Retirement is often touted as “The golden years,” but many who have reached that pinnacle might refute that glowing description.
Retirement presents many challenges and concerns surrounding finances, health and the question, “Now, what do I do with the rest of my life.?”
Some embrace the notion of no more deadlines and demands controlling their existence, while others lament the absence of a sense of purpose and direction.
As the spouse of a retiree, you can help make the transition from working to retirement a smooth one for your partner, and enhance both of your lives in the process.
* Establish a routine
One of the potential downsides of being retired is losing a sense of purpose when you no longer have to adhere to a schedule. It is easy to fall into the unhealthy habit of sleeping too much, watching television too long and snacking all day. The result can be lethargy, weight issues and brain stagnation.
Borrowing a page from your years of participation in the workforce, establish a daily routine for you and your spouse. Have an approximate time for rising in the morning, schedule three nutritious meals at appropriate intervals throughout the day and plan activities and social events to keep you both physically active and mentally alert.
Talk about everything. You no longer have the handy prompt, “How was your day, dear,” for you are together most of the time and that might decrease subjects for conversation.
Go through family photo albums together and reminisce about milestones, good times and accomplishments. Talking about how far you have come, and how much you have done, using the photographs as a visual prompt, will give you both a sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment which will help to keep your self-esteem intact.
When you watch television together, discuss your views on the news and current events. Pick entertainment shows that appeal to both of you.
* Listen more
Leaving a job that potentially provided recognition and accolades can have a negative effect on ego. Your spouse might feel the need to pump up his self-esteem by recounting some of his triumphs and successes in the past. Be an active listener and allow him to indulge in happy memories, even if you have already heard the stories numerous times.
* Need your spouse
Eliminate the chance that your spouse will experience feelings of isolation or uselessness by including him in your daily routines. Be willing to give up control of areas that were once your exclusive territory, such as housework, laundry and grocery shopping.
Graciously accept that your partnership has evolved to a new level. Your spouse may not be as adept as you in making a bed, but in the grand scheme of life, his need to be needed is more important than a few creases in the bedspread.
Sharing tasks is one way to foster a closer bond between you and your spouse during retirement. Avoid developing a “Lord of the manor and dutiful servant,” relationship by conveying your pleasure at having someone to share the mundane duties. Working together enables the two of you to enjoy leisure time together, as steadfast companions indulging in activities of mutual interest.
* Be encouraging
If your spouse has a particular skill or hobby that has lain dormant while he fulfilled his role as the family provider, encourage him to become active in that pursuit. Whether he is artistic through painting, writing, working with his hands building things, enjoys playing golf or another sport, be his advocate for inspiring a resurgence of his latent talents or interests.
If your spouse displays boredom, or is at loose ends about how to fill his time in retirement, suggest that you both learn something new by taking night classes, or volunteer your time together to help the needy.
* Pay attention to physical well-being
Remind your spouse to drink plenty of water. Dehydration is a real threat in retirement when more time is spent in a heated house during the cold weather, or outside in the hot sun during the warmer months.
Help your spouse to keep an accurate record of doctor visits and medications. Watch for signs of mental confusion or lack of physical stamina and address any medical issues that might arise in a timely manner.
Staying physically healthy is one major key to a satisfying retirement. Become a team in ensuring that you both eat nutritious food, get adequate exercise and avoid overdoing.
* Have a social life
Create opportunities to visit with family and friends. If you don’t have family in close proximity, participate in church social events and join the local senior center. Social contact is a key component to a happy retirement.
In conclusion, the object is to stay mentally alert, physically fit and maintain a hopeful spirit. Any means to this end will be a positive influence for both you and your spouse after retirement.
With thoughtful planning and loving consideration, retirement can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding times of your lives together.