Avoid the retirement rut

Health
23 April 2018
Feeling stuck in a rut now that you're retired? Here's how to drag yourself out of it.

Is your retirement what you imagined it to be? Are you finally getting to do all those things you've spent years looking forward to, such as spending time with loved ones, travelling and trying new experiences? Or has it not quite lived up to what you expected, and you've been left feeling somewhat stuck in a rut?

Recent research carried out by the charity Age UK led to the discovery that a significant number of over-65s in the UK are in fact feeling stuck in a rut, with many feeling as though their lives have very little meaning now that they are retired.

It's natural to feel lacking in purpose from time to time when you first give up working, but retirement is meant to be enjoyed, and with this chapter now lasting for longer than ever before for many people, it is clear that action needs to be taken to prevent retirees from falling into a rut.

But how can this be done, and why has it happened in the first place?

What is the retirement rut?

Age UK analysed data relating to the wellbeing of older people in Britain and found that the onset of a self-destructive rut is not uncommon in retirement, with 1.465 million over-65s feeling as though they have no control over what happens in their life. At the same time, 936,642 people aged 65 and over believe that their life has no or very little meaning.

As people get older, these feelings can intensify, with one in five over-85s revealing that they feel their life lacks meaning.

The charity found that these feelings often stem from the fact that people lack a sense of purpose after giving up work for good. Not having a set activity to get up and ready for each day can lead to some people neglecting their appearance, health and subsequently their mental wellbeing, leaving them in a situation a million miles from the idyllic, enjoyable retirement many of us dream of.

Overcoming the rut

Commenting on the research findings, charity director at Age UK Caroline Abrahams said: "Everyone has their off days, but for a significant minority of older people, life appears to hold very little meaning or pleasure at all, and an unfortunate few get stuck in a self-destructive rut from which they just cannot escape.

"It is in all our interests to change this, and Age UK is firmly of the view that everyone deserves to be valued for who they are today, as well as who they have been in the past and may become in the future, regardless of their age."

The charity also published a series of recommendations for the friends, relatives and neighbours of older people who they are concerned may be lacking a sense of purpose, and suffering as a result.

These measures include listening to older people when they want to talk about the past, rather than dismissing them, and adding encouraging comments to let them know their contributions have been valued.

Age UK also advised that it's important for loved ones to actively help anyone who is struggling, which needs to begin with a person-centred approach, putting the older person at the heart of a new plan to enhance their happiness.

But what can retirees do for themselves to try to boost their own wellbeing and get themselves out of a rut?

How to bring yourself out of a retirement rut

It can be hard to accept that you need help when you're feeling low, so it can help to know that there are steps you can try yourself to improve your lifestyle and wellbeing.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be exactly what you need, so tell yourself that you're going to try a new activity, social group or hobby and that you'll let yourself have a reward, such as your favourite cream cake, afterwards.

Getting out from inside the same four walls you see all day long can provide your mood with a real boost, and remember that you've got absolutely nothing to lose by trying something new; if you don't enjoy yourself, you don't have to go again - you can look for your next few favourite activity instead.

Making an effort to keep in good physical health by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can also help to stop you falling into a rut. Staying mobile means that you can be more active and independent and don't need to rely on others for favours such as lifts, which can also help your wellbeing.

But if you do need to ask for help, you should never feel ashamed; just because you're no longer working, it doesn't mean that you're no longer important. After decades of hard work, you deserve a varied, fulfilling and enjoyable retirement.Newsletter sign-up

© 2018 Axonn Media Ltd. All rights reserved. Any views and opinions expressed in news articles are not those of Just Retirement Limited, Just Retirement Money Limited or Partnership Life Assurance Company Limited. News supplied by Axonn.

Image credit: DGLimages via iStock