Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

The Challenge of Retirement

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Jan 20, 2013 7:51 PM

Take any two senior citizens and you don't necessarily get a clear match. One 65 year old guy suffers with multiple illnesses, looks twice his age (if that's possible), has trouble getting around, and feels pretty depressed. Another guy with the same exact birthday, a classmate from high school, looks half his age, plays golf and tennis, and feels happy. Same with women. Think of the hot grandmas who look young enough to be the mom as they cheer on their athletic grandkids or take them on vacation. Then,, think of the sad grandmas of the same age wilting away in a nursing home.

Research shows that marriage and wealth tend to help people age well. They correlate with better health habits, like eating well, having sex and exercising. Plus, those habits correlate with attracting and keeping a mate and making and holding on to money. It's not rocket science, just commonsense.

But there are two enormous factors which are underemphasized-luck and choice. Is the older person lucky enough genetically to avoid serious disease? Is she or he prone to weight gain and hormonal imbalance? Is he smart? Could she afford to work at something which didn't require her to wear herself out night and day? Was she lucky enough to have health insurance? Did her chance relationship turn out to be a good one? It goes on and on....

As for choice, how much did the old guy or gal engage in bad substance abuse, including smoking, drugs, heavy drinking, lousy eating? How hard did he abuse his body with unnecessary hard sports or hard work, like wearing out their backs with too much house remodeling or playing tackle football into his 40's? Did she have a long-term eating disorder and never get help? Onlookers aren't surprised when their friends made poor choices and then deteriorate. Those who did Yoga, balanced work and play and treated their bodies with respect thrive.

So, as people age, they might take stock, especially if they are lucky and savvy enough to do so. Find a healthy lifestyle, socialize, get busy with enjoyable and useful activities. Have fun. Feel good. Whether the retirement is in a little trailer or a mansion, what counts is the sense of connection with oneself, body and soul, and with the world.

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