“Retire from work, not from life.” — M.K. Soni

Retirement is the return we earn on years of work. But reaping the rewards means shifting focus from the daily grind to being at our best each and every day.

Easing into life after work is an adjustment which requires a conscious effort to support our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Calgarian Linda Cox has navigated the transition just fine and enjoys happiness in retirement.

Her secret? Staying active, connected to her community and doing what makes her happy.

Most summer days, Cox tends to the gardens on her beautiful three-quarter acre property like it's a full-time job. Other days, more than a dozen years into retirement, she takes a break.

“I work outside in the garden, that’s therapy, not work,” the retired nurse says. “I do it whenever I feel like it. Sometimes, I’m not up to it and I don’t do anything. I do what I want whenever I want. That's the beauty of retirement. “

The senior also knows the value of social connection which, for her, means getting out for daily walks with her dog, Simba, and stopping to chat with neighbours and strangers as she does.

“You get out and you socialize, you smile and keep a positive attitude,” she says.

Whether she knows it or not, Cox is doing a lot of what experts recommend for a healthy retirement by paying attention to her physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Here are some tips to rock your retirement.

Get a Little Help from Friends

Retirement gives you more freedom from day-to-day responsibilities. But you lose the socializing many of us take for granted as part of work life.

Sadly, Statistics Canada found one in four Canadians over age 65 are socially isolated and are at greater risk of physical and social isolation. Without healthy human connections, people can be at greater risk of depression after retirement and impaired cognitive health.

Not surprisingly, retirement is among the top causes of loneliness but there are strategies for improving your emotional healthtools to recognize if someone is lonely and ways to help.

From Hobbies to Volunteering

Soak up the well-deserved R & R but experts say when retirees add routine to their life, it helps keep them connected to the community, mentally sharp and happy in retirement.

This can be achieved by signing up for a course, taking on a new hobby or checking out local organizations offering group activities ranging from walking clubs to book clubs. Or volunteering.

Statistics Canada figures show nearly 12.7 million Canadians volunteered with charities in 2018 with so-called ‘matures,’ that’s people born between 1918 and 1945, making up 40 per cent of those who donated their time to improving the lives of others.

At the Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society, for instance, many volunteers are in their 60s, while their oldest is well into their 80s.

“I think it’s people who are really looking for an opportunity to give back to their community. It’s like seniors helping seniors. I think they do bring something special to it. I find they are very understanding of what seniors are going through,” says program supervisor, Emma Mattos.

Tips for a Healthy Retirement

Nurture a positive attitude - A bright outlook on life is a great way to be more mentally resilient when facing challenges. It can even boost your physical wellbeing with research revealing “a link between an upbeat mental state and improved health."

How to get one? Take the time to write it down. A daily gratitude journal is a good way to help you reflect on the good in your life and foster a healthy attitude and happiness in retirement.

Stock up on sleep - Seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night is good medicine without the pharmaceuticals. It helps protect against depression and irritability and can offer everything from more energy to improved focus and improved mood.

A nice stretch session or a long walk early in the day goes a long way to promote better sleep. Still awake? Look into these six tips for better sleep.

Practice Self-Care - This includes everything from seeing your doctor for regular check-ups to finding ways to relax.

Practicing mindfulness is a proven tactic to divert attention away from negative or random thoughts and create less stress and anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Mentally scanning your body, focusing on your breathing while sitting or walking meditation are three mindfulness exercises to help you achieve that physical and mental calmness.

Movement Matters

Swimming is a great option for someone with hip or knee issues while walking might be better for someone else. And it’s free.

You can do in-person fitness classes, join ones on Zoom from your home or find thousands of stretch sessions and workouts on YouTube. 

Find what works for you. But make sure you stay active to combat the loss of muscle mass, cardiovascular fitness and bone health that comes with age.

“It’s not necessarily about going to the gym for a 60-minute workout. It’s about finding ways you can be active that work for you,” says Calgary-based clinical exercise physiologist Julia Daun. “When we exercise and move the body, it is not just about biceps or abs and fitting into a swimsuit. It’s functional movements we need to do in everyday life and to feel better physically and mentally.”

Golf, like many physical activities, combines a good work out with some social interaction.

Kevin Blue, chief sport officer with Golf Canada, says golf is a great mental and cardiovascular workout which doesn’t mean joining a fancy club or buying an expensive set of clubs.

Health Insurance after Retirement

Regular dental care to maintain good oral hygiene, that’s cleanings and check-ups, can prevent serious health issues. But be prepared for costly problems should they arise.

If your health insurance coverage ended when you retired, make sure you have proper dental coverage. GMS can tailor a health insurance plan to meet your needs and each one includes LifeWorks, a total wellness program with round-the-clock access to advisors and support counsellors who can assist in information and linking people to resources related to life, health and finances.