Boldies say WE ARE!, not we were: 9 ways to have a happy retirement

By Kate Whiting. Published 2020-08-21
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Here’s how you can make the most of your new-found freedom in retirement.

“Retirement for most people means a dramatic, bold change in lifestyle and, if not planned carefully, it can have a dramatic effect on both your emotional and physical health,” says David James Lees, talking therapist and Co-Founder of Wu Wei Wisdom.

“Many clients come to me for support when they are approaching retirement or are newly retired. Often they complain that they feel adrift, lack a sense of purpose and believe their life has or will come to a halt.”

In fact, some retirees can find themselves feeling depressed, according to Dr Yousef Habbab, medical director for health services at AXA PPP Healthcare, who says: “Steady, continuous working lives can actually add to a positive outlook on life, and provide an ongoing sense of fulfilment. Research by the Institute of Economic Affairs recently found that retirement itself has been found to increase the risk of depression by 40%.”

So, if you’re nearing retirement age, or just wanting to plan ahead, here are some simple tips to ensure your retirement is as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

Make your intention clear

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“It’s very important that you view retirement as a new and positive chapter in your life,” says David. “You should then take action on this by setting a clear intention to plan out new avenues and activities that will be both revitalising and rewarding for your health and happiness.”

Don’t stop completely

What most people do when they retire do what so many people. So many people say to us that retirement is when a whole new, busy life begins. Be that travelling, a new career, starting a business or volunteering. How many times have you heard retirees saying that they don't know how they had time to work before retirement.

Plan your day

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“Although lots of people start looking forward to retirement years before they stop working, when it actually comes, all the free time can sometimes feel overwhelming,” says Cathy Johnston, senior community living advisor at MHA Auchlochan Garden Village.

“Many of the retirees I work with find that structuring their day helps to give them a sense of routine once they’re finished with the 9 to 5 grind. Social activities and clubs can be a great way to make friends, as well as adding a bit of structure to your day – and there’s something out there for everyone!”

Stimulate mind and body

“Activities that are great for holistic mind and body wellbeing include mindfulness meditation, qigong meditation, tai chi and yoga,” says David. “Find a local beginners’ class or follow an free online tutorial or course to sample which practice works best for you.”

Broaden your skillset

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More than three fifths (62%) of UK retirees are spending more time enjoying what they love and nearly a fifth (17%) have taken up new hobbies, according to a Standard Life survey.

“Retirement does not mean learning stops,” says David. “Mental stimulation is very important in order to help keep your brain and mindset in tip-top condition. Why not learn a new skill that is challenging but also pleasurable, such as mastering a new language that you can use on holiday, or learning to play a musical instrument just for the joy of it! There are plenty of free and low-cost courses available at your local night-school to help you do this.”

As Dr Emer MacSweeney, CEO & Medical Director at Re:Cognition Health adds, taking up a musical instrument could even stave off dementia: “A recent study, conducted on 157 pairs of twins found that learning a musical instrument, for the first time, in adult life could help to reduce the risk of dementia.

“Most will admit that playing a musical instrument also builds confidence, relieves stress, fosters creativity and gives a sense of achievement and satisfaction – all of which will in turn help keep the brain young and active.”

Get social

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“Retirement can mean stepping away from the daily buzz of the office environment and interaction with colleagues,” says David. “When this happens, you can become more isolated, so it’s important to make time for social activities. This could be scheduling regular catch-ups with existing friends and family, or joining new social clubs and activities where you can meet like-minded people.”

Take an interest in golf

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You don’t even have to play it, just follow the players around the course, according to a study by the University of Edinburgh, in conjunction with the Golf & Health Project, which found spectators averaged 11,589 steps per day, with 82.9% achieving their recommended daily step-count.

“Walking is one of the best things you can do for your health, adding years to life, and increasing health and happiness,” says Dr Andrew Murray, from the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh.

Keep track of your pension

Research by Scottish Widows found 30% of people polled get stressed just thinking about their financial situation in retirement, while only 56% are saving enough for a comfortable retirement. Not having enough money to pay for essentials (28%) and not having enough money to do things they enjoy (24%), topped people’s retirement fears.

Jamie Smith-Thompson, managing director of pension advice specialist, Portafina says: “Retirement is a time when the roots of freedom can really take hold, which is why making sure your pension is working as hard as possible is so important.

“Risk makes everyone feel nervous, so to reduce potential stress take some time to make sure your money is invested in a way that is right for you. If you are close to taking an income from your pension, then the last thing you need is a financial crisis wiping a significant sum from your pot just when you need it.

“Consider the ‘guaranteed factor’. Buying an annuity is no longer the only way to get the security of a guaranteed income for life, so have a chat with a regulated financial adviser to see how the pension you have compares with what you want it to provide, and how flexible you need it to be. Don’t forget the ‘pass-it-on-factor’ too. Is your pension set up to leave the sort of legacy you would want? Knowing that loved ones will be provided for is sure to take a weight off anyone’s shoulders.”

Plan a move

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“It’s also worth considering whether your home will continue to be suitable for you as you age,” adds Cathy. “Whilst you might still be able to bound up and down the stairs when you’re 65, things might be a bit trickier 10, 20 or 30 years hence. Thinking about any potential issues earlier rather than later will leave you free to enjoy your retirement in the most comfortable way possible.”

  • The Wu Wei Wisdom blog can be found here
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