Over the past few months I have been talking with many members of Men’s Sheds throughout the North Island of New Zealand, as well as reading extensively on issues relating to retirement.
The key themes apparent in my study of retirement issues are that a loss of purpose upon retirement after decades of responding to the manifold demands of work and family can make life appear to be meaningless. Faced with a loss of purpose and a lack of meaning can lead people to give up hope.
A sense of hopelessness is often what precipitates a rapid decline in physical and mental health in retired people, and it may be noted that the loss of hope can be the final straw which drives people to commit suicide.
In discussions at the Shed about retirement, Shed members often refer to the fact that their fathers and other older male relatives were often dead within eighteen month of retirement. Studies have shown that eighteen months of feeling “blue” (not even mildly depressed) can have a severely negative effect upon the body’s immune system and general functioning to the point where severe illness sets in, leading to a rapid decline and death.
This is the first in a series of notes (which I intend to turn into articles for publications) in which I will explore the issues men face upon retirement - issues they are ill-prepared to face, and which comprise the most difficult problems many of us have ever encountered.
My main themes will be addressing loss of purpose, meaning and hope as discussed above, how planning and adapting to changing circumstances can help overcome these problems; and, of course, the invaluable role Men’s Sheds can play in developing strategies and providing opportunities to help us successfully cope with these and other complex retirement issues.
These writings may be followed on my dedicated Men's Shed blog: