Senior Center

The Surprising Key to Happiness in Retirement

By KellyRose McAleer - December 15, 2014

Not Sure / All Nursing Homes
Assisted Living In-Home Care
Hospice Memory Care
Retirement Communities
Residential Care
Senior Care Search
Powered by LivingSenior

Retirement is like the prize we earn for growing older – some more time to spend on our favorite hobbies, and just generally live in the present instead of worrying for the future. More recently it has become a concern that retirees have not saved up enough money to sustain them for their increased lifespans. Because of this, you might imagine that they key to a happy retirement would be financial security. But actually, it’s something else completely.

How to be Happily Retired

Retirement is likely the most enjoyable phase of your life. You don’t have to work for anyone, or wake up early, and you have total freedom over how your time is spent. You can get around to all of those things you dreamed of doing, like traveling to Turkey or building a boat. Or, you can laze around the house, only leaving to buy groceries or go to a family member’s sports game. Whatever you want to do, chances are you’ll be able to do it. However, not everyone finds perfect bliss in retirement. A recent study was conducted by the firm Age Wave, to see what people thought about their retirement – and they found what the key ingredient is to making the phase a happy one.

The study of 3,300 pre-retirees and retirees found that the key to being happy in retirement is having good health. Your good health actually trumps financial security (trailing behind in second place), family and friends (third), and having a purpose or trying new things. It’s not surprising that health would win first place: baby boomers are the generation that is four times more likely to take an active part in learning about health information than their parent’s generation, who never questioned their doctors. Baby boomers want to enjoy their retirement in full health so that they can be mobile and pain-free in their freedom. They do not want to be constricted by heart problems, arthritis, joint pain, diabetes, or any other health problems that plague older adults. With a healthy body and mind, retirees can enjoy the full benefits of their new lifestyle uninhibitedly.

Avoiding Retiree’s Biggest Worry

While good health is the key to a happy retirement, the same group of retirees cited health care expenses as their biggest worry. An increased life span does not mean that everyone is living longer healthily – for many people they need help to do carry on, whether it’s medications, physical therapy, or other care for a chronic condition. Even with budgeting it can be hard to know if you can depend on your savings, pensions, and 401(k) to cover those costs, plus living expenses – and you need to be covered for any other health emergency that may happen, like breaking a hip. Health care is both a financial burden, and a great unknown since we can’t predict what care we will need for certain in the future. Anxiety over health care finances outstrips retiree’s worry over outliving their money, or not having enough savings, social security, or pension.

Although it’s true that you can’t predict what health concerns will come, you can do your best to take preventative action. One of the best things you can do is get active, so try to jog, walk, or take up yoga. Anything to get your body moving and give your heart and muscles a healthy workout is going to benefit you. So will cutting out smoking, excess drinking, and even dessert a few times a week. By adding more fish and foods with antioxidants into your diet, you’ll be giving yourself more energy and fighting off inflammation that can lead to joint pain and other discomfort. There are even a variety of apps designed to help you keep track of your personal health, from what food you eat to exercising your brain.

But don’t wait until you retire to convert to a healthier lifestyle. The sooner you begin, the better; the biggest reason the retirees in the study retired was because they had a personal health problem. An early retirement means less time to make money towards your savings, and fewer benefits for your hard work. It’s never too early or too late to take an interest in your personal health – think of it as an investment into your future happiness.