Since June is Men’s Health Awareness Month, it’s a good time to consider some ways to enjoy an active, healthy retirement.
Although retirement is often painted as stress-free—no boss, no deadlines, no rush-hour commute—it isn’t always that way. Retiring early, in particular, has been connected with some less-than-ideal outcomes, especially for men.
A 2005 study by the University of Oregon showed that people who retired at age 66 were 11% less likely to die from any cause than those who retired at age 65—even when the researchers accounted for the baseline health of the study’s participants.
Another study, co-authored by researchers from Cornell University and the University of Melbourne showed a 2% increase in mortality of U.S. men who retire the month they turn 62. Men who were single or divorced were particularly vulnerable to higher mortality. The same study noted a much weaker link between increased mortality in women and early retirement.
Does this mean that you should just work forever, especially if you’re a man? Definitely not!
All of the researchers said that working is generally beneficial for health and cognitive function. Many people enjoy the sense of purpose and the socialization opportunities having a job provides; the latter has even been linked to better cognitive function.
But you don’t have to stay in the 9-to-5 game to reap these benefits. Here are some ideas to maintain good health in retirement:
- Stay physically active. Popular exercise ideas for older adults include walking, pickleball, swimming, yoga, and cycling. The most common mistake seniors make when taking up new sports is overdoing it, so make sure to learn and keep good form, and don’t try to take on too much, too soon.
- Eat well. Research has shown that the Mediterranean Diet, which emphasizes fruits, veggies, fish, olive oil, and nuts, tends to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia. Most doctors also recommend limiting processed foods and red meat, which are thought to increase inflammation.
- Volunteer and put your years of life and professional experience to good use. Here are some ideas on how to find your perfect volunteer opportunity.
- Go back to school. Ever wanted to learn a new skill, but just couldn’t find the time while you were working? Now that you’ve retired, why not explore classes through community centers and local high-schools and universities? Online learning opportunities also abound, offering everything from second languages to computer skills—and many of them cost nothing.
- Strengthen relationships. Use some of your free time to babysit grandchildren, visit old friends, explore new places with your spouse or partner, or start a book or dinner club with other retired friends. Keeping strong ties with family and friends provides many health benefits, such as immune-system fortification and stress reduction.