If you can check all of these boxes, sally forth into retirement and relax:
- You enjoy excellent health.
- You are happily married.
- Your children are close to you, both emotionally and physically.
- You have friendships outside your workplace.
- Your home is affordable and suitable for senior status.
- You belong to a lively, always-changing, always-challenging faith community.
- You have a capacity to try new things and learn new skills.
- You have adequate pension income and investments.
Most of us can check some of these boxes, but probably not all. Some of us have no checkmarks.
Here’s what the categories mean and what, if anything, you can do about them as retirement looms:
Health. The body inevitably fails, early for some, later for others. You can give yourself a break with three basic steps:Lose weight now. Stay far away from obesity.Exercise more, including walking, cardio workouts, lifting weights, strengthening your core, improving balance and flexibility. Eat right, which you will find basically means a modified vegetarian diet.
Marital status. The issue is companionship; the enemy is isolation and loneliness. Many lose their partners to divorce or death. If you are living alone, get out more. Bring people into your life who sustain you. If you are still married, don’t take your partner for granted.
Family. Like it or not, most of today’s seniors will depend on support from their children. Talk about it now. Make plans for sharing the load gradually. Be a giver.
Friends. Don’t expect to hang on to workplace friendships. Seek friendships outside the workplace, such as volunteer activities, bridge clubs, dinner clubs. Work at it.
Residence. Most seniors hope to stay in their homes as long as possible. For that to work, your residence must be suitable for geriatric living, with a first-floor bedroom and bath, for example, in an area with neighbors for companionship and with healthcare nearby. Your home should be appropriately sized. It should be affordable.
Faith community. What you don’t want is a dull church where people just cling to memories and get old together. You will need a lively faith to make it through retirement and to a holy dying. That means you need a lively congregation where people are exploring faith, seeking fresh ideas and allowing God to transform people’s lives.
New interests. Go way outside your comfort zone and become, say, an EMT, a teacher’s aide, a long-distance swimmer, a knitter or a Habitat builder. The point is the newness — the challenge of having to learn new skills and deal with frustrations and failures.
Finances. Money does matter; it just isn’t number one. The main thing: stop spending. In a culture driven by consumer mania, get used to doing without. Make your limited funds stretch longer. Dial back your earlier-in-life desires for travel, new clothing, new cars and new technology.
The good news is that all of this is quite doable. It is within your control, and it will actually make you feel better about yourself and your future.
TOM EHRICH is a publisher, writer, church consultant and president of Morning Walk Media, based in New York.