Optimism – the key to successful ageing

I was talking to some friends of mine this week who were telling me how difficult their parents were finding in adjusting to retirement. The Rents (pa-rents) weren’t in crisis, just finding the change more challenging that they expected.

The time of your life after work

In the “professional” world of retirement planning and later life research the issue is well known. Academics and policy makers are well aware of the advantages of changing the concept of retirement from a cliff edge (in work today, retired tomorrow) to more of a gentle escalator, slowing down into retirement through reduced hours or less demanding work. Since we’re likely to spend longer in retirement than we did in pre-University education, it’s a phase in life that will need some planning and preparation. But how do most of our citizens get the change to think this through?

Deficiencies in pre-retirement courses

Retirement courses are available, and usually provided by larger employers. But these tend to focus on the financial aspects of retirement. Life satisfaction measures are significantly higher for participants who attend courses with an element of lifestyle planning as well as financial planning.

Good coaching considers lifestyle issues as pretty much a default. Whatever the specific issue presented to me as a coach – a career choice, personal hang-up, or specific personal transition – I always do a quick life satisfaction review as an introduction to coaching. Apart from the fact this is usually a nice ice-breaker and opportunity to get to know my client a bit better, I’m acutely aware that the issue I’m being presented with may not end up being the most important area of conversation to explore.

I’m increasingly of the view that we need to move away from speaking of “retirement” and start an earlier conversation about life after 50. As Guy Robertson puts it in his excellent “How to Age Positively” handbook “Just as we had to learn to grow up, so we have to learn to grow old.”

One area I like to explore is concerned with the attitudes we are taking into our next life phase. One of these is around our optimism/pessimism orientations. Research into optimism shows it has a variety of beneficial health benefits such as speeding up recovery times from certain illnesses and reducing the risk of serious episodes such as stroke. But did you know an optimistic attitude could add years to your life? One report suggests seven years and more. If I you could buy a health drink that would add around seven years to your life, wouldn’t it be a central part of your weekly shop?

Coaching in action

Try out this quick online test to get a snap-shot of your optimism rating. There are more detailed ones around if you want to explore this further. And if you’re in touch with a coach, have a conversation around how you could increase and sustain your levels of optimism. It could literally add years to your life.

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