How Feeling Old Can Work Against You In Retirement

By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant

First published by Over Sixty [Link:]

How old do you feel today? Younger or older than your driver’s licence says? As the old adage goes ‘you are only as old as you feel’ and this is particularly important when it comes to getting the most out of life in retirement.  The people who feel productive, happy and content in retirement tend to be those who have a zest for life and feel young at heart. To them age is simply a number.


The research suggests that those who see themselves as old are more likely to experience declining health more quickly, both physically and psychologically, and thus lead a ‘smaller’ retirement.

If you think you are old and allow others to treat you as old, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you decide that you are too old to hike, it will become a reality. You will cut back on planned outings, decline invites from friends to go hiking and as a result your muscle mass will decrease, your lung capacity shrink and you will, in fact, no longer be able to enjoy those weekly hikes.

Yes your age may continue to increase, but how old you feel is something that you can influence. This is why it is so important to keep the both the body and mind active in retirement. More often than not it is about mind over matter.

Who do you want to be in retirement?

Who would you rather be – the 75 year old tucked up in a recliner chair watching the 4pm news or the 75 year old who still plays weekly squash and gives his 35 year old son a run for his money! Sure, his eyesight may not be what it once was and it may be a little harder to follow the ball, but that doesn’t mean that he needs stop playing.

That is who I want to be as I age. The person that makes others pause in disbelief when they realise how old I actually am! My goal is to be the 80 year old who is still surfing, jogging and doing yoga.

So what is ‘old’?

This then poses the question, what is ‘old’ these days anyway? The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015) defines older persons as ‘someone aged 55 and over’ and I want to challenge this. How many 55 year-olds do you know who would consider themselves old? Very few I bet. And for anyone who thinks themselves old at 55, it is going to make for a long and unending retirement.

With life expectancy constantly increasing (in Australia this figure is 84.4 years for women and 80.3 years for men; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015), it is important to redefine what old age is. And it certainly doesn’t start at 55 (or 65 for that matter)!

Tips for feeling young in retirement

The good news is that feeling youthful is something that is within each of our spheres of control. The action that we take and the way that we respond to situations can help determine how we feel about ourselves. Below are 5 key tips for keeping yourself feeling young as you step into retirement.

1. Surround yourself with people of all ages

If you only spend time with other older people, you risk becoming immersed in conversations focused on the ageing process (and the associated ‘woe is me’ grumbling) and missing out on the richness that the broader community offers. Younger people can help you to see life from a different perspective and you may be surprised at what they may want to learn from you!

 If age is simply a number then choose to spend time with people because of common interests, their personality and energy.

2. Give technology a go

Rather than become overwhelmed by technology, give it a go. Ask one of your grandchildren to give you a tutorial on Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter. Even if you don’t use these apps on a regular basis at least you will know what the fuss is about and be able to join in conversations. Don’t let technology become a scary abyss too dark to tackle.

3. Stay active

Do something each day to get the body moving. It doesn’t have to be strenuous and you don’t need to be able to run a marathon, but it is important to maintain your condition. Walking may start to tire you out, but rather than stop completely and adopt a mobility aid, walk slowly and frequently and build your strength and endurance.

Care for your body so that you are able to do the things you desire.

4. Keep learning

Ongoing learning is so important in retirement. Not only as a means of keeping the mind active, but for ensuring that you stay both interested in, and interesting to, the people around you.  There is much pleasure and satisfaction to be gained from staying abreast of trends and developments in an area of interest and engaging in hearty debate with like-minded people.

5. Focus on the positive

You get more of what you focus on. Don’t let the ageing process define you. Rather than complain about ailments, injuries and hardships, focus on the good things in life. What are the kind things that someone else has done for you, the things that pleasantly surprised you and the new things you’ve learned.

Let your ideas, energy and dreams rather than your age define your retirement. Remember: “It’s not how old you are, but how you are old” – Jules Renard.


If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read Planning for Fun in Retirement and Is Fear Stopping You Actioning Your Retirement Dreams?

In planning for a holiday we always think “we need to go there” and “we should see that” but when Day One of our holiday arrives, we draw a blank…What were all of those things we were going to enjoy? In the busyness of life they’ve slipped our mind.

Don’t let this happen to your retirement. Download the My Retirement Planner and start capturing those ideas and inspiration so that you’re ready to step into retirement with gusto!