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Tips on How to Transition Into Retirement

Unlimited free time can sound appealing, but for some it’s a difficult transition


(Editor’s note: This content is sponsored by Acts Retirement-Life Communities.)

After a long time spent in the workforce, retirement can feel like the great unknown. Unlimited expanses of free time sounds like heaven to some people. For others, all they see is a difficult transition period marked by stress, uncertainty and grief.

We talked to retirees from both sides of the fence: those who welcomed retirement with open arms and those who entered this new phase with skepticism and doubt. What did we find? With a little guidance and some insight, transitioning into retirement can be the smoothest change you ever make, no matter what you think about it at first.

7 Tips for Making the Move into Retirement

Here’s what we managed to glean from the experiences of retirees who, just like you, were facing the major shift of transitioning out of their careers. Read these tips and hopefully you can smooth out some of the bumps on the road to retirement.

1. Plan for a longer transition period than expected
Few people ease into retirement without a few ups and downs. You’ve never done this before, so there’s not much of a blueprint to follow. Everybody has their own formula for taking the unstructured hours of retirement and creating new routines from scratch.

Inevitably there’s going to be some trial and error until you get this just right. There will be confusion. There will be disruption. What may these experiences include? Unstructured time, a change in daily routines, the ability to see friends and family but the uncertainty of how to go about it, the temptation to be a couch potato, an unsettling feeling that you should be doing something and more. But the journey will be well worth it as you settle into your new roles.

It could take months or it could take a few years for you to finally feel comfortable in your new skin. It’s completely natural and understandable for this transition to take a long time. After all, you were involved in the world of work for decades and those habits won’t melt away instantly. You may not have a morning commute anymore, or sit at a desk for eight hours, but that doesn’t mean your life has completely changed. Your hobbies, interests and passions are all still there. Embrace them! Instead of commuting to an office, commute to your workbench or to a class at the local community college. Embrace the change while diving into what makes you unique.

Are you curious about what life after retirement look’s like? Click here for tips on how to make the most out of your retirement.

2. Give yourself a breather
Before you attempt to pin down new routines and settle into a new schedule befitting the retirement lifestyle you envision, take a moment to breathe. In fact, take a week or two to relax before you jump into your new routines.

By taking a mini-vacation first, you’ll be better prepared to approach your new life with a clear mind that’s well-rested and ready for the challenge. The way a honeymoon marks the transition from single life into marriage, this pre-retirement breather period marks another (equally) important transition in your life.

3. Prime your brain to see this as a new beginning
Rather than seeing retirement as the end of your career, view it as the beginning of an exciting new phase in your life. The best way to do that is to think like a researcher and do your homework. Here’s how:

• Read articles that cover retirement lifestyle topics
• Visit websites that cover retirement
• Talk to people who are already retired
• Register for classes in your area that can teach you new skills or start you on new hobbies you’ve always wanted to pursue
• Find out about volunteering opportunities
• Find out about clubs you can join
• Attend workshops to learn new things and meet new people

People live much longer than they used to. That means retirement is longer, too. Make the most it by finding a new purpose, setting new goals and generally broadening your horizons in every way you can imagine possible. There’s so much more opportunity out there these days for older Americans. It’s just a matter of doing your homework and finding out which activities will appeal to you during this new beginning.

4. Work on getting fit
During any stressful period in your life, it helps to get some exercise. This not only reduces the stress in your mind but makes your body feel better, too. Taking a morning walk or attending a fitness class at the local recreation center are just some of the ways you can work on getting fit. Look for senior yoga classes, water aerobics or gardening clubs, too. Each represents a different way of keeping your body healthy and fit, and all are great ways to ease the stress of beginning a new life.

And who knows — your gym appointments might become part of your new regular routine. Yoga can be wonderfully satisfying, and you may not want to give it up once your transition is complete. Click here to read why many older adults are trying (and loving) yoga.

This is a great time to focus on your health by getting or staying fit. Please consult your doctor first, however, and get their clearance for starting any new physical activity.

Want more information about exercising after 55? Click here to read fitness tips from a fitness director at Acts Retirement Community.

5. Maintain friendships
Your life is about to be upended by your oncoming retirement. You can keep one thing constant to ease the stress, however, and that’s your social network.

Spending time with good friends reduces stress and gives you the support you need to enter retirement with confidence. If you’re short on friends because you’ve lost your social network at work, join groups or classes. Shared interests make good friendships, so choose a class or group that’s centered around doing things you love.

Socializing helps people to live happy as well as healthy lives. Click here to read about the physical and mental benefits of socialization.

6. Build a strong mental foundation for change
Psychologically, you’re about to tackle one of life’s biggest challenges. It pays to prepare your mind with all the necessary tools for well-being. They are:

1. A strong identity. When you were working or raising children, you may have identified strongly with your job title. “I’m a manager” or “I’m Brittany’s mother.” Now, those labels don’t quite describe your new life, so you’ll need to come up with a new identity. Try “world traveler” or “super grandparent” or “writer of memoirs.” If none of these fit, don’t worry: Over time, as you explore and take on new roles and build new routines, your new identity will emerge.

2. A strong social network. We covered this in tip no. 5, but we’ll add to it that you need family as part of your social network, too. Plus, many people find that replacing the social network they had at work helps. If you volunteer, you may find yourself with a welcome new set of “work” friends.

3. A strong mission. Everyone needs a sense of purpose, no matter where they find themselves in life. One of the biggest fears people have about retirement is that they’ll lose the feeling of being useful. Figure out your mission, whether it’s helping look after grandkids or mentoring local teens on their career paths. Some find that learning a new language or hitting their list of must-see travel destinations around the world make wonderful missions, too!

7. Remember to chase your dreams
Retirement isn’t an end. It can be the beginning of something ripe with opportunity for fulfilling your dreams. Whether you dream big or dream small, the best way to ease yourself through the transition to retirement is to always remember to chase those dreams.

You don’t have to completely reinvent yourself to be happy, but you do get to get out there and rediscover the world through a new lens. If you happen to discover a new you in the process, all the better!

By Acts Retirement-Life Communities

Acts Retirement-Life Communities is the largest not-for-profit owner, operator and developer of continuing care retirement communities in the United States. Headquartered in suburban Philadelphia, Acts has a family of 23 retirement communities that serve approximately 8,500 residents and employ 6,200 in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. For more information about Acts visit actsretirement.org.

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