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The Physical and Mental Challenges That Come With the Reality of Retirement

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I previously had a view of retirement that was very different than how it turned out. Five years ago, we retired after years of working every day and raising our children. We had been so busy in our every day tasks that we had to make time to be alone together.

The reality of our retirement is that it is much more lonely than ever before. Our children are gone and our grandchildren have grown up to a point where they are busy with school and friends. We try to attend all of their activities and performances which has been a highlight.

I thought once we retired it would be a great time to explore the world on our own. My husband doesn’t like the idea of renting an RV, spending all of our savings, and leaving our home which is not yet paid for. He, instead, prefers to work at a part-time job for a menial wage so he can pay for our “extra” trips.

Then there are the health issues that come with getting older that we were not prepared for. My husband and I both suffer from arthritis which makes it more difficult to get around. We are almost always in pain and it takes extra effort to go out. We both like gardening, but the pain makes it a challenge. Between his hearing declining and my cataracts, our senses are diminishing. If we go to a movie, I usually have to explain to him what is going on rather than just enjoying the movie. Also, driving at night is scary.

We met at a dance and have always enjoyed dancing. Since we have retired we cannot remember how to dance like we used to and tire out much easier.

It seems as though we have started over in our relationship. It is a new phase of life where you have to rediscover each other. Our roles have to be redefined. Our intimate life is also affected by medications and expectations that cannot be met.

All of this has led to more depression than I have experienced at any other time. Before retirement, I had to keep it together for the children and for my job. Now I find that I have so much free time to think about what we have lost. We spend way more money on medical bills than ever before so much of our pension goes for that. Some days I just want to sleep to ease the pains, both psychologically and physically.

Someone should warn you about the challenges of retirement! When I try to convince my husband to stop working, he has many excuses. He previously held a well-respected position in a university. He was revered by students and other professionals. Since retiring, he found a flexible job that pays him less than $10 an hour and he works usually nine hours a day. I am suspicious that he prefers it to staying home with me. More likely, he is used to the power and influence he had over people in his previous occupation.

I fill my time selling clothes online, writing online, doing artwork, and teaching English online, but it somehow isn’t what I had expected to be doing at this time of our lives. I have found that leisure and relaxation does not provide meaning and fulfillment, and it is much harder when health issues arise.

I believe couples should have a plan for retirement that is not only financial. They should take into consideration what they will be doing on a daily basis, and how to adjust when health issues arise, including physical and psychological.

How has retirement been fore you? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: mheim3011/Getty Images

Originally published: January 21, 2020
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