the busy, demanding middle years of career and family living.
Not to downplay the benefits that can come during our older years when some pressures have let up, but the idea of retirement is evolving as a large part of our population enters these years in better health than ever before.
For many of us, the thought of simply relaxing for the rest of our days no longer seems as ‘freeing’ as it once did. Twenty or thirty years of rest can sound more like a sentence to boredom and isolation if it’s not planned with some care.
Health professionals are now also advising that continuing to work can improve mental and physical health as we age and help ensure continued independence.
Britain’s chief medical officer recently suggested people should continue to work into their 70s to maximize these benefits. The health benefits from working really centre more on the importance of remaining physically and mentally active throughout our lives – and while working is an easy way to ensure this, it can be achieved by remaining active in the community, volunteering, keeping an active social life or taking up new hobbies – of course being sure to choose activities that are meaningful and enjoyable to you.
The important thing is to make sure your later years remain active, involved and intellectually challenging. If you truly enjoy your work and feel fulfilled in it, retirement should not be a foregone conclusion. Many people continue to work their entire lives because they choose to – look around at some of the most successful and inspiring people in the world – very few of them retire.
If you are part of an organization that requires retirement at a certain age, perhaps it’s time to start another career. More and more mandatory retirement policies are being challenged in court and are felt to be discriminatory.
Even if you want a change from your daily routine, the key is not to dramatically slow the pace of life as you age. Leaving work to stay home on the couch can lead to increased loneliness as well as physical and mental decline.
Many people develop depression during their retirement years because of a lack of involvement with the world. They feel segregated and alone and often feel cut off from society once no longer in the workforce. This decreases overall contentment, but is also hazardous to health as depression increases risk of death from heart troubles as well as death after a stroke. Many other health consequences are also associated with depression.
Plan your older years to be as active and involved as you enjoy – there is no reason to retire from a full and engaged life.