While at the bank the other day, Melissa, a teller whom I’ve developed a friendly relationship with over the years, suddenly blurted out to me, “My husband recently retired from 37 years as a boss at his job, and he’s upset my whole routine. He talks and distracts me while I’m trying to get ready for work in the morning and hovers over me when I walk in tired and exhausted at the end of a long day.”
Melissa’s dismay reminded me of how my good neighbor, Bettie Black, recently wailed, “Since Harry retired, he’s rearranged my whole kitchen and even re-did my checkbook. I liked the way my kitchen was and there wasn’t a darn thing wrong with my checkbook!”
A month or so ago even my neighbor Gail complained, “Since Steve’s retirement, I feel smothered! He insists on taking me grocery shopping, which I’d much rather do alone. I bought fewer and more sensible groceries when I shopped by myself.”
And then there’s Mary Ellen, another longtime friend, who surprised me when she recently confided, “Getting my pension at 62 should have been a happy moment for me. But instead, I was so overwhelmed by loneliness that I sank into depression and ended up on medication.”
Most of us have known someone who felt that they were well-prepared for retirement, only to discover that they missed their familiar work routine, their long time colleagues and the upbeat camaraderie which they all shared together.
The truth is that it’s nearly impossible to predict how we’ll really feel until we actually leave our job. And in case we happen to be single, we may not realize how much we depended on our work friends as our primary social circle, which leaves us facing a huge void.
By the same token, however, there are those who have been lucky enough to find fulfillment in retirement by either working in another job, pursuing a new career, volunteering their services to help others or serving on the board of their favorite charity. And many of us are also lucky enough to live near grandchildren who may need our help with the driving or supervision of after-school activities.
But here’s a shocker. People who constantly feel lonely have a 14 percent higher risk of premature death, according to a USA Today story published on March 4, 2014. So it’s not something for us to shrug off lightly.
“Sometimes folks become lonely and isolated in retirement,” said psychologist Robert Bornstein, co-author of “How to Age in Place.” “And it can create a downward spiral with people becoming depressed and not taking good care of themselves.”
Jan Fowler is an award-winning columnist and author of “Hot Chocolate for Seniors” with heartwarming, humorous, inspiring stories by Harold Kushner, Lance Armstrong, Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. Byron Katie and many more