As many people live longer and healthier lives, we’re witnessing a move from traditional, “sit-back-and-relax” attitudes about retirement, toward “use-it-or-lose-it” approaches. What accounts for this significant shift in how we plan to live our later years? Cyn Meyer, senior wellness coach and founder of Second Wind Movement, explains that many of us are thinking differently about retirement due in large part to what we are learning about the physical, mental and social aspects of aging.
This more nuanced mindset is especially valuable for women, who often feel more satisfied as the weight of various personal and professional responsibilities lessens with age — and who, researchers note, are emotionally and socially well-equipped to handle the challenges of aging.
Meyer explores four misperceptions about aging and retirement, and in doing so encourages people to think deeply and broadly about their later years:
Retirement years are meant for rest and relaxation. While true to a point, Meyer cites research that demonstrates people in their 50s and older are continuing their educations, beginning new personal relationships and reshaping themselves professionally. Looks like retirement is also a time to get up and go — in a new direction!
Depression, loneliness, anxiety and dementia are unavoidable during the retirement years. Meyer acknowledges multiple instances of inevitable physical decline linked to aging, including: eye trouble, hearing loss, diminishing mobility and balance, declining mental stamina and increased fragility due to lower bone/muscle mass. And yet, she also points out that assessing and increasing our social, professional and educational interactions and involvements as we move toward retirement may help offset potential emotional or mental challenges for individuals later in life.
Retirement puts an end to learning opportunities. Hobbies, skills and high-level thinking about complex issues all help keep the brain healthy, engaged and flourishing. Meyer highlights research that details how people build neural pathways and forge new connections in their brains throughout their lives. In dispelling this misperception about aging, Meyer also encourages people to understand that learning is a key aspect of staying holistically fit in retirement.
We have little control over most aging factors. Healthy environments, lifestyles and daily behaviors — elements individuals can control — help balance influences from factors we can’t control such as genetics, pre-existing medical conditions and the “normal” limitations that come with aging, according to Meyer. She stresses that retired individuals should develop good habits and steady routines as they approach retirement to help ensure they are able to continue to achieve their goals and dreams for years to come.
We are living longer, healthier lives, and research supports a new outlook on retirement in the 21st century. While we all will experience physical, emotional and mental changes with age, individuals — and women, in particular — can take steps to get the most out of their post-work years by remaining physically active, mentally stimulated and socially and emotionally engaged.
Contact The Humphreys Group to discuss what’s important for you to experience and accomplish in your retirement years, and to learn how we can provide financial planning support for your 21st-century retirement mindset.