Research shows that if retirees come from supportive families, they are more likely to successfully adapt to retirement. In the first blog we explore the psychological effects of retirement on your elderly parent. In this blog we will be exploring some tips to support retirees in adjusting to life after retirement.
Processing a change in identity
The beginning of retirement is time of change and transition, particularly to one’s identity. Such changes to one’s identity, especially if there has not been time dedicated to reflecting on it prior to retirement can lead to an identity crisis. As a result of this, there is a higher risk for the person to experience anxiety and depression if they do not have healthy coping styles and a good support network.
Supporting such a person can be as simple as opening the conversation on how life has changed for the person and how they are coping with the new way of life. Listening and empathy can help the person not feel alone. Alternatively, encouraging them to speak to friends can support them to speak to people they might feel more comfortable opening up to.
Encourage developing a routine or structure to their day
At first, retirement can feel like a long extended holiday. However, this can quickly wear off and make one question what they should do with their days. A healthy work/life balance is one of the largest challenges that retirees can face in the beginning of retirement. Creating a structure to the day can create purpose and intention to the day. Having life goals that can be achieved after retirement can support continuity from pre-retirement to post-retirement.
A retiree can be supported by talking through their interests, hobbies and what they are good at, and how they can incorporate these into their daily routines. Perhaps there are hobbies that they had to sacrifice for their job, which now they have the freedom to pursue.
Encourage engaging in social activities
Retirement gives the opportunity for the person to find new hobbies and spend more time strengthening friendships. It’s also an opportunity to try new things. For example, if the person enjoys local feasts and has an eye for detail, they can approach their town or village feasts organisers and offer his support. Such opportunities are also an opportunity to meet new friends.
Be positive and encourage them to try new experiences and to go out and meet new people. Remind them that it’s never too late to make friends and to find people with similar interests. You might also want to have a discussion about the possibility of adopting an animal companion.
Supporting social connections can also look like supporting them technologically, especially in a post COVID environment where social networks have shrunk.
Staying healthy: Exercise and diet
The brain and body are like engines that need to be run regularly to avoid damage and accelerated deterioration. Physical and mental exercise are therefore vital to retain healthy reflexes and mental stimulation. They also reduce the risk of memory problems, anxiety and stress. Similarly, eating healthy is also a vital part of healthy aging.
Support in relation to exercise can look like invites to go swimming together, dancing together, encouraging them to take their dog out for a walk, and motivating them to participate in exercise activities for the elderly.
Give them time to figure it out
Taking the time to grieve the old life and identity, and facing the new challenges needs time and is a natural adjustment. Supporting this process can be done through simple listening skills and asking the person how you can support them. If you are concerned that they are not coping with the change in a healthy manner, voice your concerns that you can see their struggle and want to help support them if they would like your support. You may face some resistance in talking about this subject. It is therefore important to approach the subject of retirement respectfully. Avoid judging their reactions and belittling their responses. Letting them know that you are there for them and they can approach you when needed can be enough.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.
Morin, A. (2020). 8 tips for adjusting to retirement. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/tips-for-adjusting-to-retirement-4173709
Osborne, J.W. (2012). Psychological effects of the transition to retirement. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 46(1). https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ969555.pdf
Robinson, L., & Smith, M. (2021). Adjustment to retirement: Handling the stress and anxiety. HelpGuide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/aging-issues/adjusting-to-retirement.htm
Lawrence, K. (n.d.). Helping parents avoid depression. When they get older.co.uk. https://whentheygetolder.co.uk/health/mental-health/active-minds/helping-parents-to-avoid-depression/