Pete's back was injured while in combat. He had trouble sleeping, felt on edge, and had issues with anger after returning home. Hoping to ease his pain, he acted recklessly and drank a lot. On a friend's advice, he visited VA and was evaluated for PTSD, where counseling and group therapy helped him see how life can get a lot better.
Retiring from the workforce can be an exciting phase of your life and provides you with time to pursue new opportunities for travel, new hobbies, or more time with friends and family. Like retirement, aging is a new phase that can also be fulfilling. 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 be accompanied by new challenges, as well. Key areas of your life may be different as you transition to life after work and get older.
Although you can’t control your age or turn back time, a healthy lifestyle can make you feel younger, more vital, and help you enjoy your later years. By eating healthy 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 there is much to be excited about, feeling worried or apprehensive about retirement and aging is completely normal. As you plan for retirement from the workforce or think about how aging will affect you and your loved ones, you may experience any of the following:
“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.”
Feeling unhappy about the physical changes your body is undergoing
Becoming tired more quickly or needing to rest more frequently
Losing your ability to hear or see as well
Having a slower sexual response
Worrying about health or financial issues
For most people, aging is a fulfilling time, both mentally and physically. However, some Veterans may feel overwhelmed and have a harder time adjusting to this new phase in their lives. Circumstances that may make aging and retirement more challenging can include:
Fewer distractions and more “down time” after retirement to recall past events
Losing touch with coworkers and friends
Feeling like your days lack focus without the routine of work
Current events and news reports that may bring back memories of negative events during military service
Health ailments and feeling less strong
Some of the challenges that may come with aging and retirement can prove to be difficult, stressful, or 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, medical conditions, or facing the death of a loved one.
What can I do about potential challenges related to aging and retirement?
“My dad’s eighty one years old and a Korean War Veteran. He did his time in the Army and got out. He had a successful career and he thought that was the end of it. Sixty-something years later he finally steps into a Veterans Service Organization office and finds out,’ hey there’s a lot of things I should have taken advantage of.’”
As you get older, it may help to:
Be willing 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, like fried foods or unhealthy snacks
Refrain from excessive drug and alcohol use
In the past, you may have tried to cope with stress in your life by working a lot or drinking alcohol or taking drugs. If so, you would benefit from other, healthier ways to cope as you get older. Asking for help from those close to you, developing healthy lifestyle habits, and planning ahead for your financial matters can ease the transition into late adulthood.
Take the next step – Make the connection.
Every day, Veterans connect with proven resources, services, and support to address the issues impacting their lives. If you are having a hard time coping with getting older and the related problems are interfering with your health and well-being or getting in the way of your relationships or daily activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:
Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
A mental health professional, such as a counselor or therapist
Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
A spiritual or religious advisor
Explore these resources for more information about Veterans who are coping with aging and retirement.
VA has resources for Veterans who are approaching retirement, such as:
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.
Aging Veterans and Posttraumatic Stress
The National Center for PTSD’s website provides information, resources, and practical advice for Veterans dealing with stress and trauma—no matter how long ago events occurred.
Vet Centers can help you work through issues you may be having related to aging or retirement. If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Finding it hard to cope with the issues you are facing could be a sign of health conditions that need attention. This link will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s mental health treatment programs.