Senioritis: Surviving the year before retirement

A senior couple running together through the countryside.
Photo by goodluz/Shutterstock

How do you manage that last year before retirement when every Monday morning feels like an impossible impending chore? That final year is hard, not just because you’re anticipating freedom, but also because you’re transitioning into a new chapter with less structure. Here is a list of things that will aide in surviving the countdown, while also laying the groundwork for your retired life.


Seriously. The Zen flower-child mentality of the ’60s has returned in a real way and there is some truth to the new age lifestyle. Meditating, while it looks like pretending not to sleep with good posture, is really a way to center ourselves, manage our anxiety and breathe through those restless moments of anticipation. You don’t have to sit cross-legged or light incense for it to be official, you can be sitting in your car, at (or under) your desk, or even in a bathroom stall. According to a study conducted by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, just eight weeks of mindful meditation contributes significantly to the brain’s regions related to stress, memory, and sense of self. Giving yourself permission to have a five-minute escape into that calm and quiet world will break your 9 to 5 into more manageable segments.

Take language classes

Many people wish they didn’t have to work so that they could be boarding a plane and braving exotic corners of the world. Your inbox might fill with those tempting airline deals that never get booked, but soon enough, time will be all yours. Write down a list of the most interesting foreign countries you would like to visit and sign up to learn the native tongue. Not only does learning another language re-engage the left part of your brain that has maybe been lying dormant, but it also commits you to the dream. Researchers at Edinburgh University discovered that bilinguals warded off Alzheimer’s longer than monolinguals not to mention, adults seem to have an easier time learning a foreign vocabulary because of their already established mental lexicon. Bring a pack of flashcards to quiz yourself when you need a break from the office doldrums and by the time you’re ready to pack your bags, you will know how to get around with those handy phrases.

Join a book club

No matter your age or place in life, this is always a good idea. Book clubs offer an intellectual outlet and the chance to meet and mingle with people who don’t run in your everyday circles. Even if you have perfect co-workers, there is something to establishing a friend group outside of work; creating a cushion for that shift when you inevitably don’t see your co-workers as often. At the height of any transitional period, there is a universal nostalgia that dovetails with the excitement of new journeys ahead, and a group of friends that are consistent are a must. Not to mention you’ll be brushing up on your literary analysis in the process.

Volunteer for a local charity

Volunteering is a common suggestion for retired folk, so what’s the benefit to starting now? Well, for one, your weekdays are precious, you do still have a job that demands your time which means you’re likely to be picky about what you do when you’re free. This kind of selective behaviour actually provides a helpful scrutiny when figuring out the kinds of volunteering that bring you joy. Being able to decipher what you like now means that upon retiring, you will already be established in an organization that matches your interests. And if you currently fill a managerial role, volunteering provides opportunities to continue leadership with people and projects that you may otherwise miss when work is over.

Join an exercise group

Sitting at a desk all day makes anyone antsy, especially if you’ve already been doing it for multiple decades and the last year is guaranteed to be the most fidgety of all. Take that pent up energy and release it through a form of cardio that matches your comfort zone. Swimming and water aerobics are actually some of the best forms of exercise for protecting your joints, while also keeping you in motion. Any kind of aquatic workout activates those small muscles that otherwise don’t get attention, but are key to a well-balanced body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swimming alone can reduce the likelihood of chronic illnesses, as well as recovering joints affected by arthritis. Again, this is another opportunity to instill routine before your predictable schedule comes to an end. Any activities that become a part of your weekly regiment now, will act as mileposts in a newly open week.

Make a bucket list

Writing down your most elaborate dreams and far-fetched ambitions is something we usually do when we’re young when the world seems like it has opened up to us and all we have to do is take the leap. But once we settle into a job, have children and finances get more complicated, those wild aspirations seem to lose their likelihood of coming to fruition. More often than not we abandon them. Suddenly, you are on the brink of that freedom again, that moment where the world reopens itself in a way that justifies a bucket list once again. And if you still have a list from years past, revisit those goals and maybe your younger self will be an amusing or insightful informant to your long-lost dreams that can now be realized.

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