‘Retiring to a life of doing nothing will kill you early’

old couple

Even if you have steady income coming in, it is important to exercise your mind; to keep it working

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One of my readers wrote me an email reacting to a recent article I wrote regarding the vision I had for my life after retirement. I had written that my biggest fear was retiring without a regular source of income to see me through my sunset years; income that would allow me to live the rest of my life like a pampered princess.

I also visualised a life where I woke up after 10am to a leisurely breakfast and then a drive to the country club where I would while away the time with my equally well-to-do friends before returning home.

This reader agreed that, yes, it was important for me to build a gold nest that I could draw from when I retire, otherwise I would become a burden to my children. However, he disagreed with everything else that I had written.

He informed me that he was much older than I was because he was retired, and assured me that as one grows older, sleep becomes more and more elusive – he never manages to sleep beyond 6am, not that he wants to get up with the cocks and the hens, but because his body won’t allow him to.

He attributed this to the fact that having worked for decades, and his body having been used to a particular pattern that involved getting up early to get to work on time, it was difficult to teach his body to break this habit. This, and the aches and pains that accompany old age, ensured that he woke up in the wee hours of the morning, never mind that he had nowhere to go.

He then pointed out that having worked all my adult life thinking that I would be happy leading a life of idleness devoid of structure was a fallacy. He assured me that I would die of boredom since my mind was used to being stimulated and doing work that I valued and which kept me occupied most of the day, all year round. Shopping and long hours spent at this club I hoped to afford would be interesting for a day or two, after which I would start craving for something more mentally engaging to do.

Nagging parent

By aiming to lead such a life, he told me, I risked becoming a nagging parent, the one that keeps calling their children to accuse them of not visiting enough, yet their children are busy building a life of their own and raising their children. Or the kind of parent that visits their child and goes on to stay put for a week, or even a month, because they are lonely.

“Retirement does not mean stopping to work. Even if you have steady income coming in, it is important to exercise your mind; to keep it working. Therefore, start a business that will keep you on your toes or volunteer your skills at a busy institution,” he wrote.

He was drawing from his own experience, having been a civil servant for decades.

At the time of his retirement, he had rental houses that he was collecting rent from, enough for him and his wife’s needs since all his adult children had long moved out of home and were supporting themselves.

Within just a month of retiring, he knew that he could not spend the rest of his life basking and drinking tea and reading the newspaper from cover to cover. He needed something engaging to do, otherwise he would die before his time was due.

He, therefore, opened a hardware at a shopping centre near his home, which keeps him occupied six days a week.

And just like that, there goes my idyllic, but misinformed, dream of spending the last years of my life doing nothing.

The writer is editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation. Email: [email protected] ke.nationmedia.com


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