8000 Days of Retirement: How to Navigate Loneliness

Last month, we discussed the Big Decision phase of retirement. The main takeaway was to have a plan, but make it a flexible one. This is easier to do in the early days of retirement, but as we age, we face two new phases in our retirement.

The first of these is the Navigating Longevity Phase. Just like every other phase in retirement, there is an emotional and an economic impact. As we begin navigating longevity, we might find that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do the things we’ve always done for ourselves.

We begin to rely more on other people and this can be frustrating. You feel like you’re losing your independence, which can be emotionally exhausting. Know that this is normal and you are not alone in this process. Think of retirement as your “post-career,” and re-establish a routine and relevancy in your life. This will give you a greater sense of purpose.

Navigating Longevity is also one of the costliest stages. As our needs increase, so does the cost of healthcare. Will you live in an assisted living community? Do you need home-care? Have you budgeted for these expenses? What if there’s a medical emergency? Fortunately, if you keep your mind and body sharp, you may be able to stall some of these concerns. Stay active - a body in motion stays in motion.

The Navigating Longevity Phase can also be a lonely phase. More than 40 percent of women over age 70 live alone. This reality is all too common. Women outlive men by an average of nearly four years according to a 2016 study by the Center for Disease Control.   

This brings us to the Solo Journey Phase. This phase can be the hardest to navigate because we are doing it alone, with no emotional support from a spouse, and sometimes without financial support either.

Loneliness leads not only to emotional struggles, but impacts your physical health as well. More than ever, it is important to surround yourself with friends and family. Join community organizations or volunteer your spare time.

This is an unpredictable time in your life. Not only do you worry about whether you should live alone, but can you afford it? What if your health declines? Who will be responsible for making decisions when you are no longer able?

As we’ve said before, having a solid plan will alleviate some of these concerns. Make sure you outline your wishes early and clearly, and talk to your loved ones during this process. Help them understand where you’re coming from and why you are making these decisions.

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