Tips for a successful retirement

Are you approaching retirement or newly retired? If so, you may be wondering how you can make the most of this next phase in your life. There are fresh opportunities, different challenges, vital decisions to make, perhaps even new skills to learn. 

The key elements to a successful retirement are both practical and emotional. They range from money to relationships. Some you may wish to think about are: 

1.     Good health. Not of all us are lucky enough to enjoy good health as we get older, but there are plenty of things we can do to keep ourselves in good shape and help to cope with illness or disability. There are plenty of tips for keeping healthy  and ageing well elsewhere on our website.

 2.     An adequate income. In the 21st century this has become a more significant challenge for many. With the recent changes to the law on pensions, there are important choices to be made. Should you take money from your pension pot to spend now, or would it be wiser to keep it invested in a pension for later years? Pensionwise, an independent organisation grant aided by the government, lays out your options clearly and you can book an online or phone appointment (0800 138 3944) for personal advice. Age UK’s website also offers valuable guidance.  This is a crucial choice. So make sure you take professional advice from Pensionwise, a regulated financial adviser or a specialist charity like Age UK. 

If you’ve already made your decision, there are plenty of ways you can make your income stretch further. Check out our hints on staying financially healthy in retirement.

3.     Suitable accommodation. If you’re thinking of moving, check out the pros and cons carefully. A life by the seaside or in a picturesque village is a dream for many, but don’t underestimate the emotional impact of leaving your home, your social network, your familiarity with your neighbourhood. Your needs may change and you may have to think beyond simply downsizing or moving to a new location and begin to consider how you can manage in later years. For example will you need help and support to live comfortably? It’s best to start thinking about such possibilities before they become urgent. Check out this comprehensive guide to housing options in retirement.

 4.     Family and friends. An important point to remember if you’re considering retiring away from your current home. How will you build a new social circle if you move to another location? An American study has suggested that engaging in social activities  is the best predictor of successful adjustment to retirement. 

Either in a new place or staying where you are, in the UK we’re fortunate to have a wide range of clubs, societies, voluntary organisations and educational opportunities, all providing ways of maintaining or developing new interests while potentially providing opportunities to make new friends. 

You can stay in touch with family and friends more easily than ever before in these days of Skype, Facebook, What’s App, FaceTime or similar apps. Once you’ve got them up and running, they’re completely free. All of them have easy-to follow illustrated guides online. Be sure to look for up-to-date guides, as these apps are frequently updated to offer different features. Age UK has details of computer courses for older beginners.

5.     Personal relationships. While the divorce level is generally declining, the over 65s are bucking this trend and women are leading the way. Over the ten years from 2004 – 2014, the number of men divorcing over the age of 65 went up by 23%, while for women there was a 38% rise. Retirement of one or both of you could have a big impact on your relationship with your partner/spouse. Issues and roles may need to be discussed if you’re going to be home together for most of the week. Other family members may have ideas about your retirement that you don’t share, from elderly parents demanding more attention to your offspring anticipating free child-minding while they’re at work. It all needs discussing so that it doesn’t become a problem.

 6.     Activities and interests. ‘Use it or lose it’ seems to have truth in it, both physically and mentally. There's some evidence – though it’s not conclusive –that some commercial brain training programmes can help keep the brain active and healthy in later life, and there’s good evidence that even modest levels of physical activity  are associated with a longer life, as is sitting less.

We’ve noted the importance of social networks after retirement, and many rewarding activities and interests become even more so when pursued in the company of others. Try searching on the Internet for ‘retirement activities’ or ‘clubs and societies’ with the name of your area. Most libraries and bookshops have reading groupstry the local library for details of these and of writers’ clubs. There are courses of all kinds if learning is your bent: some local authorities still offer a range of courses and there may be a branch of the University of the Third Age  near you. 

If practical activity appeals, voluntary work

is a popular option and there is a wide range of opportunities of all kinds for older people to use their experience and skills. From animal care to woodworking, charity shop assistant to exhibition management you should be able to find an opportunity  that suits you. 

Christine Gratus   November 2017