The Links Between Activities & Adjustment in Retirement
Updated: Feb 9
Researchers from Australia (those Aussies really know how to think about retirement living!) wanted to look at the relationships between what people do following retirement and how ‘adjusted’ they were to the changes they were experiencing. They were interested in this because, as they noted, “While many people enjoy the freedom that retirement offers, approximately 25% experience a decrease in adjustment” with the result being poorer mental or emotional wellbeing (e.g., things like being more stressed, sad or lonely). They conducted an online survey; 243 people (123 females, 116 males between the ages of 39 to 90) completed the survey.
What they found was that:
On average, study participants spent the majority of their time during the week doing ‘home entertainment’ activities (e.g., watching TV or movies, about 25 hours per week) and the least amount of time doing vigorous physical activities (just under 2 hours a week).
The majority of participants continued with activities they had in their lives before retirement (whereas 23% reported starting new activities…most frequently: exercise or chores). Enjoyment of these activities was related to their adjustment to retirement.
When participants did a variety of leisure activities in retirement they were more adjusted. This was especially true for social activities. When study participants did more social activities they reported feeling more in control of their lives overall and also more confident to do all activities, including physical activities. Educational activities, like attending workshops and seminars, also contributed to greater confidence for retirement. Enjoyment and being confident were the biggest contributors to retirement adjustment.
Surprisingly light exercise was related to lower enjoyment, but this might be because study participants felt they ‘had to’ exercise for health reasons rather than for personal enjoyment.
Thinking About Your Own Activities and Adjustment:
Thinking about the things you used to do, which of these will be important to you to bring (back) into your retirement life?
How much of your time and energy are you devoting to doing leisure activities that really matter to you (versus doing them because you have to)? Can you shift what you do, or how you do it, to get more enjoyment out of whatever you do?
Often our work provides the key social connections in our life. Retirees often struggle to bring new social activities into their retirement lives. How socially connected do you feel right now?
How confident do you feel to do activities that are important (and enjoyable) to you in retirement?
Tip: When people are more confident they are more likely to try new things. Setting goals (and taking small steps to take action on them) can help improve our confidence. ‘Investing’ in learning or relearning valued activities can help increase your confidence and excitement for life in retirement. See the ‘Need to Know’ page for self-help worksheets that can help you with both of these.
Earl, J. K, & Gerrann, P. (2015). Active and adjusted: Investigating the contribution of leisure, health and psychosocial factors to retirement adjustment. Leisure Sciences, 37, 354-372.