The Importance of Wellness in Retirement
Paul Tarins, RICP®,WMCP®,CSRIC™
You’ve done everything you can to ensure that you’re maximizing your financial freedom in retirement. You have the right accounts, the right savings, the right documents and plans in place. You’re set, right?
Well, what do all those retirement savings mean if you can’t enjoy them? While having the necessary funds to maintain a high quality of living is important, if you’re in poor health, you won’t be able to live out the retirement you want no matter how much you have in savings. That’s why it’s so important to look out for your health, both now and as you grow older.
Today we’re going to look at a few tips for maintaining or even improving your wellness, so that you can fully appreciate all the wonders your new or future financial freedom have to offer.
What is Wellness?
“Wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – The World Health Organization.
By this definition, you can see that there’s more to being well than simply not being sick. Wellness isn’t about not feeling bad, it’s about feeling actively good. Rather than settling for baseline health, perhaps it’s worth striving to feel great!
The idea of wellness stems further than physical health, as it is meant to encompass every aspect of your quality of life: mental health, social well-being and physical state. And while developing a retirement plan can help to make sure your financial wellness is covered, it’s up to you to take care of the rest.
Addressing Wellness in Retirement
Below, we’ve broken down wellness into three main categories. Mental, physical, and social wellness are all important in different ways, but each contributes to a greater whole. It’s crucial to be cognizant of each aspect of your wellness as you move through life. Here’s what you can do to keep yourself ship-shape through your retirement.
Maintaining Mental Wellness
This aspect of wellness is sometimes overlooked. Since mental health isn’t always as visible as physical health, people don’t necessarily think about it as often as they do other aspects of health. In addition, some people hold societal attitudes that people should try to “buck up”, or that caring about your mental health is a sign of weakness.
Those attitudes are misinformed. Mental health is as important as any other aspect of wellness. It can, in fact, have an impact on physical and social health. If someone is experiencing difficulty with their mental health, they might start neglecting their physical needs such as eating and bathing. Socially, they might start distancing themselves from previously close relationships, or isolating themselves.
So you can see, maintaining mental wellness is an important part of creating overall wellness. And a key to keeping sharp is to not allow yourself to get too bored. But what can you do to keep your mind active?
Well, there are a lot of things! Depending on your interests, you can find any number of hobbies and activities.
The temptation to turn your brain off during retirement can be a big one. Considering you’ve spent decades problem solving for 40+ hours a week, the idea of relaxing and unwinding in front of the television or along a sandy shoreline can be extra appealing. But in order to stay mentally well and ward off cognitive decline, it’s important to incorporate mental exercises into your daily retirement routine. Staying sharp and keeping an active mind in retirement can help you to enjoy your retirement for longer.
One possible way of keeping your mental health in check? Consider taking on a new job in retirement, even just as a part-time position. According to the American Psychological Association, a 2009 study revealed that those who were working in retirement had levels of well-being in both health and overall satisfaction that were on par with those who were younger and not yet retired. And beyond satisfaction, working in retirement has proved in some cases to effectively ward off cognitive decline and diseases. A study of nearly half a million retiree-aged participants showed that for every additional year worked, the risk of dementia was reduced by 3.2 percent.
Other activities to help your mind stay sharp in retirement could include:
- Picking up a new instrument
- Learning a new language
- Reading books
- Doing puzzles & games
Maintaining Physical Wellness
You’ve heard the phrase “use it or lose it,” and this saying definitely rings true when it comes to maintaining your physical wellness in retirement. Older adults are already at a bit of a disadvantage physically. As our bodies grow older, we’re facing physical changes such as slowing metabolisms, weakening immune systems and loss of muscle mass (to name a few). But just like your mental health, you may be tempted to enter a state of permanent relaxation in retirement. However, it’s important to take care of yourself physically. Doing so can help prevent both physical and cognitive decline, both of which can dramatically reduce your overall well-being. Some ways to stay physically well in retirement include:
- Joining an exercise class
- Garden and maintain your yard
- Adopting a dog
- Enjoying walks around your neighborhood
- Creating (and sticking to) an exercise routine
If you live in an area with a pleasant climate, such as if you choose an Orlando retirement, then you’ll find that simply going outside and existing in nature helps you to feel better. There are all kinds of things that you can do to keep your body active, from a jazzy dance class to the classic water aerobics. If you’re willing to drop a little more money, you could invest in a recumbent bicycle. Who knows, it might be just what your life has been missing!
The options are endless, and there’s surely something out there that will meet you at your current level of physical wellness and ability.
Maintaining Social Wellness
Isolation and loneliness are growing issues in Americans, especially in older adults. And entering into retirement is a transitional time in which one’s social well-being may become compromised. Leaving a job means leaving coworkers you see every day, and if you choose to move to a retirement destination, you may be leaving all other neighbors, community friends and even family behind.
This kind of situation could lead to dangerous levels of isolation in anyone, but it’s a particularly potent issue for people post-retirement. Many of the socialization activities that younger people take for granted, such as parties and one’s work life, become less accessible as one ages, to the point that finding adequate socialization can seem impossible.
Isolation can leave you feeling completely detached from your friends and family, both physically and psychologically. It’s something more than 8 million adults over the age of 50 experience, and prolonged isolation can have the same impact on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to find social fulfillment in retirement, they just require some effort and initiative on your part. These could include:
- Volunteering in your community
- Finding a roommate if you currently live alone
- Taking or teaching classes in an area of your interest
- Pursue a hobby or passion that takes you outside of the home
There are so many options for socializing as you get older, it’s just a matter of reaching out and looking for them. Whether you live in a retirement destination such as Orlando or elsewhere, it’s entirely possible that there exist classes and activities specifically targeted towards you and your peers.
Things like community college classes can be a great opportunity to meet people, and you even get to learn a new skill while you’re doing it! From baking to watercolors to welding, there are all sorts of choices when it comes to activities that will get you out of the house.
This sort of advice may seem too simple and obvious, or perhaps easier said than done, but pursuing any type of activity that will get you in the world and engaging with your fellow human beings is a step in the right direction. In the same way that your body and mind need regular exercise, so do your social connections. Just staying out there and making sure to create and maintain those connections will help you maintain your wellness well through your retirement years.
When you put a special focus on maintaining your overall wellness in retirement, these can be some of the greatest years of your life. And while you can work with a professional to ensure your financial well-being is cared for, it’s up to you to make sure the rest is following suit as you head toward retirement.
Looking after your social, mental, and physical wellness is some of the most important work you can do towards making sure that you have the comfortable retirement you deserve. Following these tips as you’re moving through this stage of life can help you get there.
Paul Tarins is an investment adviser representative of and offers investment and advisory services through Portfolio Medics, a registered investment adviser. Nothing contained herein should be construed as a solicitation for investment advisory services. Sovereign Retirement Solutions and Portfolio Medics are not affiliated.