Humans retire from their formal work between age 58 in some countries to no age limit in other countries. (This indicates till you can perform efficiently.) We have seen in country like Japan where people in their 70’s are advising many business teams. In fact they are expected to do that. There will be some percentage of people who will be exceptionally fit both mentally as well as physically even after 70. But the general law of the nature is that age starts playing its role. But at some stage, you do retire and then your day to day activities pattern changes drastically.
Life style change in human beings on retirement can be pretty humbling! No, I am not talking about the money but the change in mental set-up needed is pretty drastic. It can be equivalent to some people, who are pilots for Boeing 787, to switch to flying single seated Cessna to sprinkle pesticides! During working phase, humans are so busy that they don’t find time to do many things. It is as good as putting away your time, in a bank recurring deposit. While in working phase, every month or every year, everybody must have felt that he should have had 15 days more to take his holidays, play with children, or spend time with spouse. This negative time balance accumulated and its volume, depends on each individual. Some of us were exceptionally busy and some moderately busy but I am sure there always has been a deficit of time. As and when you retire, this recurring deposit of time is automatically returned back to your account with interest.
Similarly your responsibilities, your capabilities start going down, over a period, on retirement. How do you handle this? Our old age stage is like that of big organization which over a period has reached a stage where it is no more a dominant force. Its resources and abilities have reduced substantially. Retired human beings are like such organizations. In retirement phase it is not what you do in that phase but how you react to circumstances around you is important. Circumstances keep on changing rapidly, and you may not have control on most of them.
In retirement phase try to look at the rivers to guide us. Rivers keep on moving at their own speed defined by geography. They flood when there is too much water and are not afraid to come out of their confines, the banks. People throw junk in them but they keep on flowing. When there is rain deficit or shortfall they simply dry up, they always change to suit the circumstances. Most important is the river always goes forward! No regrets!
Perceptions shape emotional well-being. Previously when I used to go for my walks, I would be upset if someone overtook me that is how I am made up. But now even if person 10 years senior overtakes me, I simply don’t bother and keep on walking at my own pace, smiling. You might see a senior person fitter, smiling and less wrinkled. Don’t get worried, everyone is made differently. In such cases go and talk to that person and discuss how he manages these things. The main mantra is health is wealth!
Look for authentic happiness in retirement. A bit of planning before retirement might help. What is authentic happiness? Your grandchildren can really give you a high and to every individual they are authentic happiness. But there is big trap there! They don’t remain four year old all the time! They grow and they may move to other cities or countries depending on their parent’s decisions. So this can’t be life time solution. Try to be with nature as much as possible. Try to spend as much time with spouse as possible. Try with to be with friends.
This new phase of your life is no different from previous phases of your life. You bring to the table your strengths and weaknesses; you face challenges and have opportunities. Now as you have before, plan accordingly. I encourage you to be forward thinking and realistic about what retirement means for you. For millions of us the new retirement means re-thinking and re-shaping our retirement plans. Work on it, it’s in your hands! Always be positive, and be active as long as possible!
I had created a list of points from practical point of view, for my friends. I am using the same as I felt that this will be useful to all. If you think of any other important point which I may have missed please let me know, I will add to the list. Happy golden period!
1. Self-Analysis: It was felt that our understanding about ourselves in working phase is based on opinion of other people around you. In work environment people may say very good things about you on face, for their benefit, and we start believing it. It is possible that same great boss may be a very different person in home environments. So we should self-analyze ourselves in a detached way. All warts and kinks could be displayed in the mirror when you decide to have a close look at yourself.
2. Time on hand: After one fully retires from professional work the same 24 hours stretch really long; these same 24 hours were never enough during working phase. It is fine to say you can start hobbies, and will try to finish your bucket list and so on. But 24 hours and 365 days is real large time when retired. Plan your day, days or weeks in such a way that you have something to look forward to, daily! A friend has taken housing society work full time so has always looking forward to something. Another friend has bought a train pass from Thane to VT. As and when he finds it suitable, he travels by train at off peak hours. He just observes as life passes by and sees very interesting things especially the way young folks handle their lives. A friend has taken up to compering musical programs but as an amateur!Don’t forget that in this phase you are going spend maximum time with your spouse! How about going with wife to buy grocery? How about going with her to buy a dress once in a while? How about learning to say sorry! Good to see smile on your face but these things will now become very important. You and your wife have never spent so much time together lately!
3. Hobbies: Try and cultivate hobbies. You may already have them and there can many new ones. Discuss with your friends about what they are doing. Collect information about family and try to compile history as a hobby. Cultivate hobby of talking to friends who stay far from you, these days communication is almost free. Believe me when you talk to your long lost friend both will definitely feel happy. Sometime back I was looking for contact of a very dear friend from school days. The person who could finally give the details suggested to me that our friend has become a bit of a recluse so don’t get disappointed if he doesn’t talk for long. We ended up talking for one hour to start with!
4. Don’t be in denial: Think positively is the mantra for everything these days. You want to enjoy your golden period to the fullest but lack of planning can really disturb the bandwagon! Thinking of ten years hence is also a very positive way of looking at life. How will our health condition be at the age of 80? No point in saying we will take it as it comes. Add to positivity by not going into denial! Things are going to change and it can be a good idea to be prepared for it. You may physically act at a later date but planning will always help. You will be able to enjoy your remaining life in peace if you have planned things. We always say, “I don’t want to be on ventilator, ever”! How will you achieve it if you are in denial, and don’t accept that this can happen to you too, so plan it! Supreme Court is strongly discussing about “Living Will” currently.
5. General Health: It is important to keep general health as good as practical. If you are regular traveler make sure that you can lift and keep your bags in the upper bins. At airports, train stations a lot of walking is needed, so make sure you walk daily at some distance. At the same time just because distance is large, don’t opt for wheel chair at the airports unless you have a specific health issue. This act will allow negativity to creep in. Eat correctly and only as per your body needs. Each individual has a need for different diet as per conditions, follow them to keep healthy! Body, Mind and Intellect is what forms our body. With age, body is going to have difficulties but keeping mind and intellect intact is in our hands. (All my statements are subject to no health issues!)
6. Desensitize yourself: By no means am I suggesting that you go away from emotions. What I mean by desensitize yourself is to try to stop worrying about your children, grand-children. We have hopefully done a good job of raising our children and they in turn will do the same! At our current age our children are old enough to manage the ups and downs in life and their children’s lives! I have read of a theory where you, your siblings and parents were in the inner most circle, to start with. As you grew, started your career, got married, you and spouse came in the innermost circle. The cycle goes on, so when your children get married they have their inner circle and you are in the outer circle. Get sensitized to this concept. 8 to 10 % of the couple’s world over are childless. They have their own issues as they grow old. They need to have their own “family”. I am not an expert in this subject but my thinking would be “family” should be of people much younger to us. Everything comes down to have having a close inner circle!
7. Financial Matters: Make sure that there are no complex investments because we want to make life simpler. Make arrangements such that life is easy for next generation after you and your spouse.
8. Take safety precautions: As we grow older possibility of slipping and falling down increase. Chances of our tripping while doing mundane things like changing trousers increase. Once we go into the bone related spin, life can become pretty complex. Regular exercise will assist in reaching this aim of not falling down.
To summarize growing older is inevitable, but there are many things we can do to avoid feeling older. Medical breakthroughs have and will extend our longevity, but how we decide to live as we age is crucial. Downsize your life in whatever possible way. Managing our physical health, maintaining relationships, being productive, taking safety precautions, visiting our health care providers often, and making adequate preparations to fund our retirement and long term care can help us make the most of our senior years.