Retiring socially

When planning for retirement, our main focus is usually a financial one. And rightly so. But, beyond the funds required to live out one’s golden years, there is also the matter of what a person is actually going to do during retirement. Too often, the social aspects of retirement are only addressed once a career comes to an end.

While the idea of doing nothing after being employed for decades certainly sounds appealing, the honeymoon doesn’t last forever. Inevitably, a retiree will want to become productive again, whether that entails taking up new hobbies or simply interacting with others.

Most people socialise while at the office, or at home with friends, but once a person leaves the workplace and downscales to a retirement village, there is a real danger of becoming isolated and lonely. Sometimes this may even results in health issues.

The health risks include an increase in frequency of illness and a decline in mental health, while decreased mobility presents its own challenges. Research indicates that these adverse effects of retirement on health can be mitigated if a person has a strong social support network in place. In other words, by either continuing to work part-time in retirement or being engaged in social activities, a person can live a longer, happier and more fulfilling life.

A study in England found that retirees who had two group memberships prior to retirement had a 2% risk of death in the first six years of retirement if they maintained those, a 5% risk if they lost one group, and a 12% risk if they lost both. And while it might sound trite, ‘dying of boredom’ seems to be a real risk in retirement.

Fundamentally, every person needs to ask themselves what they want to get out of their retirement. Even though there is no right or wrong answer to this, it is something that must be considered. Fortunately, the options entail more than just doing part-time work. Yes, working for longer does reduce the number of years a person has to pay for retirement, but it doesn’t appeal to everyone.

Way of life

“Enhancing the quality of life is something that any retirement village must have as a key objective. Retirees do not always want to be on their own, but are sometimes limited by what is available in their immediate vicinity. Our approach, for example, encompasses all of the critically important aspects around retirement – security, continuous healthcare, financial peace of mind, and a social directive that promotes a sense of belonging,” says Garry Reed, Managing Director of Evergreen Lifestyle Villages (Pty) Ltd.

Other examples of this total retirement strategy includes properties by Faircape Retirement Holdings and Cape Peninsula Organisation for the Aged (CPOA).

As part of this approach, it is also good to keep in mind the importance of life rights (an investment in a retirement development that guarantees the holder a safe and secure home for the rest of their life.) Developers who specialise in this are actively involved in building a sense of community, providing a platform for social engagement, and looking after those who become isolated. Sectional title developers sell as quickly as possible and then leave people to their own devices.

Remaining active

Volunteering is a great alternative that aids in being active, while giving back to the community. It helps retirees maintain a sense of purpose with them being able to utilise their skills and offering volunteer organisations a maturity they often welcome.

In a world where the expectation is that future generations of retirees will be worse off than those currently in retirement, performing volunteer work adds to a sense of social contract between a person and the community in which they live. This arrangement provides a more sustainable, resilient and rewarding approach to stopping work completely and becoming a hermit.

Retirement is certainly a significant life change that one needs to adapt to. Joining clubs, taking classes, and even signing on to social networks can greatly assist in the transition period and beyond.

Nowadays, the retirement villages that really set themselves apart from the competition are those that provide community centres that encompass everything from gyms and swimming pools, to braai and bar facilities, coffee shops, games rooms, and the like. These areas provide an excellent hub to meet like-minded individuals and experience retirement in a different and more fun way.

Retiree Craig Stacey who lives in the Evergreen Broadacres village believes its balanced approach makes all the difference.“I am so happy here, and that is what it’s all about. There is an abundance of weekly activities. And our dinners are a true reflection of how easily and happily we can come together whilst living our lives separately.”

“Evergreen Noordhoek residents Don and Clare Yeowell were bowled over by a birthday party thrown for them recently, “We appreciate that you all go a really long way in making us residents feel part of a happy community, rather than just neighbours.”

Retirement, like anything else in life, requires a balanced viewpoint. Foregoing the social aspects entailed in being a retiree, by only focusing on the financial planning component, can have a negative impact on a person.

Instead, retirement should be viewed as an exciting new life stage that can be enjoyed with a community of people who share a similar sentiment.