There is a lot of advice out there about how to financially prepare for retirement, but those who can afford to comfortably retire in decent health are facing unforeseen emotional issues that aren’t often openly addressed. If you are years away from retirement, the idea of being able to choose exactly how your time may be the thing of dreams, but for those actually facing countless hours of unstructured free time, the transition can be overwhelming. Retirees report a loss of purpose, which can quickly escalate into more serious problems like depression and addiction.
Carol Colleran, author of the book Aging and Addiction, has closely studied the rise of late onset alcoholism among seniors. While many people may have lived most of their lives with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, it is the stressors of aging, increased isolation, and a major life changes that can collide to turn a predisposition into actual behavior. According to Colleran, one of the most common hears among seniors is a longing for purpose: “They told me over and over and over, ‘I lost my sense of purpose. Nobody asked me questions anymore.’”
Older Americans who find themselves in this position or who are trying to be more proactive about planning for retirement are seeking out the help and guidance from retirement coaches. This relatively new branch of therapy focuses on setting goals and reinventing your sense of self outside of your careers and families. For couples, it might also mean getting help talking through tough decisions and taking time to establish new expectations.
The key is to recognize that even positive life changes can be a source of stress. Although you have spent a lifetime working towards retirement, it will present a new set of challenges. Trying to anticipate problems that may arise and mentally preparing yourself can go a long way to making sure that the transition is as smooth as possible for you and your family. Seeking out a retirement coach will help you find a new identity and purpose so that you can fully enjoy your retirement.