Q: I started my retirement during the COVID pandemic. Now it has suddenly hit me how different my day-to-day routine is, and I am feeling a little lost. How can I better adjust to retirement?
A: Retiring is a big life change, and it is normal for it to take time to fall into a new routine. Some people retire knowing exactly what they picture retirement to look like, and then are disappointed when it does not live up to their expectations. Others are so focused on getting to the end of their working days that they never plan what they will do with their time when the job ends. Either way one thing is usually true, it is not always what you imagine, and adjustments will have to be made.
Retiring during the pandemic may have delayed some of the usual retirement feelings since it probably felt like everyone was in a holding pattern and had paused their usual routine. Now that things are moving forward and you may see others return to the office, it is allowing you time to realize how different things are for you.
It sounds like it is time to think about what you would like the next year to look like. Long term plans are helpful, but you do not have to plan everything out right now. You want to find out first what type of routine and plans work for you, and what brings you joy and fulfillment. This may look different than other people, and even from what you had expected for yourself.
You may want to start by taking charge of your own health. Make sure you schedule your preventative healthcare appointments and are up to date on recommended tests and procedures to monitor your health.
Then, ask yourself what motivates you. Perhaps helping others or working towards social justice drives you and you want to look into volunteer opportunities. Maybe family, friends and relationships push you to be your best. For others it may be education and learning that brings passion.
Imagine asking your younger self what they would do if they had more time. Think back to when you wished you had time to do things for yourself, but your career or family made that difficult. Revisit those interests and see if they still satisfy you. Be willing to experiment and try new things that may be outside of your comfort zone.
You may want to consult with a life coach, therapist, or with family and friends who can see things from a different perspective and provide new ideas.
Creating a schedule with some routine to keep you busy and involved may prove helpful, although it is not always necessary. Some people thrive on a schedule and need this to feel normal and productive. But if not, then do not push yourself just for the sake of it. This is your time to spend how you wish. While studies show that finding a sense of purpose is a key to happiness in retirement, that can look different for each person. There do not need to be rules that every retiree follows.
If you need help finding activities or groups to be involved with, consider checking out your local parks and recreation department, senior center, or community college. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Cal State University Channel Islands teaches classes geared for older adults. You can learn more here https://ext.csuci.edu/programs/professional-community-ed/osher-lifelong-learning-institute/index.htm California Lutheran University also has a program with classes for older adults called Fifty and Better. https://www.callutheran.edu/centers/lifelong-learning/fifty-better/
Allow yourself time to reflect on where you have been, and where you see yourself going. Do not let the freedom of time overwhelm you. Let it instead be a gift. You have reached a milestone and deserve to take your time creating a new phase of life that increases your joy.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org