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Adjusting to retirement life

The period right after retirement is often a time of adjustment—it may be a roller coaster of emotions. In addition, not everyone can control when they leave work, and that can be depressing or frustrating. Acknowledging that you’re going through a period in life that requires new skills and coping mechanisms can be the first step in acceptance and finding new meaning and purpose. 
The good news is, research shows that many activities can boost your quality of life and help you stay emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. Activities that keep your brain engaged and provide social connections can help you adjust to your new life—and the added benefit is that they may help keep you physically healthy as well.1 
Research also shows happiness grows with age, and happiness can often be attributed to a focus on quality of life over quantity of years, and the importance of relationships and independence.1 

Tips for retirement health and wellbeing

How can people adjust to and thrive in retirement? The answers may be a mix of social, emotional, and physical factors. Here are active steps you can take to help stay healthy and engaged through retirement. 
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes at a vigorous level of intensity (or a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise). Boosting that to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 150 minutes of vigorous intensity could bring additional health benefits, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Strength training should also be done at least twice a week.2
For people over age 65, the recommendations are essentially the same, but people with poor mobility should consider adding balance and fall-prevention exercises 3 or more days per week.2
For those with physical limitations, the WHO recommends being as active as you can be. 
Quit smoking 
Smoking is linked to a number of diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—to name a few. Smoking is also linked to a lowered quality of life, lowered immune system function, and accounts for approximately 1 in 5 deaths each year.3
Take care with alcohol 
Drinking too much has been shown to alter brain structure and function over time.4 Long-term misuse can also affect the function of other organs, like the liver. 
Eat well 
A diet full of vegetables, fruits, legumes, lean meats, and whole grains can help lower the risk of obesity and heart disease.5
Connect with people, and make new friends 
Work may have given you plenty of opportunities for socializing, but retirement may require making new friends. 
Loneliness and isolation can be a recipe for declining health in retirement. Taking steps to make new friends and connect with people can help. Sports, hobbies, volunteering, and part-time work all offer opportunities to meet new people—even going to the gym may help you meet people.  
For people with mobility issues and other disabilities, some of these activities may be a bit more difficult, but there still may be ways to meet people. For instance, senior centers and other community centers can offer all kinds of entertainment and socializing opportunities. Continuing education classes may be available locally too. 

Estimate your health care expenses in retirement

See how age, health status, and longevity play a role in retirement planning.

More to explore

1. Vicki Levy and Patty David, “Life is Good, Especially for Older Americans,” AARP, June 2022, 2. “Physical activity,” World Health Organization, October 5, 2022, 3. "Diseases and Death," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 29, 2022, 4. "Alcohol and the Brain: An Overview," National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2022, 5. "Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease," Mayo Clinic, April 28, 2022,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.