|Posted by mercycounseling on July 7, 2018 at 7:35 AM|
I am so very grateful to have reached this time in my life—the Senior or Golden years. It’s funny how my perspective transitioned over time. I remember years ago (many years!) longing for my Senior year of high school. Being that kind of Senior was much to be coveted. Then, after passing that milestone by a few short years, I would look back at the immaturity of the Senior year, being so much wiser and worldlier. In my 20s, 30s, and 40s, I worked very hard at working (and having), pushing off any thought of the coming Senior years. In those days, it felt like there was plenty of time—no need to think about growing old. It wasn’t until I woke up one day at the age of 50 that I realized I better start planning for the inevitable life to come (God willing). And here I am now at age 62, retired, secure, in reasonable and improving health, and happier than at any point in my life.
Retirement is one of those major life changes that brings its own set of new stressors. For most people, income goes down, often significantly. (That’s not all bad, as I have found. I find it delightful that I now receive compensation every month “just for breathing,” as I like to say! Attitude is important!) There is usually some loss of relationships since you no longer go to a workplace. Let’s face it, you spent a lot of time with those people. Even if you weren’t great friends, your workplace still constituted a major source for socialization—a very basic human need. With retirement comes a certain loss of status, especially if you closely identified with your work or your professional title. You may feel you’ve lost your purpose. Retirement reminds you that you only have so many years left to live. If retirement is thrust upon you due to circumstances beyond your control, the stress will be greater and your adjustment may be more difficult. In that case, please seek the help of a counselor.
The greatest piece of advice I can give anyone—no matter the age of awakening to the reality that the Senior years are coming—is this: PLAN FOR IT. This means taking the time to understand the financial implications of not having employment income. Establish and contribute to a retirement account with as much of your resources and for as long as you can. The sooner you start, the larger your nest-egg will be. Cultivate social relationships that are not workplace related. This could be through church membership or perhaps you enjoy belonging to volunteer or social service organizations. Think about what you will do with your life when you no longer make that daily commute. Pursue interests that you can carry with you into retirement. Find out what special resources and activities are available in your community for Seniors and mentally prepare to take advantage of them. (I’m having a wonderful time exercising and socializing at our local Senior Center, all for free.)
When you reach that retirement milestone, realize that there will be an adjustment period, even if you’ve done a good job planning, but especially if you haven’t. Give yourself time to grieve the losses you feel (this should be a short process if you’ve been looking forward to the day). I have to admit, it only took me two days to adjust, but they were two very intense emotional days! What helped me most was that I already knew what I would be doing and transitioned some key activities from before to after retirement. I still had purpose.
The Senior years are sometimes called the Golden years; and there are many good reasons for this. It is a time when time itself can become your friend, because you will no longer devote so much of it to the daily task of striving for money. Nor will you be quite as chained to a clock. You can catch up on your sleep. You can pursue some of those interests you’ve put off. You can slow down and know that it’s OK to slow down. You can pay attention to your aging body and give it the respect you never did as a younger person. Your health can improve! You need not be so driven by expectations and duty.
Retirement can be a time of relative freedom. However, should you feel overwhelmed, lost, fearful, depressed, anxious, or any host of other emotions that do not resolve in a few weeks or months after retiring, please seek out the help of a professional counselor.
Embrace your Senior years. May they be the best years of your life!
Susan A. Haberkorn, Ph.D.
NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor