RETIREMENT is perhaps one of the most significant of life events. It brings on a new role which is often difficult to accept. Retirees are often treated lightly and made to feel unwanted or worthless.
Perhaps the biggest impact is felt by people who have occupied senior positions in the civil service or in the private sector. Senior civil servants are often pampered by underlings. A simple thing as a sudden withdrawal of a personal driver just a day after retirement can unsettle the newly retired.
The maxim "people only respect the chair you sit on" often rings true.
Financial challenges, loneliness, loss of status and plain idleness can lead to depression, or what is commonly known as post retirement blues. This is seen more in men. It is said that women handle retirement better than men because women also look after children and do household chores despite being career minded.
Our own Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz admitted that even at the height of her career as a cabinet minister, she used to try to rush home and cook for her family. That probably explains why she is all smiles these days!
Looking out for depression
Sometimes, it is difficult to detect symptoms of depression among senior citizens. One of the earliest manifestations would be a loss of interest in pleasurable activities. This could be very ordinary activities like reading the newspaper first thing in the morning or watching the eight o'clock news.
Sudden disinterest in such routine activities should ring alarm bells.
Sleep may not necessarily be too little. Depression in old age could manifest as excessive sleep too.
Generally, there could be sad or anxious mood, loss of appetite, decreased energy, difficulty in concentrating, feelings of guilt which is usually inappropriate, and in severe cases, death wishes or suicidal thoughts.
It is important to seek help early as delay in seeking treatment will only make the situation more difficult. If you think you have some of the symptoms discussed above (consistently for a period of two weeks or more), you may need professional help.
Discuss how you feel with your general practitioner. He may refer you to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. In the meantime, he may prescribe some sedatives or medication to fight anxiety.
Please remember that such medication may be a temporary measure until you're seen by a mental health specialist.
Also, we need to keep in mind that prescription medications is not the only answer. Accepting the reality of a sudden change in lifestyle, attitudes and interpersonal interactions will also help in coming to terms with the new role of retirement.
Tips to optimise retirement life
Here are some tips that can help make the transition to retirement much easier:
- Take that vacation you always wanted.
If you can afford it, pamper yourself. No point in being cost conscious when your children are all grown up and can take care of themselves. You deserve give yourself a treat.
- Be IT savvy - Browse the internet, set up your own blog, get into Facebook and link up with long lost friends.
- Get close to your grandchildren; this creates a special bond with them. Caring for them will also give you a sense of purpose and gives you a certain routine.
You can also learn from them. The chances are you had people doing things for you all this while at the office. Now that you no longer have people doing things for you, better to learn from your grandchild how to open a Facebook account or tweet.
- Discover a new hobby - Things you always wanted to do or thought you could not afford. Consider photography or painting.
- Catch up on your reading - This keeps your mind agile and improves your knowledge. Reading is also very relaxing and keeps you abreast of the exciting things that happen around you. Memorise a poem or do mental puzzles like Sudoku and crosswords.
- Get back to academics - It is never too old to sign up for a course. In fact, it may be fun to sit for exams, and this creates a certain routine in your life.
- Write something. This could be a memoir that you leave as a legacy.
You don't even have to publish and print it if you feel it could be a costly affair. Use your new-found IT knowledge to submit articles to online newspapers, or better still, start your own blog and monitor the number of hits!
- Help others - Join an NGO and offer your time. You may not be too keen on doing field work, but you could use your expertise in management, fund raising or administration.
Making a difference in the lives of the needy and underprivileged gives you a sense of fulfilment. If you cannot spare the time, why not sign up for a "sponsor a child" programme?
In short, retire to something rather than retire from something.
It is said that having a purpose in life prolongs life. Retirement is probably the best period in life to realise this purpose. Help others in a meaningful way and you will receive a great deal of satisfaction and help you fulfil your purpose in life.
However, be cautious. Keep your money safe and do not fall for scams promising to multiply your money.
For those who are approaching retirement, beware of others who will be making plans on how to relieve you of your gratuity or EPF.
Friends and relatives will suddenly reappear in your lives telling you sob stories, hoping that you will sign away a portion of your pension.
Plan far ahead for retirement by signing up for appropriate health insurance as health expenses will naturally increase with age. Exercise regularly and eat moderate but nutritious meals.
Get closer to your family but resist the temptation to interfere with others, especially if your children are all grown up.
Give advice only when called for, otherwise there is a danger of losing respect. Keep a sense of humour and find things that make you laugh. You can then look forward to enjoying your golden years.