US News came out this week with a great article, “7 Secrets to a Happy Retirement.” It could have easily been entitled “7 Secrets to a Happy Life,” as the “secrets” make a lot of sense, regardless of how many candles we have on our birthday cakes. The problem, though, is that these secrets may be a lot more difficult to achieve during our retirement years than at any other time in our lives. Let’s look at two of these secrets.
Good Health. One study says that if you are retired and in good health, you are 50% more likely to be happy. Probably true at any age. But this secret is a tough one to achieve and hold on to during our After Fifty years. Since retirementï¿½occurs later in life,ï¿½chronic illnesses are more likely to take hold. And those without chronic physical illnesses may be in a caregiver’s role – caring for a spouse, parent, or partner – and the accompanying stress can definitely impact the daily “joy” factor. So, if we are approaching retirement – or are in it now – we need to do all we can toï¿½hold on to whatever good health we have, including eating well, exercising, and getting an annual physical exam. It matters! And, caregivers, take heed. Get “time away” by enlisting support among local agencies, relatives and friends and divvy-up or take a break from those responsibilities. You especially need to guard your psychic reserves so you don’t “wear out.”
A Significant Other. In retirement, “married or cohabiting couples are more likely than singles to be happy.” That’s especially true for couples who are both retired from work together. What the article doesn’t say, though, is that the married state doesn’t last forever. So, if you’re in a relationship that is both stimulating, healthy, and enjoyable, do things together to build memories. And do it now – before some life event prevents you from doing so. The time may come when those memories will be precious. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money. “Memory-building” comes in many shapes and forms and scales of economy. And even though a “significant other” can contribute to happiness, remember to save some time for yourself – to nurture your own uniqueness. Even After Fifty we grow and mature and like the plants in our gardens, we need care individually. So water yourself!
In the next posting, we’ll look at a couple more secrets: having a social network, and not being addicted to television. What do you think about the two secrets presented above? Do you think good health and a significant other really impact happiness in retirement?