Planning, having objectives and a social network beyond work are the key to a successful retirement
Foto: Jeff-Sheldon / Unsplash (CC)
Experts call for companies to allow employees to gradually reduce the time they spend working so that they can adapt to a new stage in their lives

After a long professional stage in your life, the day has come to start a new one: retirement. For many, going from having a thousand and one work tasks one day to having none the next is a major shock and not something that everyone manages equally. Experts say that financial and family aspects, one's social network, health and attitude will be key when it comes to tackling this new role, which most of the time we do not plan for sufficiently. Being retired means having more free time, more time to spend with the family, less work stress and a sense of freedom, but it can also bring with it frustration, anxiety, loneliness, a loss of friends or depression. Psychologists believe that planning for this moment of change before it occurs and nurturing social relationships outside work is essential if we are to tackle this new period in our lives successfully.

In many cases, going from being productive for society to being inactive creates a feeling of emptiness or uselessness. After working eight hours a day, the question many people ask themselves the day after they retire is: “So now what do I do?” To prevent it from being a sudden process, psychologist and professor with the UOC Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, Eullia Hernndez, advises that you “prepare yourself and plan your new lifestyle”.

“You have to try and make it a gradual transition and one that it is not so sudden and destabilizing that you cannot deal with it”, she explains. Something which, as she says, can be achieved by creating new routines, interacting with people from situations other than work or taking part in social activities that make you feel active as part of a group if you want to avoid the feeling of uselessness. Being aware of the moment of change, not burying your head in the sand, having a positive attitude and good emotional health are also essential, says Hernndez, to tackle this new stage in life.

Montserrat Lacalle, who is also an expert on the elderly and a UOC professor, adds that one possibility would be if companies were more involved in managing this moment, enabling employees to gradually reduce their working hours or pass on their experience and professional knowledge to young people joining the job market.

Having a life outside work

Lacalle explains that although people who want to retire tend to feel positive about it at first, they may subsequently feel frustrated as the reality does not live up to their initial expectations. If they do not want to retire, the consequences may be worse. She argues that if you add to forced retirement the fact of having defined yourself by your professional role, high levels of expectation and perfection, loneliness or not having a social network outside work, there is a greater possibility you will suffer an initial depression or problems in adapting to the situation. Hernndez, who is also a member of the UOC's PSiNET (Psychology, Health and the Net) research group, adds that other aspects such as  pessimism about the future, greatly reduced economic resources or being dependent may make adapting to a new life difficult.

These psychologists, together with sociologist and professor with the UOC Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Francesc Nuez, believe that having an affective network outside work is "fundamental" before starting this new stage in life. “People who retire without this network – friendship, family relationships, etc. – are heading for social rejection”, he says. According to Nez, having a spouse or children is also a contributing factor that helps tackle this moment, providing that the relationship is satisfactory. If it is not, then retirement may aggravate conflict between spouses. “Retirement and holidays increase divorce rates”, he explains.  According to figures from Idescat, the number of divorces among married couples who have been together for more than twenty years has risen by around 10% over the last two years.

Be careful how much you take on

One of the ways retired people fill the vast amounts of free time stretching before them is to sign up to lots of activities.  However, psychologist Montserrat Lacalle warns of the danger implied in taking on too much without having a real interest in what you are doing. “Sometimes, hidden behind such a full agenda is a denial of reality and it is a way of running away from having to deal with a new stage in life”, says Lacalle, who advises doing activities that you really find fulfilling and not doing them for the sake of it.

More than creating a routine with lots of activities, Nuez believes that retirement is also the time to stop being selfish and live more for others. “Being elderly should be a time of generosity, of giving back to society everything that it has given you and made you who you are”, she explains.



Montserrat Lacalle

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Photograph of Eullia Hernndez Encuentra

Eullia Hernndez Encuentra

Expert in: ICT and health; personal and professional use of the Internet for health; health promotion through the use of ICT; lifelong developmental psychology (what people are like at different points in their lives).

Knowledge area: Developmental psychology.

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Photograph of Francesc Nez Mosteo

Francesc Nez Mosteo

Lecturer in the Arts and Humanities Department
Director of the Humanities programme and of the master's degree programme in Contemporary Art, Literature and Culture

Expert in: Sociology of knowledge and culture; sociology of emotions.

Knowledge area: Philosophy and sociology.

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