How to retire – a change of tempo

A change of tempo.

For much of our life we are driven by the timetable of school, work and family commitments. At retirement another phase begins—some 25 or so years where we can set our own pace. You may now have more time, but to make the most of it there is still work to do—planning to actively look after your health and personal wellbeing.

Flexible working. Even if you long to retire, flexible working helps you adjust to retirement gradually, giving you time to acclimatise and begin reshaping your life. Use this time to think about new interests you’ll enjoy and keep up or develop skills you may wish to use to earn part-time income.

Stay fit and active. Make exercise a key part of your life. No matter how late you start you will see benefits, e.g. improved energy, muscle and bone strength, flexibility and balance. It helps with high blood pressure, weight control, insomnia and reduces falls. It lifts your mood, so you feel happier and more confident too.

Age UK say, ‘Generally it is the years of inactivity rather than ageing as such that cause the deterioration in physical fitness’

There is a wide range of physical activities in Northumberland, both indoors and outdoors. Health Trainers can advise on these and suggest something suitable. There are also sessions geared for those with particular health conditions.

Healthy lifestyle. We know we should eat healthy food, give up smoking and not drink too much alcohol. Remember regular check-ups for sight, hearing and teeth are important too. Where there are costs for NHS treatment help may be available if you are eligible.

Mental wellbeing. Sometimes retirement is unexpectedly difficult. It may be hard to relax if you’re not used to having time to spend on yourself. Or perhaps you feel you’ve lost your identity, or your social life has shrunk, or your lifetime of skills and knowledge are wasted. Creating a routine for your day or week is an effective way to restore structure and a sense of purpose. For emotional health it’s important to find new friends and make the effort to keep in touch with old ones.


Moving forward

A recent American survey asked 1,500 retirees how happy they were in retirement. They found that 66% of those who engaged in five to nine activities a week were very satisfied. Only 52% were happy with less than five. They concluded that “The busier you are, the happier you’ll be”. (TIAA Voices of Experience Survey, 2016.)

Build a routine. Consider a spread of activities made up of things you already like, plus at least one new activity to keep you learning—staying mentally active is just as important as physical fitness.

Always include something sociable, even if it’s just coffee with a neighbour. Men can find this harder than women, but it’s important to try. Friends and acquaintances replace lost work relationships, help keep us in touch and are an increasingly useful support network as we age.

Hundreds of hobbies, sports, clubs and classes—outdoor and indoor—are listed in the Golden Guides, and socialising often happens along the way.

 Volunteering. Helping others is an excellent way to make your time really count and give back to the community. Most charities need volunteers, so your effort will certainly be valued. You will be using existing skills and you may be surprised at what other talents you develop as you go along. A separate study by Merrill Lynch found ‘Retirees who volunteer have a stronger sense of purpose, higher self-esteem, and are both happier and healthier than those who do not.’

Working or caring. If you have decided to carry on earning part time or have caring responsibilities for a partner or grandchildren —still try to make time to enjoy healthy, fun activities amongst your own friends. It will keep you bright and boost your morale.

You and your partner. The American survey also asked retirees about their relationship with their spouse or partner. They found ‘An impressive 95% of respondents said their relationship … either improved or stayed the same in retirement compared to before.’ So if you privately worry that you and your partner will get on each other’s nerves in retirement because of too much we time, don’t!


See pages 6—36 and pages 72 and 77 in the Golden Guide Northumberland 2018 for befriending schemes and more specialist groups. In the Newcastle & North Tyneside 2017 guide see pages 6-41 and pages 69 and 72.

 For more on volunteering see page 36  in Northumberland or page 38 in Newcastle & North Tyneside. Otherwise contact charities directly, many are listed with contact details throughout the guide.