Spiritual preparation can make retirement happier

| Bridget Ryder | September 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

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Retirement is great — but then, sometimes it’s not. While many retirees gladly turn off the lights in their offices and never look back, others find the transition from regular work difficult, even to the point of inciting anxiety and depression. Research has found that many retirees experience an initial boost in health and happiness after retirement that is followed a few years later by dissatisfaction and declining health.

As such, retirement can be considered a crisis.

“[Developmental psychologist] Eric Erickson describes different stages of life and that there are choices at each stage — a crisis that needs to be addressed,” said Joe Pryble, a Catholic therapist at Quo Vadis Therapy in New Brighton.

According to Erickson, a pioneer in psychological theory, the essential crisis of older adulthood is overcoming despair to accept one’s life and reach a sense of fulfillment.

“It’s a time of transition, and it’s one in which a lot of people tend to look back over what they’ve created and produced and what their legacy will be for the next generation,” Pryble explained.

Looking back with faith can give retirees a perspective of hope.

Father Rinaldo Custodio, 80, has been enjoying retirement since 2005. He lives at the Leo C. Byrne Residence for retired priests in St. Paul. He says that staying active, having a variety of hobbies from golf to cards, engaging in part-time ministry and practicing regular prayer have made his retirement satisfying. He also still makes an annual retreat. In preparation for his last retreat, he decided to write his life’s story. He thought it would be two pages, but he ended up writing many, many more. Then he read it.

“I said, ‘This is not my doing. There’s a hand here,’” he recalled.

The exercise allowed him to see how God had been acting in his life. He also knows the deep insight he received from his writing was only attainable at this later stage in his life.

“We’re on a journey, and there’s a hand that’s directing it. When people reach retirement, that’s the wisdom. They see their life’s journey. There’s so many areas where one has made a difference,” said Father Custodio, who was ordained a priest in 1962. “When you’re young you only see part of the journey, not as much as an older person.”

For anyone feeling at a loss in retirement or wanting to discover where God has been leading, he recommends spiritual direction. Acting as a spiritual director is one way that Father Custodio continues in ministry even as a retired priest.

“I would listen to where they’re at and help them to move forward from where they’re at,” he said, adding that God is always the one truly directing.

He also suggested becoming involved in something like Cursillo, a retreat with ongoing support groups.

Pryble agrees that retirement can be a time of great spiritual growth.

“See it as a time to expand oneself in new ways and to continue that experience of wonder at what God has given,” he said.

While reflecting on the past, retirees also need to stay engaged in meaningful activities and relationships.

“Look at it as the next phase. What will I be producing and what will I be doing for the next generation?” Pryble said. “Be intentional about what you want to make with this time.”

In Erickson’s theory of human development, the task of adulthood is supporting the next generation. This pursuit doesn’t need to stop at retirement. Parishes can be great outlets for retirees wanting to continue to give to younger generations.

Father Custodio thinks retirees can be very helpful in their parishes by teaching faith formation and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, as well as volunteering in other areas. He has also seen retirees use their time to serve the poor through programs such as Loaves and Fishes, which organizes free meals at sites throughout the state. Coaching sports is another way retirees can stay meaningfully engaged.

“They have the time, and if they have the interest, they are great role models and mentors,” he said.

For developing hobbies and socializing, retirees can find groups for senior citizens in their parishes. Father Custodio’s last parish assignment before retiring, St. John the Baptist in Savage, had a seniors group that offered trips to local shrines, attended Twins games and toured Catholic churches in Minnesota. Pribyle also recommends retirees not limiting themselves to seniors’ groups.

Another resource for those who have just retired or are considering it is life coaching or therapy. Both therapists and retirement coaches can help retirees prepare for and make a smooth transition.

“Preparing for it, educating yourself and getting a sense that this is a new time in life is important,” Pryble said.

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Category: Retirement Planning