It's your last official day of work. Finally, after possibly decades of going to your job, it's time to relax, take it easy, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. The pivot from waking at 6:00 am and commuting to work versus more free time may initially seem like a dream come true. Still, if you don't intentionally plan to keep active, you may fall into loneliness, depression, and increased health problems. Let's explore how to stay active in retirement.
Planning to remain active should be a priority for people who will retire or are already retired.
Staying mentally and physically active after retirement can improve your cognition and may improve your overall mental health.
Living a life with purpose after retirement has the power to keep someone movitated and active physically, and mentally.
If you cannot find the activity in your community to be involved in, consider starting your own.
The biggest challenge to remaining active in retirement is the motivation to be active mentally and physically.
Planning for retirement
Life expectancy has been increasing in America since the early 20th century. According to the CDC, in 2021, the average life expectancy at birth was 76.1 years. The advent of treatment for infections and other diseases has most certainly factored into increasing numbers. With people living longer, there is more interest in living well mentally, and physically. While many people make sure they plan financially for retirement, they may not think they need to plan how they will retire.
George Jerijan, an author who wrote the book, Dare to Discover Your Purpose, was quoted in a recent article for CNBC.
"The biggest retirement challenge that no one talks about, in my experience, is finding purpose."George Jerijan
This follows his research for the book, where he did a “deep survey” of over 15,000 retirees. Living a life with purpose will keep new retirees actively engaged for years to come.
Stay physically active
Studies have shown that people who stay active live longer and have better cognition than older adults who are more sedentary. In addition, a greater sense of well-being positively affects mental health when associated with maintaining activity. Therefore, staying physically active has better health outcomes and is crucial in maintaining or improving cognition and positively impacting mental health.
There are many benefits to physical activity, especially after the retirement. Here are some examples that might be taken into consideration:
- Basic stretching. We may have decreased flexibility as we age, so practicing a stretch routine at home or with a group can be beneficial.
- Group fitness classes. A great way to socialize and have some low-impact exercise.
- Walking groups. If you can't find one in your community, start one. Again, a great way to meet new people, socialize and get some fresh air as you move your body.
- Nordic pole walking. This activity is widely popular and relatively inexpensive. Most people can manage Nordic walking as the poles help to maintain some balance.
- Tai Chi. A great way to exercise body and mind with slow rhythmic movements.
Yoga/chair yoga. Another activity to stretch your body and center your mind.
- Sit-to-be-fit. Chair exercise groups for people with mobility challenges.
Stay mentally active
Engagement and community are essential for your mental health and well-being. For example, studies have shown that people who stay involved in a job or a community with other people are more likely to thrive and less likely to struggle with depression post-retirement. Some examples of staying mentally active are:
- Brain fit. Senior centers have classes in brain exercises that will challenge your mind. Brain exercise in a group also provides you with people to connect with. It will also exercise your mind and enhance your cognitive abilities.
- Faith groups, bible study, book clubs, card groups. A group where you share a common belief, interest, or purpose will give you a sense of community and self-worth.
- Reading, writing, and games of skill. These will keep your mind active and benefit your cognitive and mental health.
- Learning a new skill. Playing an instrument, needle craft or learning photography.
- Take a class. Pick an area of interest, such as astronomy or horticulture.
- Volunteer. If you are passionate about a cause, offer your time to it.
- Go back to work. After retiring, some people return to their previous employment part-time or go to a different job. Nevertheless, having a purpose and a place to connect with others is mentally and socially healthy. The added income to supplement the retirement pension can also be helpful and take some pressure off rising costs.
Challenges to staying active
As we all might know, when it comes to staying active, it's easier said than done. Some challenges can come along the way when trying to stay active, both mentally and physically.
Some people, when they retire, have done so due to chronic health issues. Declining health can be a challenging scenario for activity motivation. Adjustment of physical activity to ability may be as simple as basic stretching or chair exercises in a home or group environment. Someone may find the mental aspect of having a chronic illness more challenging. There needs to be an intentional effort on the part of the person or their loved ones to encourage participation.
Furthermore, the practice of getting up and going to work was a way to give you a regular pattern. Ideally, keeping some of that routine in your life would be best. For example, when you get up, resist the urge to stay in your pajamas or live in your “sweats” for most of the day. If it has been your routine to shower, get dressed, fix your hair, and put on some makeup, continue with that pattern. You may stay home that day, but maintaining a positive mindset may improve your mental health.
Motivation can be a challenge for the retiree as well. You have co-workers to keep you accountable when you are in a job. When you have social connections, you tend to be more motivated in retirement. Having a friend or family member join your activity will keep you accountable.
Moreover, financial constraints may cause someone to resist being active. However, as noted above, many “low-cost” or “no-cost” activities are available. So, if there is no activity of your preference in your community, consider starting one of your own.
Insomnia might be a challenge to staying physically active. We all know the feeling when we don't sleep well. As a result, we drag our heels through the day and need more motivation. Limit or eliminate caffeine and alcohol, especially in the late afternoon or early evening. In addition, reduce screen time with television and your devices in the evening.
Achieving and maintaining an active lifestyle in some way is crucial for your health and a sense of well-being. However, motivation is likely the chief stumbling block to being active. Hence, a concentrated effort by you or encouragement by a loved one is essential to achieving success. Opportunities exist, but if you find your activity of interest unavailable in your community, take that opportunity to start one. There are likely others longing for a similar activity to be available. You can make a difference.
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