Retirement is supposed to be the time of your life - something you have eagerly anticipated for years (or most likely decades).
You had visions of golfing, reading, relaxing and traveling. Those endless hours of free time seemed so appealing while you were toiling away at your career. Now that those "golden years" have arrived, you might be asking "now what?"
Although she's nowhere near retirement age, 37-year-old Julia Valentine of New York City has written a book about it, "Joy Compass: How to Make Your Retirement the Treasure of Your Life," based on years of research. She also created an online program (www.joycompass.com) geared to seniors.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Kathleen and Floyd Mitchell have an impressive flower and vegetable garden behind their Martinsburg home. They enjoy gardening together.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Chloe Brown receives fulfillment from playing the piano for residents of The Village at Morrisons Cove.
Valentine's background is finance and she helped prepare people financially for retirement. She got the idea for her book and program by watching her grandparents struggle in their golden years.
"They had a tough time. They had numerous money problems. They had numerous health problems. I wondered if everyone was subject to these challenges," Valentine said.
Many seniors struggle with life after their careers end.
Successful retirement requires planning and forethought.
"It's all attitude. Have you prepared yourself for retirement? Is your attitude that I am going to make the most of this?" said Denis Navarro, psychologist at Altoona Regional Health System.
Some fundamentals need to be met for seniors to be fulfilled.
Health problems aren't always in your control, but creating healthy habits can help.
"The number one complaint in retirement is when people experience health problems. That takes away from your quality of life," Valentine said.
Eating healthier, becoming more active, visiting the doctor regularly and stopping bad habits, like smoking and drinking can pave the way to healthier lifestyles, she said.
"If you're in good health, you just feel more like you would enjoy retirement," Navarro said.
Planning financially would make retirement less stressful, but it's not too late to feel comfortable by making a few concessions, said Dr. Steven Zarit, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State University.
"A lot of successful aging is selecting things that are most important to you and giving up those parts of life that aren't as important," Zarit said.
Moving to a smaller house or using one car instead of two might be options for downsizing financially.
"It's a matter of figuring out what's important," Zarit said.
Quality of life requires more than money, Valentine said.
"It is easy to mistake comfort for quality of life," Valentine said. "An astonishing quality of life encompasses both material comfort and joy."
Whether it's family members, friends or neighbors, it's imperative for seniors to reach out to people. Many people who have dedicated their lives to their careers leave behind work friends once they retire, Zarit said.
Maintaining friendships or creating new ones in retirement is important, he said.
"As we grow older, friends and family can play an important role in helping us stay on course," Zarit said. "They need to make sure they reach out to friends and not isolate themselves."
When her husband, Kenneth died in 2009, Chloe Brown turned to friends for support.
A former resident of Tennessee, Brown recently moved to The Village at Morrisons Cove in Martinsburg where she finds that friends still are invaluable.
"Friendships are important, especially when you lose your spouse," said Brown, a retired nurse. "It's important to get to know people and be kind and loving to everyone you meet."
Seniors often grapple with finding meaning in their later years.
Zarit stressed the importance of finding something you enjoy, whether it's volunteering, fishing, walking, singing or skydiving.
Zarit said seniors should ask: "What are the things I enjoy? What are the interests I have? What do I want to pursue?"
"Keep in mind that you might start something and it might not work out. Just go on to something else," Zarit said.
Floyd and Kathleen Mitchell of The Village at Morrisons Cove are a couple that enjoy the same interests: bird-watching, reading non-fiction, nature and volunteering.
"We've really enjoyed retirement and doing some of the things we couldn't do before," Kathleen Mitchell. The couple moved to The Village at Morrisons Cove in 1993.
"We love just being in nature and enjoying nature," Kathleen Mitchell said. "You have to find a passion for something."
For Brown, that passion is the piano. She plays dinner music in the main dining hall at the village. .
"That's been my life. I'm not a professional, but I really love it," Brown said.