I FEEL LIKE THERE is a death cloud hovering over me. I have been retired for nine years. I have lost my father and two of my best friends to cancer. I have seen aunts, uncles and cousins pass away. I have watched my mother struggle every day to do simple activities. When I talk to my friends, it usually ends in a discussion about our aches and pains or latest doctor’s appointments.
I’m not looking for sympathy or pity. I feel lucky that my father lived to age 90 and that my mother is going to be 95 this year. As you grow older, it’s only natural that you start losing family members and friends at an increasing rate. What’s important is how you deal with it.
I have found that, in retirement, your mental outlook is as important as your finances. You might find yourself as a caregiver to a loved one. Taking care of an elderly person can be stressful and mentally exhausting. Waking up and knowing a good friend is gone can leave a hole in your life.
But I have also found there are things you can do to deal with these issues and give yourself a more positive outlook on life. As I mentioned in a previous blog, having a good social network of friends is important. You need, however, to diversify your friends, as you would your investment portfolio.
For instance, you need to have friends who are younger: These friends will give you a different outlook on life and will outlive your older friends. I find talking to my younger friends refreshing and invigorating.
You might feel there’s less need for friends because you have a large family. But according to a study in the journal Personal Relationships, having a supportive network of friends in old age has greater benefits than having robust family connections. You tend to do things you enjoy with your friends, while many of the things you do with family might be out of a sense of obligation.
A healthy lifestyle can also help you maintain a positive state of mind. Exercising and eating a healthy diet are two ways to improve your mental and physical health. Don’t wait until you retire: You need to start early in life, just as you would your retirement savings plan. An added bonus: You could save thousands of dollars in retirement by being a healthy version of yourself. Health care is one of retirement’s biggest expenses—and those costs are increasing faster than inflation.
Dennis Friedman retired at age 58 from Boeing Aerospace Company. He enjoys reading and writing about personal finance. His previous articles include Looking Forward, More Than Money and Leap of Faith.