Retirement challenges and living with meaning

Retirement challenges and living with meaning

Common retirement challenges

Retirement is a major life transition and one that you may have looked forward to for some time. There are a lot of well-discussed positives to retirement including more time for family and hobbies, however, there are some less-frequently discussed challenges.


Some common challenges include:

A smaller social circle: we often enjoy spending time with colleagues at work or saying hello to people on our commute but wouldn’t actively plan to spend time with them outside of these settings. Upon retiring you may lose contact with these friendly acquaintances.

A lack of structure: without a work routine some retirees find the lack of daily and weekly structure difficult. When all your time is ‘free’ it can mean you don’t look forward to weekends and holidays with the same level of anticipation as you did previously.

A loss of identity: those who have worked in similar carers their whole lives or who are passionate about their jobs may find the change in their identity difficult.


Creating meaning in retired life

To prepare yourself for retirement and create meaning in retired life consider the following strategies:

Consider a gradual approach: consider reducing your hours at work gradually over a number of months or even years to help you adjust slowly to retired life. This enables you to build in new hobbies and activities into your time away from work gradually without it feeling overwhelming. If you have already retired and are missing the content, structure or people at work then consider returning part-time or starting a similar part-time job. You will get a sense of when to reduce your hours further or retire entirely.

Set SMART goals: all goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bounded. Create lists of things you would like to achieve in the short-term (having a sort out, spending more time with grandchildren) and things you would like to achieve long-term (travel, new skills). Actively work towards these goals every day or week.

Learn: retirement does not mean you should stop learning! It is a perfect time to take classes or learn new skills, particularly on topics you have always been interested in. Such classes will also help to structure your week.

Develop a new identity: our identities in the UK are often inherently tied to our professions. Consider game shows were people introduce themselves with their names, ages and their job titles. However, for many people their job title may say little about them, even when they are working. Alternatively, the Japanese live by the concept of ‘ikigai’ which roughly translates as ‘a reason for being’. This may be filled by your profession during your working life and it is important to nurture your ikigai throughout your retirement.


If you are struggling with the transition into retirement and this is impacting on your mental health, then it may be helpful to seek professional support. To discuss this further then contact Dr Julie Hannan on [email protected].