George Vaillant conducted years of research from the Grant Study that launched in 1939 to identify that in his work ‘Ageing Well’, he wrote “…it is social aptitude, not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that leads to successful ageing.”
Additionally, mature coping styles, like “making lemonade out of lemons” is in social and psychological terms the most powerful predictor of successful ageing.
Ageing Well was a best selling publication. The 9 key recommendations by George Vaillant for successful ageing included
1. A good marriage before age 50
2. Ingenuity to cope with difficult situations
3. Altruistic behaviour
4. Stop smoking
5. Do not use alcohol to the point where your behaviour shames you or your family
6. Stay physically active. Walk, run, mow your own grass, play tennis or golf
7. Keep your weight down
8. Pursue education as far as your native intelligence permits
9. After retirement, stay creative, do new things, learn how to play again
Continued maturation no matter a person’s age can influence these results.
To prepare ourselves, Vaillant writes “We can start by admiring how other skilful people cope. Then ponder, when things go badly for us, how we might have used self- defeating mechanisms. Don’t try to think less of yourself, but try to think of yourself less.
Retirement is not much different from losing your job in that many struggle with a loss of identity and structure. The key role that may have defined who you are, your purpose and your daily routine is suddenly no longer there. But keep in mind that now you are free to develop a new role for yourself in life, and this can be very freeing and exciting.
The solution is to maintain some type of structure to your day.
You may not have to set your alarm for 5 am anymore, but perhaps you’ll make a point to get up at 7 am each day to get showered and dressed for the day. From there, develop a new routine that makes sense for you and that allows you to fall into a comfortable yet still productive new “normal.”
Another aspect to consider is how retirement will change your relationship with your spouse.
If you’re suddenly able to spend much more time with your spouse than you were before, it can sometimes lead to tension. The saying “I married you for love, but not for lunch” has been uttered before.
Make a point to keep communicating and sharing your new desires and needs with each other, while at the same time allowing for alone time. Discussing these issues with your spouse prior to retirement is an important part of the process.