Most seniors look forward to retirement. With money and healthcare in good supply, this respected stage of life is their reward for years of hard work. Some envision this time as a leisurely vacation representing freedom from schedules and watching the clock. But the years after retirement may make up a third of one’s life span—and that’s a long time to be on vacation.
Researchers who study happiness in retirement say it’s important for retirees to think of this time as not only freedom from past obligations, but as freedom for a new purpose and direction. One expert calls it “a time to define yourself by who you are, rather than by what you do.”
Happy retirees describe the traits that make them who they are and offer advice on how to foster these qualities:
- Commitment. Donate time and energy to a cause that reflects your values. Enjoy your hobbies, but don’t confuse retirement with recreation.
- Connection. Be active in your community and maintain a link to your neighbors.
- Separateness. Retirement sometimes creates too much togetherness for a couple. Nourish independent pastimes that give both of you enough private time.
- Volunteering. Volunteer work keeps you busy, involved and interested in life.
- Problem solving. Retirement presents lots of free time for disagreement. Brush up on the negotiating skills that solved earlier marital problems.
- Diversity. Widen your circle of friends. Get to know people who differ from you by age, occupation, education, background or religion.
- Curiosity. Stimulate your mind by looking for new things to learn. Travel organizations for people over age 60 offer reasonably priced courses both at home and in foreign countries.
Finally, although successful retirees are usually active people, they reflect an air of calmness, too. Develop a healthy sense of security and completion, knowing that you have faced and resolved most of life’s crucial problems.