For some married couples that transition into retirement feelings of depression and stress often develop. However this doesn’t have to be the case. Retirement can be a fun and exciting time. To help understand why for some married couples retirement seems stressful and depressing and for tips on how to make retirement fun, I have interviewed therapist/coach Dorian Mintzer, M.S.W., Ph.D.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I’m a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and a Licensed Psychologist in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. My M.S.W. is from the University of Pittsburgh and my Ph.D. is from Smith College. In addition I am a Licensed “Third Age” Coach with the Third Age Leadership Center and a 2Young2Retire certified facilitator. I am a therapist, personal and professional coach, teacher, consultant and speaker. I combine my expertise in adult development with my personal and professional experiences. I enjoy working with individuals and couples to help them successfully navigate the second half of life. I am co-author of a new book The Couples Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Transitioning to the Second Half of Life (2011), Lincoln Street Press.”
Why is it that for some married couples retirement seems stressful and depressing instead of fun?
“This is actually a complicated question. People approach ‘retirement’ in different ways and there is no ‘right way.’ Some people want to continue working and others need to continue working so they can have the lifestyle they want. The old concept of retirement is that people ‘withdraw’ and ‘decline.’ The new concept is that retirement is a transition and not a destination. It can be a time of new possibilities and pursuits. However, some people have not saved enough money for retirement and aren’t able to have the lifestyle they want and therefore may feel disappointed and stressed. Some people were so strongly identified with their work that they feel unimportant and unneeded when they retire. It’s not unusual that people initially enjoy the freedom of not working and then discover they feel bored or unhappy and can’t figure out what would give them pleasure.
Some couples find it’s hard to be together so much and it’s helpful to find some activities and projects to do alone as well as together. It’s hard enough for an individual to figure out how to live this next stage of life, and it’s more complicated for a couple since each partner may have different values, goals and dreams. The most successful couples are those in which each individual thinks about what their own values, goals and dreams are and talk with their partner about how they want to live the next part of life. In this way they can work together to create a ‘shared vision’, which includes time for fun as well as other pursuits. Studies show that people who feel connected with others, create an identity for themselves in their post-work years, and find a sense of purpose and meaning for their own life feel a greater sense of ‘well-being’ and happiness.”
What are some tips for married couples on making retirement fun?
“Talk together about what you each enjoy doing as well as your values and goals so you can be more intentional in your choices. Ask yourselves: What do I most enjoy doing by myself? What do I most enjoy doing with my spouse? What do I enjoy doing with family and/or friends? What are some ways we can create a community with others?
You can each take turns planning an activity. Having fun may be trying something new or perhaps doing something where you feel needed and are ‘making a difference’ for others. If you can’t come up with any ideas then think about things you used to like to do but maybe had to put on the ‘back burner’ when work and others responsibilities got in the way of time for fun. Check out the activities section in your local newspaper and circle activities that sound interesting. Set a goal of trying one new activity a month. Create your ‘must do’ list'”things you want to do while you’re still alive and healthy'”and try to figure out how to do them. This can include travel, new learning, etc.”
Where can married couples find additional information on making retirement fun?
“Check out www.couplesretirementpuzzle.com for a resource list of helpful books for couples. Check the activities and courses at your local Adult Education programs, community centers, community colleges, churches or temples and life-long learning programs. Check out programs like Elder Hostel and other travel programs. Find where you can try something new such as bridge, dancing, or art. Arrange pot-luck dinners with people you know or would like to get to know, get involved in a book group, or join a volunteer project. Your local newspaper as well as the internet can be a terrific resource for ideas, books, and activities.”
Thank you Dr. Mintzer for doing the interview on tips for making retirement fun. For more information on Dr. Mintzer or her work you can check out her website on www.dorianmintzer.com and her newly developing website: www.revolutionizeretirement.com.
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