When a career comes to an end and a new chapter in life begins, retirement can be a period of substantial transition.  While people tend to prepare financially for retirement not everyone gives too much thought to their mental health in retirement.  

We asked Dr Anthony Perrone about mental health and retirement.  Dr Perrone is the College Counsellor at Trinity Anglican College in Albury, NSW and also a Friday feature writer in the Border Mail entitled Ask The Counsellor.

We started by asking Dr Perrone:  ‘What is good mental health’?
To live a life of reduced anxiety, positive thoughts and outlooks, practise mindfulness, looking after physical needs, keeping life in perspective (not making little things into major issues, everything isn’t life threatening in the big picture of life), exercise, eat well and nurture your inner self creating an atmosphere of wellbeing around you.

Why do you think that mental health in retirement is not addressed/ emphasised  well  before people retire?
We talk about how to save money for retirement or what age can we retire but we never really look at what our lives will be like after retirement. Preventative maintenance is the key. Start to engage with the community before retirement, get active, start hobbies, volunteer etc… If we prepare our minds now before we retire with activities social and otherwise we won’t feel so alone or isolated after we do retire thereby maintaining a healthy mental outlook.

Is good mental health generally a problem for retirees?
For some it will be for others it can be a relief to retire from working life. Those who have been active outside of work hours will generally cope better and therefore have less mental health effects. Those whose lives evolved around work and not much more are the ones  who will be at a high mental health risk.

How can couples enjoy good mental health in retirement?
Be active together. Relive the days of your youth. Recall the times when you were first starting out dating,  a time before careers and children, just being together taking walks, weekend getaways, lunches, coffees, movies, plays etc… Retirement for many is an opportunity to learn about each other again. In this way a positive outlook about this chapter in your life will be much more fulfilled thereby maintaining a sustaining mental health outlook. Remember it’s also ok to do your own thing especially now that the two of you will be around each other more, so practise independence as well…

Photo: Jose Llamas

Is mental health different for males and females in retirement?
Without stereotyping, men tend to work longer in life and have less social/personal outlets than women. This is the reason many men struggle with retirement  and as an unfortunate outcome men will fall into a depressed or suicidal mode of thought.

Is mental health different for city/rural retirees?
There are obvious pros and cons to living in city/rural areas for retirees. The gentle slow pace of rural environments can be just what the doctor ordered for many. Overheads are less and the country air certainly is a bonus but access, depending where you live, to services (physical or mental) can be difficult, which can cause a person’s mental health to, at times, become overwhelming. Yes the city is great but for those on a pension the city expenses can cause an enormous strain on a person’s mental health. The ‘sea change’ of life can certainly benefit many entering retirement but it can also prove to be far too isolating therefore before you move to the city or to the regions maybe spending extended holidays in both will provide you with enough certainty on what suits your retirement lifestyle best.

What strategies should people take to ensure good mental health in retirement?
By being active, practising mindfulness, continuing to learn and giving back for most people, life satisfaction increases in the years following retirement, showing that with some preparation, this can be one of the best times of your life. This satisfaction is often linked with establishing and working towards goals, an essential ingredient to a successful retirement.

Thanks very much Anthony!

For people who may need help and support,
please contact:
Lifeline:  Telephone:    13 11 14 
Click here for Lifeline’s website

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