6 Components of an Active Retirement Readiness Plan

When we talk to our clients who are nearing the transition phase between their working life and retirement, there’s one thing they all have in common:  

They’re looking forward to enjoying more free time to do the things they love, and spending more time with the people they care about.  

If you’re entering this transition period, it’s easy to focus primarily on being financially healthy enough to retire.  

However, research shows us that even if you’re financially prepared, there’s a different variable to consider that is directly tied to happiness and satisfaction during your retirement years.  

That variable is Retirement Self-Efficacy

In this blog post, we’ll discuss: 

  • What is Retirement Self-Efficacy?  
  • How does Retirement Self-Efficacy relate to your level of satisfaction with retirement life 
  • 6 Components that contribute to the growth of your Active Retirement Self-Efficacy 

We use these strategies at Natural Fit Therapy to help our clients build personalized action plans – called Active Retirement Readiness Plans – that ensure they’re physically prepared to enjoy the active retirement life they’ve been looking forward to.  

This blog post should be a good starting point for you to begin building your own action plan, but if you’d like input and guidance from experienced professionals, you can apply for a free retirement preparedness consultation with Natural Fit Therapy below: 

Click here to set-up your free Active Retirement Readiness Consultation today

Okay, let’s dive in. 

What is Retirement Self-Efficacy?  

Retirement Self-Efficacy is your belief, or confidence, in your ability to successfully negotiate the retirement transition and find purposeful and positive life engagement opportunities as you enter this new life chapter.1 

Just by believing they could successfully navigate whatever challenges will come their way during retirement, study participants saw enormous benefits such as increased energy, better sleep, decreased pain and discomfort, increased resilience against development of depression, as well as overall satisfaction with life and better overall health.2 

Questions to consider to determine your own level of Retirement Self-Efficacy.

How confident are you in your ability to navigate your transition into retirement?  

It’s understandable if your confidence is shaky during the retirement transition. There are a lot of changes happening and unanswered questions with regards to:  

  • Financial preparedness 
  • Health and physical challenges 
  • Changes in social dynamics and relationships 
  • Finding new routines and hobbies 

Financial preparedness is unarguably a large piece of the retirement puzzle and I’ll leave that aspect to the financial professionals.  

Instead, I’ll stick to another area I know well: Health and physical preparedness.  

At our wellness clinic, my clients share concerns about what their health will look like in the coming years, and worries about whether their body will hold up and allow them to travel, enjoy leisure time, or spend quality time with their friends, kids, and grandkids. 

In short, they’re worried they won’t be able to live the active retirement life they’ve been looking forward to for so long. 

Maybe this is you, too. 

Today I want to give you some tools and guidance to help you feel physically prepared for your active retirement life, similarly to how your financial advisor helps you prepare financially. 

The more prepared you are, the more confident you feel, and your Retirement Self-Efficacy grows. 

At Natural Fit Therapy, we call this an Active Retirement Readiness Plan.  

It has 6 components, which I’ll share with you below. 

6 Components of an Active Retirement Readiness Plan 

The following components all have been shown to have a significant impact on your health post-retirement.  

Optimizing these areas of health will not only help you physically prepare for retirement, but it can also build your Retirement Self-Efficacy by building your confidence that you’ll be able to handle whatever physical challenges retirement throws your way. 

As we cover each component, I’ll share a quick overview of how it plays a part in your physical preparedness for retirement, and ways to tell if this is an area of strength or opportunity for you. 

Your Balance 

Why is balance important?  

Every day you move about the world and have to keep yourself upright. This seems simple, but there are actually quite a few systems your body has to keep you from toppling over every day. Over time, these systems naturally get weaker and, without regular training, balance problems can lead to falls or an avoidance of physical activity due to a fear of falling. The better your balance during retirement life, the more robust experiences you can pursue and enjoy.  

How good is your balance? 

A quick way to test your balance is with the Single Leg Balance Test. 

Stand close to something you can hold onto for balance if necessary. Stand tall and lift one foot off the floor, balancing on one leg for as long as you can. Repeat on the other leg.  

Your Strength  

Why is strength important? 

Building muscle strength and maintaining it over time translates directly into freedom later in life. The stronger you are, the more you can do. Whether you want to hike the Grand Canyon, or simply preserve bone density and muscle-mass for health benefits, strong muscles help keep you moving, agile, and independent during your retirement years. 

How good is your strength? 

