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The period of time when you transition into retirement can be stressful, even if retirement is a happy and welcome change from working. Major life changes happen when you wind down your working career and begin your retirement years.

Retirement is a major life change and is assigned 45 “life change units” on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, a reliable and widely-used tool that assigns points to different types of stressful life events. Although retirement itself, as a life event, may not increase your health risks, you may face higher health risks as you enter retirement if you have also experienced other high-stress life changes in the last year.

How to Stay Healthy
How can you stay healthy as you move into retirement? Many professional retirement advisors and retirees would recommend careful planning. Retirement planning should include:

  • financial planning, and
  • planning for lifestyle changes, with a focus on healthy living.

Many organizations offer pre-retirement workshops that can be very helpful. Learning more about what to expect in retirement can help you with the transition.
Active Living in Retirement
Regular physical activity brings health benefits, including mental health benefits. Physical activity also improves functional abilities we need for daily living (Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults).

Doctors often recommend or prescribe physical activity as a treatment for depression, because it improves mood and can create more energy.

Regular physical activity reduces your chances of getting heart disease and certain cancers, plus it helps reduce the effects of osteoarthritis.

Active seniors have better balance, agility and strength, and are less prone to falling. Older adults can even increase muscle and bone strength through using their major muscle groups twice per week (Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults). 

In fact, as they get older, some people feel healthier and enjoy life more than ever!

Choosing Physical Activities
In the years before you retire, it’s a good idea to develop a routine of regular physical activity that will carry on into retirement.

When you retire, you may lose or change some of your daily routines from your working years. This change can be a challenge; one of the best ways to adapt to retired life is to follow fresh routines that include physical activity.

Here are some tips:

  • Find activities you love to do. They can be things you have done for years, such as walking or swimming – or something new and different like tai chi or lawn bowling. You’ll need activities for each season.
  • Find a partner or a group of friends who enjoy similar activities. This can help motivate you!   
  • Schedule your activities to avoid busy times on the golf course or ski trails, or at the swimming pool and gym. Take advantage of available times while others are working!
  • Be active with your children and grandchildren, such as walking, camping, outdoor excursions, fishing or cycling. Connect with your family and get involved with their lives.
  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week, so you know you are gaining some health benefits (Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults).

Healthy Eating
Healthy eating is a key strategy for healthy aging. It is also an important factor in handling stressful times in our lives, such as the transition to retirement.

Here are some tips and approaches to healthy eating:

  • Some pre-retirees have health concerns or a health condition that they will be managing in their retirement. If this is true for you, be sure to include healthy eating as part of your retirement plan.
  • Healthy eating on a reduced income after retirement is a common challenge for retirees; you may have to plan carefully to buy foods that fit your budget.
  • Plan to eat at home more often; it will be less expensive than going out for too many meals.
  • Save money by avoiding certain foods that are not only expensive, but less healthy, such as prepackaged meals or dinners
  • In retirement you can plan your time to shop carefully for healthy foods; another side benefit of not working!
  • Prepare home-cooked meals as often as possible, using healthy ingredients, rather than eating out too often or mostly consuming pre-prepared foods.
  • Access healthy eating information via the Internet; it’s never been easier to get healthy recipes! If you don’t own a computer, use public computers at your local library.
  • Whether eating at home or going out for a meal, aim to make more of your food choices healthy ones. Look for healthy choices on restaurant menus!

Build Up Your Social Networks
Having a strong “social community” is important at all stages of life, but particularly in retirement. Your own social community may include all kinds of contacts, such as family members, neighbours, friends, colleagues from work, club members, and faith community members.

All of your “friends and networks” are “like gold” and keeping in regular touch with all of them is a vital part of experiencing a good retirement.

Building friendships before you retire is also an important step; these are people that you can keep in touch with after you retire. With some effort, people you currently work with can remain in your circle of friends.

It’s equally important to be open to making new friends after you retire. One way to meet new friends and develop new interests is through volunteering. Think about contacting an organization, school or group you admire and find out if you can help out in some way after you retire.

Other ways to meet people after you retire are through taking a course, learning a new skill, joining a club, or becoming involved in politics or advocacy.

Your Healthy and Happy Years
Retiring from the “world of work” is a major life transition. Planning for life after retirement is very important and can ease the stress that comes with lifestyle changes.

Eating well and remaining socially and physically active will help make your retirement years healthy and happy.

Learn More

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults and Older Adults
The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for older adults let you know how much and what type of physical activity you need to do to gain health benefits and improve your muscle and bone strength.

Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Adults
The guidelines provide healthy eating recommendations and explain how to read food labels.

Retirement Planning – Service Canada

Holmes and Rahe Stress Inventory

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