Transitioning to retirement with your health and sanity intact

health sanity intact

Important as it might be, many Australians quickly come to realise that it takes more than money to have a fulfilling retirement. Adjusting to your post-work years requires open-mindedness and a knack for dealing with uncertainty. If you’re feeling some apprehension about your upcoming retirement, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Consider winding down gently

Some people thrive from day one of retirement, while others are at a loss for ways to spend their time.

If you’re worried you’ll fall into the latter category, you might be better off winding down gradually. This might help accustom you to the idea of not working and give you time to ponder ways to fill your days.

Here’s where a transition to retirement (TTR) income stream might help. This involves transferring a part of your super into an account-based pension, allowing you to decrease your work hours while drawing on your super to make up for the reduction in your salary.1

Introduce some structure

Decades of work tend to accustom us to a particular routine. You might not have always enjoyed waking up early and dragging yourself to the office, but chances are it gave purpose to each day and made you appreciate your leisure time that much more. 

If you feel unmoored without those work-based structures in place, it might be worth trying to establish new structures of your own. Try to visualise what your ideal week looks like, then make an effort to schedule a time for all those activities you imagine will bring you joy. And if you feel things aren’t working or your days are still blending into one another, don’t be afraid to switch things up.

Don’t let your mind atrophy

Concerns about declining cognitive health tend to ramp up in retirement, especially if work was at the centre of your life and you had few hobbies or interests outside of it. Those annoying “senior moments” might become more common than you’re comfortable admitting, and it’s easy to interpret them as a potential warning sign of what’s to come. 

To help keep your brain sharp, you’ll need to look for other sources of mental stimulation. That might involve activities as simple as crosswords and jigsaw puzzles, or as demanding as learning a new language, taking night classes, or volunteering in your local community. 

Retirement is also the perfect time to take up any creative hobbies you didn’t have time for during your working years. Writing, painting, pottery and woodwork are some common ones, but there are countless ways to tap into your creative side now that you have the free time.

Try to stay socially connected

Just as we depend on work to provide structure in our lives, for many of us it’s our primary source of social interaction. With your working years behind you, it can be difficult to meet new people or foster a deeper connection with those you already interact with.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can ward off social isolation. Try to find like-minded people by joining book or film clubs, walking groups, or taking up volunteering. If you have a family with children of their own, offer to babysit or take them on weekly outings. And if transportation is an issue, technologies like Zoom and Google Hangouts offer the chance to connect easily with friends from the comfort of your home.

Keep physically active

The benefits of physical activity at all ages are well known. Not only can it help your mobility, balance and endurance, it can also prevent or delay many of the health problems associated with old age (such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and serious injury after a fall). 

There’s also plenty of evidence that suggests physical activity is good for your brain. One study of more than 450 older adults (averaging 90 years old) found that increased levels of physical activity were associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline.2

For people aged 65 and above, it’s recommended that you engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each day (for example, brisk walking, swimming and aerobics).3 If that seems like too much at the moment, start with just 10 minutes of activity once or twice a day and try to increase it when you’re ready.