Senior Unhappy in Retirement

Do you think there's something wrong with a senior citizen who doesn't enjoy the freedom of the so-called "golden years?" After decades of looking forward to retirement, I find the promised carefree lifestyle isn't quite what I expected. I worked hard to attain this goal, and now I'm struggling with discontentment. What do you suggest I do?

The most common causes of restlessness and discontent are false hopes and unrealistic expectations. If you’re not happy with retirement, it’s probably because your experience isn’t matching up with some of the hype you’ve heard about the “golden years.”

Here in America our concept of “retirement” has been shaped largely by cultural stereotypes and commercial imagery. Advertising and marketing have conditioned us to look forward to a life of leisure characterized by sun-splashed golf-greens, luxurious clubhouses, stately cruise ships, and retirement communities where husbands and wives stroll arm-in-arm through idyllic settings while planning their next round of leisure activities.

The problem, of course, is that only a small percentage of the senior population ever makes it to this imaginary paradise. The rest of us get to the final decades of life only to have our dreams marred by poor health, financial limitations, loneliness, loss, or a combination of these factors. To complicate matters, those who do get to taste the promised delights of leisure sometimes discover that they leave a sour taste in the mouth.

What can you do about it? The answer is simple: with God’s help, re-evaluate your goals. Take an honest inventory of your personal likes and dislikes, your values and priorities, your dreams and aspirations. If your present circumstances aren’t delivering what you really want out of life, do something to change them.

It’s easy to be lulled into supposing that “one size fits all” – that what works for other retirees will also work for you. But this kind of thinking fails to take into account the uniqueness of the individual. If you’re the kind of person who has left the workforce only to discover that what you want more than anything else is a chance to keep on giving of yourself, there are a number of things you can do to fulfill that longing. You probably don’t need to look any further than the phone directory to locate a number of organizations that want volunteers. Start with your church. After that, try calling the local school district – they always need mentors or teaching assistants. Many nature preserves, museums, and fine art centers are searching for docents. Non-profit and charitable organizations depend on volunteer help. Watch your local newspaper. You’ll probably find that there are dozens of opportunities available.

If, on the other hand, your problem is more serious in nature – if you’re actually struggling with the depression that sometimes accompanies retirement or any other major change in life – then we’d encourage you to seek help from someone who has experience dealing with issues of this kind. Perhaps your pastor would be willing to sit down and discuss the situation with you. If not, call our Counseling staff. Our counselors can also provide you with a list of caring Christian therapists practicing in your area. It would be our privilege to assist you in any way we can.


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