“When a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband but only half the income.” – Chi Chi Rodriguez
Finally, the day we’ve been working toward arrived. Both of us retired. Ever since I left the workforce 10 years ago, we’ve dreamed of the days when my husband would join me.
We imagined leisurely days we could spend together doing all the things we love to do. Well, now that day is here. We’ve settled into our new home in central Oregon and are getting plenty of that togetherness… maybe too much.
My cherished morning quiet time is now ‘our’ time and it’s not at all quiet. He’s been up since 5 am, itching to engage with someone and bustling around announcing all that he’s accomplished since sun-up. I’ve suggested he call someone on the east coast but it seems he has no friends on the east coast.
My Routine Goes Out the Window
In need of something to do, he’s decided that a “state of the household” assessment is required. All my usual responsibilities are now up for grabs. By him. Being the consummate tasker without any office demands, he’s gone into overdrive on the domestic front.
Apparently, my day isn’t adequately organized. Nothing a large whiteboard can’t fix. He set up a ‘his and hers list’ and gleefully checks off his tasks as he completes them. For me, an eraser works just fine – before the task is even contemplated.
Tuesday is his favorite day, the day before recycling pick up. He gets to oversee the family sorting of bottles, plastic and paper, like a general commanding his troops. Then he retires to his recliner where he claims he’s ‘practicing’ to unwind. That lasts maybe 20 minutes.
I expect most wives would be thrilled to have their husband so helpful. Of course, I am very appreciative of all he does… it’s just that he’s turned my daily routine sideways. We clearly have some adjusting to do to settle into each other’s rhythm. In fact, we’re not alone.
According to a survey of retirees ages 60 to 73, about two-thirds said they had challenges adapting to retirement. Most difficult were the absence of daily social interactions with colleagues, adjustment to a new routine and a lack of purpose in their daily lives.
While there’s no magic formula, here are a few tips to help retirees adjust to their newfound freedom:
Explore New Interests
Whether taking a class or tackling a new sport, try things you’ve wanted to do but never had the time for. Challenge yourself. Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.
For example, try learning a new instrument. Increasingly, studies are linking musical training with improved brain function and better memory because it exercises all of the brain’s parts.
The key is to find something you love to do and do it! Psychologist Jacquelyn B. James, PhD, of the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College found that only those people who are truly engaged in their post-retirement activities reap the psychological benefits.
Have Fun as a Couple
Pursue mutual interests to continually cultivate your relationship. Travel is the number one mutual pursuit among retirees according to a study by Allstate Financial. New hobbies are another way to spend time together – cooking, hiking, bird-watching and gardening are just a few examples.
40 percent of the Ameriprise survey retirees chose to volunteer. Volunteering not only gives back to your community but also helps you make new social ties.
One study found that older adults who had volunteered at least 200 hours (3–4 hours a week) within the prior year reported greater increases in psychological well-being than those who did not. Also, they were less likely to develop hypertension than non-volunteers.
Expect adjustment – it’s a journey. According to psychologist Sloan, “Retirement is not like jumping off a diving board, it’s a process and it takes time.”
I’ve learned over the years to be more intentional in how I spend my time so that my efforts are headed toward something long term and sustainable… rather than just busy work to fill the hours.
There’s a whole new world out there to explore. Whether close to home or on a different continent, embrace your freedom!
Here are some questions to ask yourself: What have you always wanted to do but never found the time for? What travel destinations are on your bucket list? How can you give back to your community?
Challenge yourself and have fun! My husband and I are starting to settle nicely into a comfortable rhythm as we carve out our time spent individually and together. It’s a lot more fun to explore our new surroundings together rather than solo. Now, if I could just get rid of that whiteboard…