Around 500,000 Australians will retire this year. What are you looking forward to in retirement? Maybe some travel? Catching up on reading all those books you always planned to get through? More time on the golf course?
With lifespans longer than at any other time in history, the reality is, if we retire at 65, or even earlier at 55 or 60, travel, reading, and leisure doesn’t necessarily sustain us for a healthy, happy later life of up to 20+ years.
Recreation plays a big part in the hopes and dreams of the pre-retired. However, the aftermath of an extended European vacation or a move to the countryside, can present retirees with a host of new emotional challenges they hadn’t anticipated.
The unexpected loss of purpose that can strike retirees is often a challenge. The euphoria of the daily grind of work now replaced with the lack of stimulation, interaction with colleagues – of all ages, and relatively mundane routine with friends of the same age or older. A sense of emptiness that can ensue as a result of being an empty nester and simply remaining at home with you and your partner can be both confronting and testing.
Those who choose a sea change, tree change or downsize from a house to an apartment, or move to over 55’s living or a retirement village, have a new set of challenges associated with becoming established in a new community as this couple discovered.
So what’s retirement then if not travel, relaxation, and not working (yay!)?
Retirement is more than recreation. It’s a time for re-creation.
The Third Phase
Whether lonely or bored or neither, retirement is a time for recreating ourselves and maximising this Third Phase of life.
Volunteering and being involved with community activities are essential for healthy ageing, as is physical exercise and healthy eating. Expanding existing interests such as joining a book club (from being a casual book-reader) and resurrecting past hobbies (I’m finally going to restore that old bike that’s been sitting in the garage…and go riding again) are a great place to start. However, discovering new interests (I’m going to take up French lessons), hobbies (tai-chi, University of the 3rd Age, piano playing, dancing), and even re-training (go back to uni as this 93-year-old did, or qualify as a personal trainer or yoga teacher) are all possibilities for our re-creation.
Re-creation & dementia
Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians (aged 65 years or older). Throwing yourself into completely new hobbies, interests, and learning not only keeps you busy, but by forcing the brain to learn new things, it staves off cognitive decline. It is imperative that a concerted effort be made to keep the brain stimulated with active learning and ‘doing’, otherwise we raise our likelihood of becoming part of the dementia epidemic.
So … with potentially 20 or 30 years (or more) of life to live after retirement, how will you re-create yourself when you retire? What are your plans?
Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
This article is part of a series by Catherine Rickwood on changing attitudes to marketing to the over-50s. It calls attention to the need to challenge our stereotypes about getting older and seeks to build understanding about how attitudes to ageing impact all aspects of our lives – from research, to workplace practices, marketing activity, community services, planning and housing.
 1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Dementia in Australia.