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Dr. Paul LatimerWe see them everywhere. Retired members of our community, all over town, enthusiastically engaged in activities.

Either they are enjoying a game of golf or shopping at the mall; working in their gardens or swimming at the pool; sometimes taking the bus to an activity centre for a game of cards with friends. These are the people who have the right idea about retirement.

Sadder cases are the ones we don’t see. Loved ones who remain confined in their apartments for days at a time with no visitors and very little activity. Often they have no reason to get up in the morning and are just waiting to die.

For many of us, thoughts of our later years have us feeling a little conflicted. On the one hand, a lot of us enjoy our work and don’t want to give it up. On the other, many of us look forward to travelling and enjoying more time to spend on our other interests.

The important thing is to make sure that your later years remain active, involved and intellectually challenging. If you truly enjoy your work and feel fulfilled in it, retirement should not be a foregone conclusion. In fact, many people continue working their entire lives because they choose to. Look around at some of the most successful, educated and inspiring people in the world – very few of them retire.

If you are part of an organization that requires retirement at a certain age, perhaps it is time to start another career. More and more, mandatory retirement laws are being challenged in court and are felt to be discriminatory. Retirement should be a choice.

Being active is not a matter of doing just anything – you should pick an activity that is meaningful to you. Simply going through the motions is not enough to provide satisfaction; you need to do something you look forward to and are eager to get back to.

Pursue your interests and hobbies, go back to school, travel or get together with friends. Many people find satisfaction from getting involved in a volunteer organization. Not only is this a good way to meet people, but it’s a way to help the community and use your knowledge and skills in a meaningful way.

All of these activities help to ensure you don’t spend your retirement sitting alone in a rocking chair waiting for your relatives to phone you.

In a previous column I discussed the potentially protective effects that intellectual activity has on an aging mind. Not only do challenging activities such as social games, dancing and volunteering protect your mind from decay; they also bring satisfaction and enjoyment into your life.

Many people develop depression during their retirement years because of a lack of involvement with the world. They feel segregated and alone and often feel cut off from society once they are no longer active in the workforce.

This decreases overall contentment, but is also hazardous to a person’s health as depression increases risk of death from various cardiovascular complications. Many other health consequences are also associated with depression.

Take the time now to develop interests and to think about how you would like to spend your time. There is no reason to stop living at 65 – so get out there and get involved.

Dr. Latimer is president of Okanagan Clinical Trials and a Kelowna psychiatrist.

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