A quick way to test your lower body strength is with the 30 Second Sit-to-Stand Test.  

Sit at the edge of a regular height chair. Start a timer for 30 seconds. Stand up and sit down. That counts as one repetition. Do as many repetitions as you can in 30 seconds.  

Your Endurance 

Why is endurance important?  

Keeping up with life is the name of the game in retirement. Most retirees are surprised by just how much activity they find themselves doing after signing up for all of the social events, volunteering, grandkid play dates, and house projects they had put off for so long. If you don’t have a solid endurance base, it will be hard to keep up without injury or significant fatigue as you embark on all of your retirement adventures. 

How good is your endurance? 

A quick way to test your endurance is with the 6-Minute Walk Test.  

Measure out a walking route where you can measure the distance you cover (feet or meters). For example, a walking track, basketball court, or a football field. A long hallway will also do. Start a stopwatch for 6 minutes. Walk at your normal pace and measure the distance you cover.  

Your Flexibility 

Why is flexibility important?  

Over time, the building blocks of our bodies naturally get stiffer. The less mobile our muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and fascia are, the more susceptible we are to injury. Injuries later in life can take longer to heal and, should they require surgery, can set you back for months. The better your flexibility during retirement, the more activities you can enjoy without pain or fear of injury. Another plus? A tall healthy posture throughout life! 

How good is your flexibility? 

A quick way to test your flexibility is with the Sit-to-Rise Test.  

Try and get on and off the floor with as little assistance as possible. Start standing. Sit down on your bottom on the floor, then stand back up again. Try not to use your hands or furniture to get down or back up. 

Your Pain Management Toolbox 

Why is having a Pain Management Toolbox important?  

Aches and pains can grow over time and, while common, persistent pain in any body part is not a normal part of aging. Chronic pain can interfere with your ability to participate in the active retirement lifestyle you enjoy and can rob you of your energy and zest for life. Having a Pain Management Toolbox unique to your reoccurring aches and pains means that you are confidently able to manage your pain when it pops up. This leads to higher quality of life and a more active lifestyle overall. 

How extensive is your Pain Management Toolbox? 

If you have reoccurring pain, think about the number of strategies you have to improve your pain levels on your own.* Consider every area you have pain – back, knee, hip, neck, etc. Are you able to confidently manage each area?

*If you’re struggling with pain you cannot manage, it’s time to see a physical therapist to help you build your Pain Management Toolbox. 

Your Tribe 

Why is having a tribe important?  

Loneliness is one of the biggest predictors of mortality and disability. We are social creatures and we need our people. In fact, research shows that dropping a significant number of your social groups after retirement is a predictor of a 6-year mortality after retirement date.3  Your tribe can consist of religious groups, leisure groups, social groups, physical activity groups, volunteer groups, your family, or hobby groups. Whoever they are, they need to be a regular part of your daily life. 

How strong is your tribe? 

Make a list of all of the groups you are (or were) a part of pre-retirement. Add them up. Now, make a list of all of the groups you are (or are planning to be) a part of post-retirement. Add them up. How big of a difference is there? Is there a drop after retirement? How big of a drop?  

Conclusion 

Similar to money accumulated over time in your retirement savings accounts, you have an internal bank account of Retirement Self-Efficacy.  

Your level of Retirement Self-Efficacy depends on having tools and a plan that can help keep you healthy and mobile so you can enjoy the active retirement lifestyle you’ve been looking forward to for so long. 

Optimizing the 6 areas of health outlined above will not only help you physically prepare for retirement, but it can also build your Retirement Self-Efficacy by reassuring yourself you’ll be able to handle whatever physical challenges retirement throws your way. 

After doing the quick tests in each section, which ones stood out as most important to improve?  

Start with one area to focus on for 4-6 weeks, then re-assess.  

If you improved, move on to the next area repeating until you’ve upgraded your health all-around. 

Finally, it can feel overwhelming to try and build a plan on your own and hold yourself accountable to it. 

This is where a movement professional like a Doctor of Physical Therapy can step in to help.  

Many people seek out the help of a professional, such as a financial advisor, to help guide them to the point where they are financially ready for retirement. Hiring a Doctor of Physical Therapy to help you physically prepare for retirement is no different. 

Apply for a free retirement preparedness consultation with Natural Fit Therapy below: 

Click here to set-up your free Active Retirement Readiness Consultation with Natural Fit Therapy today 

Until next time, keep moving!