Ready for retirement?

Proper mindset a must to master next chapter

By Barbara Pierce

If there’s a magic bullet to successful retirement, Frances Retzloff of Ilion has found it. The 75-year-old retired teacher’s assistant is thriving in retirement.

“Be active!” she said in regards to her secret. With a remarkable array of activities in her life, she’s flourishing.

A volunteer at Mohawk Homestead adult care residence, Retzloff decorates the facility for holidays, helps with weekly crafts, accompanies residents on trips, and more. “I help wherever I can,” she said.

Active in her church, she recently renovated the stations of the cross, regularly counts contribution envelopes and participates in Bible study.

“My faith is very important to me,” she added. “I get my strength from that and from my family.”

Her family is important — she and her husband are there to help their daughters, whatever their needs. And she’s there for whomever in her community needs assistance.

As an involved member of Catholic Daughters, she creates baskets for Basket Bingo, helps with Habitat for Humanity, and more.

She makes time to oil paint, garden, and do crafts projects for her own pleasure.

“To be happy, you need to be active,” she said.

Many don’t fare so well in retirement. After years spent working, retirement can feel like the great unknown. Unlimited free time can sound like heaven, but for many it’s a difficult transition.

Perhaps Retzloff’s secret is that she didn’t retire Friday and wake up Monday morning saying, “What do I do now?”

When she retired from her career as a teacher’s assistant at Remington Elementary School, she was already active in things other than work. “I’ve always been involved in things,” she said. “I was a Girl Scout leader, always helped in my church, and helped other people.”

She began working at Remington School as a cafeteria lady when her youngest daughter started kindergarten. She progressed to being a teacher’s aide, then a teacher’s assistant.

Experts say that, as people plan for retirement, they usually sit down and think out financial considerations well ahead. But two out of three people don’t think about the non-financial parts of retirement.

They later discover those parts play a much larger role in retirement than finances. Parts like how to not be bored out of your head due to lack of challenges; how not to become depressed and deteriorate physically because of reduced activity, reduced social interaction and lack of a sense of purpose.

Planning is essential

With our average life expectancy of 80 years, it is important to plan how to restructure your life and how to make the transition into retirement.

Few people ease into retirement without ups and downs and lots of trials and errors until you get it right. The transition from working to retirement is perhaps the most difficult change in adulthood. You’ve never done this before; there’s no blueprint to follow. Everybody has their own way of creating new routines from scratch, finding new purposes and rediscovering passions.

It could take months or even a few years for you to finally feel comfortable in your retired life. That’s normal.

What experts suggest:

— “One of the problems with the transition to retirement is that you look forward to all you get — vacation and freedom to do what you want — and you don’t look back on all that you lose,” says NextAvenue.org. “The great challenge is figuring out how to recover some of what you’ve lost — daily interactions with colleagues and doing things you’re good at — and combine it with your newfound freedom.”

Start by thinking about what you liked most about your job, and situations where you felt you were doing well and were completely happy. How can you begin to replicate this in retirement?

To find well-being in later life, give yourself time to think of new purposes in life. Your hobbies, interests and passions are all still there. Embrace them! Instead of commuting to an office, commute to your workbench or to a class at the local community college.

You’ll want to keep fit and healthy physically and mentally as long as possible.

“I have good health. Through the Lord I have survived. I give him all the credit,” added Retzloff.

Being involved with others is an important component to being happy. Loneliness and social isolation causes people to be depressed, and causes them to die at an earlier age than those who are engaged with others.

Churches are a time-honored way to be involved with others. If a traditional Catholic, Protestant or Jewish church isn’t for you, try Unitarian Universalist, humanists, Buddhists, or others out of the mainstream.

Consider volunteering — match your interests and passions to that of an organization that would benefit from your skills. There’s much satisfaction knowing that you’re still needed and all the experience and know-how you’ve gained can provide value for others.

If you’re not already involved in a hobby, consider what appeals to you and do it.

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