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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: Make the connection.

Every day, Veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard connect with resources, services, and support to address the issues affecting 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, activities, or work, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:

  • Your 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 adviser

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 sleepingalcohol or drug problemsconfusionposttraumatic stress, and depression.

Retirement and Financial Literacy Education Program
This site provides tools and information to help Veterans better understand and manage their finances during retirement.

VA eBenefits
This site gives detailed information on allowances, applying for retirement benefits, disability compensation, health care for retirees, and other topics that are relevant to older Veterans.

VA Health Benefits
Learn more about VHA medical benefits packages and eligibility information.

Veteran Benefits Administration Locator
This VA site allows users to locate the closest Veterans Benefits Administration regional office, which offers Veterans valuable financial information.

Aging Veterans and Posttraumatic Stress
The National Center for PTSD provides information, resources, and practical advice for Veterans dealing with stress and trauma — no matter when the events occurred.

Vet Center
If you are a combat Veteran, you can 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. In addition, any Veteran who was sexually traumatized while serving in the military is eligible to receive counseling regardless of gender or era of service.

VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Finding it hard to cope with the issues you are facing as you age could be a sign of health-related conditions that need attention. VA provides world-class health care to eligible Veterans. Most Veterans qualify for cost-free health care services, although some Veterans must pay modest copays for health care or prescriptions. Explore your eligibility for health care using VA's Health Benefits Explorer tool and find out more about the treatment options available to you.