By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant.
First published by the Over 60 website [Link: www.oversixty.com.au]
When we think about staying healthy in retirement, we often think about becoming more active, eating better and ensuring a good night’s sleep. But there’s another powerful antidote and it doesn’t require active wear, perspiration or watching calorie intake. Did you know that maintaining strong friendships in retirement can have a significant and positive impact on your wellbeing?
As we age we are going to become more dependent on others. Not only may we become less mobile, but amongst your group of friends it is almost invariable that there will be debilitating illness, divorce, death, job loss and other major life challenges. It is times like this that it is so critical to have a strong friendship circle to surround us - people who can help us to weather the tough times. These friends will rally around you in times of need, intuitively knowing what needs doing and making things more bearable. Good friends will do exactly what you know you would do for them if the roles were reversed. Not only that, but these friends will celebrate your successes too!
What are the health impacts of loneliness?
The workplace is a hot-bed of human interaction – there is always a morning tea, someone to do the coffee run with and meetings to be held, and so as we step away from the workforce, our social networks tend to decrease. The research shows that loneliness is linked to a number of health issues including poor sleep patterns, increased prevalence of stress hormones, increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and accelerated cognitive decline. In turn, these can contribute to a lowered life expectancy and depression. The lower quality of life associated with these health issues is not what people envisage when they think about a fulfilling and enjoyable retirement.
Loneliness is not a symptom of failure - that you are no longer relevant. The feeling is simply a reminder to reach other to others.
The challenge is that life has never been as busy as it is now in the 21st century. But stop for a moment. Don't be so busy working hard and saving for retirement that you let the fun things fall by the wayside, such as weekend fishing trips, ladies nights at the theatre, or barefoot bowls. How 'golden' will those years be if you no longer have people to share them with?
Do you need to re-connect with friends?
Fortunately there are simple things you can do right now to reinvigorate the important friendships in your life.
Make that call!
Who is that one person that you have been meaning to catch-up with for ages, and what can you do to connect with them today? Go on, nothing beats memory sharing and a deep belly laugh!
Take the lead!
Rather than wait for catch-ups to be organised, step in and connect with the people you hold near and dear. Just be mindful to set yourself up for success. For example, rather than trying to go out for dinner as a group once a week, make it once a month (or even once a quarter) so that it doesn’t seem like a burden and something that everyone will look forward to.
Let them know
Don’t be afraid to tell your friends that you care. Let them know how much you appreciate them and why. And do it often!
Choose your friends wisely
One of the great things that comes with age is caring less what other people think. As such, choose which friendships you cultivate mindfully. Spend time with the people who light you up, not drain your energy or take advantage of you.
As the saying goes, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. The power of friendship is real. Is your inner circle full of people that you know will be there for you when you need them (and vice versa)?
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!