Retirement is supposed to be a reward for putting in decades of work and dedication. It should be a time to explore, relax, and enjoy reacquainting yourself with your loved ones and hobbies. However, for many hitting retirement age and letting go of their working life is the point where boredom takes over and their health begins to decline, limiting their actions and ability to enjoy life.
Researchers have spent years trying to determine whether retirement is bad for health, good for health, or has no bearing either way. While there have been studies, which indicate the risk of heart attack and stroke rises by 40% among retirees it should be considered why.
Often, a decline in health among retirees is the same thing causing boredom. When you have spent your life following the same pattern of getting up and going to work every morning it can be difficult to adjust to an entirely new routine.
How Retirement Changes Your Life
Even good changes can have a real impact on your life, and retirement certainly reshapes your social interactions, psycho-social stress, and your health behaviors, too. It is an entire identity change because for so many years you identified yourself by the job that you did. Once that’s gone it can be difficult to redefine yourself.
We should really stop looking at retirement as an event and instead view it as a process. According to Dartmouth’s Life Stress Test, retirement is number 10 on life’s most stressful moments (https://www.dartmouth.edu/~eap/library/lifechangestresstest.pdf).
While many retirees are able to transition smoothly, many are not so lucky.
There are plenty of ways you can avoid the typical boredom that accompany retirement, so make sure you start chasing boredom away before it has a chance to take hold of your life.
• Build A Network. Many people forget that it isn’t just their job they leave behind when they retire. They’re also disconnecting from their colleagues and friends. So, start building a new social circle. Whether that includes friends from work or you find all new friendships in your community, a strong social network is vital for your physical and mental health, as well as preventing boredom.
• Get Creative. Getting in touch with your creativity is a great way to stave off boredom and keep your brain ticking over. There are plenty of options, too, whether you enjoy painting or drawing or gardening is more your style. You can learn a new style of cooking, take up baking, start knitting, or even try pottery.
• Start Playing. What better way to get over boredom than by indulging in hobbies? Retirement is a great opportunity to hit the links for a round of golf, try ballroom dancing, go traveling, join a bowling league, or even take up bridge.
• Try Learning. Keeping your brain active will keep it healthy and improve your overall health. Why not try a new language, start playing an instrument, or pick a subject that interests you that you’d love to know about?
The level of engagement you require may depend on what type of job you spent your life invested in. If you were constantly challenged you may enjoy the relaxation, but you’ll also need to keep giving yourself challenges to overcome to stay healthy. You may even want to consider volunteering, it will provide you with a sense of purpose as well as help you forge new social connections in your community – all while giving back. Boredom can fuel poor mental health and once it sets in it can be difficult to shape, and with a decline in mental health comes a decline in overall health and well-being.
In Your Older Years Avoid Harmful Isolation
Seniors who suffer from social isolation are affected by increased risk factors of early death and experiencing a lower quality of life during their elderly years. In many cases, there is simply no one around to notice someone in need of help or case. They are also more likely to fail to eat or take their medicine, thus increasing the risk of harm to their health.
The Consequences Of Isolation
During natural disasters, one of the largest at-risk groups is the elderly. While they may appear to be coping well in life, they don’t have a built-up reserve to handle the effects of a natural disaster. For many seniors, the only thing that uncovers isolation is a medical crisis. The elderly contingent is increasingly reliant on neighbors, friends, and family, and if they don’t have anyone to rely on then they are at great risk of isolation.
The elderly who come under this umbrella are high risk for hospitalization and often they become too frail to manage their daily lives efficiently.
There are many health risks to isolation including an inability to handle rehabilitation exercises due to a lack of balance or frailty. Additionally, as mentioned above, there is a risk of taking medications incorrectly, falls, poor diet choices, and a lack of exercise.
There is a greater risk of developing a chronic illness when suffering from isolation, as well as an increased risk of depression. Mental health issues already shrink a person’s world, but when paired with existing isolation the problem can be devastating. With isolation and depression comes a decline in cognitive abilities, thus an increased risk of dementia.
There are a number of factors that increase the risk of isolation, including living alone, the loss of a close friend or family member, retirement, taking over the care-giving role of a parent, a low income, rural living, language barriers, or living in an unsafe location.
Bridging The Divide
One of the easiest ways for older people to stay connected with the world around them is through digital means. The internet can provide social networking with friends and loved ones, as well as an opportunity to meet new people. It also offers games and activities that can stimulate the brain and stave off boredom.
There are also organizations that pair elderly members of the community with a younger person who can show them the ropes of using a mobile device and teach them how to find the information they want.
We have a growing dependence on technology and it is truly part of life now, so if you don’t have access to it then you are at a disadvantage.
Younger people teaching the elderly how to operate the likes of Facebook provides older people a lifeline.
Of course, there are also charities that visit the elderly to ensure those living alone don’t fall prey to isolation.
There are steps you can take now before you get to a point of crisis. You should have a plan for retirement and be building a social network now. Many people decide that moving to the country or choosing a warmer climate is a great idea for retirement, but this does increase the risk of isolation. Therefore, if your plan is to move start thinking ahead about your social connections and what steps you can take to ensure you have a strong network where you are going.
Join in with community groups and seek out conversation wherever possible. You can take a class, join a charity, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or take up a new hobby that gets you out there with people. Support is key to preventing isolation.