Men, be careful what you wish for when you say, “I want to take early retirement.”
Retiring from a tedious or stressful job earlier than planned may seem the logical thing to do. And in many cases, it can be the right decision. Initially, once leaving a job and living a life in retirement allows more freedom to be as busy or as inactive as you want. But, within a few months, you may find yourself getting antsy. There are only so many trips men can take or puttering around doing yardwork that needs to be done. Suddenly, men realize they miss “work.” They miss the male bonding their job provided, the team projects, and the work engagements that required your thinking, comprehensive and analytical skills. Men may suddenly realize they are lonely asking themselves, “What am I going to do today.” How do men fill the long hours and days of retirement without losing their sense of purpose or identity?
Men more vulnerable to depression and boredom in retirement
Retired men are different from retired women. Retired women can easily find many opportunities to connect with other women and dive into various social or community activities. Retired men may not have such a smooth transition. Experts say men are susceptible to depression and boredom in retirement, partly because their identity is more closely tied to their careers than women.
Men tend to get their sense of identity from their job. Employment offers a predictable daily routine, and many men form strong bonds with other men at work. It doesn’t matter if a man was the CEO or the janitor. But, once retired, those social connections and networks often evaporate, leaving a man feeling vulnerable, not knowing how to fill each day. And the more a man loves his job at the time of retirement, the more difficult it can be to adjust to this new phase of life.
Retirement for men can bring about depression. A 2013 study from the Institute of Economic Affairs found men who retired had an increased probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40 percent. Men also have the highest suicide rates worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
What men miss the most from gainful employment is not the money they made or the job itself – it’s the socialization and self-esteem that working provides. Knowing he is the “family breadwinner” or a “valuable employee” can be hard to give up, which men define themselves by. Work allows men to use their unique special skills of team building, leadership, and performance. It will enable them to know they are contributing to the greater good of society and that they are needed.
Steps men can take to find greater fulfillment in retirement
To avoid depression, boredom, and a loss of identity, the key to happy retirement for men has multiple methods to connect with people filling the missing gaps a job had once provided. This can mean different things for different men, but all retired men need to take the following steps suggesting ways of recreating the workplace dynamics:
- Join a group or club that serves a purpose for the greater good of the community. For example, men can offer the skills they possess in helping out others. It could be doing woodworking, bike repair, mentoring others, serving on committees, doing volunteer work, or being an advisor for specific jobs they are trained at.
- Just because a man is retired does not mean he still can’t “work.” Many men find gainful employment by working part-time as adjunct professors in colleges, hardware or bookstores, museums, or large retail businesses. Having something to get up for each morning can significantly boost retired men and their mental outlook.
- Seek out social networks with other men doing things you enjoy. For instance, a walking group, a golf or bowling league, a card or chess club, a men’s club at an adult community center, or a class at an adult education center can be perfect ways to connect with men who are also retired.
- Set up regular get-togethers for coffee or lunch with other men for conversation and camaraderie.
- Form a project with other retired men to work on fulfilling a need within the community. For example, retired men with carpentry skills could volunteer to repair or build new playground equipment for a park or have gardening skills and knowledge to build and maintain a community garden.
- If a man can speak more than one language or is an expert at playing a musical instrument, help someone else learn the language or to play the instrument.
The real success of retirement for men (and women) is the quality of life he experiences. When men participate in activities making them feel needed and fulfilled, they can feel satisfied with how they spend their time. Men, who plan ahead of what to expect once retired, will significantly have a smoother transition and adjustment once it arrives. And when a man experiences the free time opened up and available to enjoy, it can make the retirement years much more worthwhile and meaningful in the long run.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.