Hamish was born in Whanganui in 1948, he attended Canterbury University, here he shares his insights into retirement, 3 years after retiring from his career as a building engineer.
Not everyone looks forward to retiring after a life in the workforce. I think men especially find a paid job gives extra meaning to life and a feeling of being valued outside of the family. Of course, often there is an element of status involved that some people find important. A job with congenial work colleagues can provide a social life too. I certainly missed my work colleagues when I retired, not only the laughs but the collaboration on projects and tasks. I believe these life-enhancing things in the work environment need to be replaced upon retiring by other things that will enable a balanced life.
Perhaps the most important is maintaining and improving contact with friends and neighbours. Setting up regular café meetings with friends is an easy way to keep in touch but make sure the café does not mind oldies sitting talking over coffee for an hour or more! Retirement gives an opportunity to really get to know neighbours and having a good relationship is especially valuable when one is spending much more time at home. I have been very fortunate in having three or four neighbours who are always ready to chat and will invite me for a coffee or a whiskey. If a neighbour has a barking dog then discussing this with them becomes much easier!
Good health is important at any time of life and an advantage of retirement is that it gives more opportunities for exercise. Maintaining fitness can be combined with social interaction through sports. I have been involved in a water sport for many years and arriving at the beach to see people I know well is always a great pleasure. Regular exercise should be enjoyable otherwise it just will not be continued with. Everyone has a level of exercise that suits them whether it be walking or sports. The main thing is to keep at it because it is important for mental health too. Housework can be exercise. Half an hour on a vacuum cleaner will build up a sweat!
A feeling of being useful can be provided in many ways. I have enjoyed being a househusband for my wife who works full time as well as assisting her with the care of grandchildren. Care of grandchildren is common for many retirees! Perhaps an older neighbour would appreciate visits and needs assistance with shopping or jobs around the house. Volunteering is another option and there are many organisations that welcome volunteers and are set up to use them efficiently.
Quiet time at home is important when older and when you do not have the energy and inclination to be out and about all the time. There can be a temptation to sit and watch TV or cruise the Internet. My weakness is YouTube with its videos covering every topic imaginable, but I do consciously limit my time. A rainy day in winter can extend this time though!
Having time at home gives the opportunity to pursue hobbies and crafts that you could not give full attention to when working. They can provide a physical connection to different materials as well as a mental stimulus as in `how am I going to do this? ` For a homeowner, there are always things to do around the house and garden. Many a man has vowed to paint the house when he retires! Gardens can be a real hobby in themselves and very time-consuming. A balance of activities is especially important for older people as concentration on one thing is not good for mental balance. I have certainly been guilty of this in the past
Mental health and balance is necessary for a contented life. In my experience focusing on one day at a time and what you want to do that day, even if not much at all, can really help with a healthy mental state. A mix of daily activities ranging from tasks to social contacts to exercise and relaxation all contribute. Concentrating on one day at a time can help to control the tendency of older people to think about the past excessively and ruminate over what might have been. I can remember back to 1972 quite clearly which was a `good` year for me but I do try not to think for more than a minute or so and to just recall factual things.
I hope my thoughts here have been of some value to you. I must say that, on the whole, I am enjoying my retirement!
I ‘retired’ 27 years ago. i must congratulate Lindsay for his succinct and useful article. It says everything I would have said if I had put pen to paper. Great advice for passing on.