What should I know about retirement and aging?
Retiring from the workforce can be exciting. It allows you to spend more time with family and friends, take up previous hobbies or develop new ones, volunteer for causes you care about, or focus on your own health and well-being. In general, later life can offer meaning and fulfullment. As people get older, they often see the world in new ways and with additional perspective.
Most of the time, retirement and aging bring a sense of clarity and new purpose, but sometimes they can require a period of adjustment or give rise to new challenges. Key areas of your life may be different as you get older and transition to life after work.
“When I retired, I was worried about leaving a life that was so structured. It turns out that my free time meant I got to see my grandchildren a lot more.”
Although you can’t control your age or turn back time, a healthy lifestyle can make you feel younger and more vital, and can help you enjoy your later years. By eating healthily and exercising regularly, you can stay physically fit and improve your overall well-being.
What should I keep an eye out for as I get older?
Although aging brings many positive changes and opportunities, it is normal to feel uncertain or concerned about the aging process. You may experience any of the following:
- Feeling unhappy about your body's physical changes
- Becoming tired more quickly, needing to rest more frequently, or feeling weaker
- Noticing changes in your ability to hear or see as well as you used to
- Having a slower sexual response
- Worrying about financial issues
- Going through changes in relationships with your spouse or partner, adult children, or friends
- Experiencing stress from taking care of or supporting loved ones with health problems
While retirement is an exciting phase for many people, certain issues can make planning for retirement challenging, including:
- Having fewer distractions and more “down time” to recall troubling events from your past, including combat and other military experiences
- Losing touch with co-workers and friends
- Feeling like your days lack focus without the routine of work
- Feeling upset when hearing about current events or news reports that may bring back memories of negative events during military service
Some of the challenges that may come with aging and retirement can be difficult and stressful and can put a strain on your relationships. You might feel down on yourself or find it harder to enjoy the things you usually like doing. You may be dealing with chronic pain or medical conditions, or facing the illness or death of a loved one.
What can I do about potential challenges related to aging and retirement?
As you get older, it may help to:
- Ask others for help.
- Talk to other Veterans or friends and family with experiences similar to yours.
- Enjoy a healthy lifestyle; combine an exercise routine with a healthy diet.
- Avoid foods with a lot of fat or salt, such as fried foods or unhealthy snacks.
- Quit smoking.
- Refrain from excessive drug and alcohol use.
- Keep your mind active through social activity, being curious and learning new things, using computers, or reading.
- Devote time to causes and people you care about.
In the past, you may have tried to cope with stress in your life by working a lot or by drinking alcohol or taking drugs. If so, you could benefit from healthier ways to cope as you get older. Asking for help from those close to you, working to help others, developing healthy lifestyle habits, exploring religion and spirituality, and planning for your financial security can ease the transition into retirement.
Take the next step to connect with care.
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Read VA's latest coronavirus information. If you have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please call before you visit your local medical center or clinic. If you have an appointment, consider making it a telehealth appointment.
New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.
- Getting started is simple. Create a free account online to help ease your enrollment process. To prepare to apply for VA health care in person, by telephone, or by mail, explore VA’s “How to Apply” page.
- Not sure whether you are eligible for VA health care benefits? Read about eligibility for VA health care.
- Unsure of what kind of help you need? Call 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387) to find the right resources to meet your needs, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 1-800-877-8339.
- Veterans’ family members and caregivers can see whether they qualify for VA medical benefits as a spouse, surviving spouse, dependent child, or caregiver. Explore family and caregiver health benefits.
Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.
- If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
- With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
- If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.
What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.
- The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
- Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
- VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
- Community-based Vet Centers provide confidential counseling, community engagement and referral services to eligible individuals and their families. You don’t need to be enrolled in VA healthcare or have a service connection to receive services. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-927-8387, 24/7 to talk with a fellow Veteran about your experiences.
What about support beyond VA?
There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.
Explore these resources for more information about Veterans who are coping with aging and retirement.
Learn more about the possible associations between dealing with getting older and other concerns such as trouble sleeping, alcohol or drug problems, confusion, posttraumatic stress, and depression.