The lockdown lifestyle of COVID-19 has not been easy, to say the least. We’ve all had to learn to adapt to a new way of living – one with physical distancing, masks, and renewed proper hygiene. Some folks have struggled with this new reality and accompanying feelings of social isolation.
How do I know? I recently surveyed more than 300 Americans aged 55 and older. My focus was on retirees or those soon to call it a career.
Despite the lockdown having a negative impact on a majority of retirees, the survey reveals both how this group is combating the lockdown blues, and some positive changes that may come out of this challenging period.
Nearly 81% of my survey participants reported that lockdown has significantly changed their day-to-day lives. But, when I adjusted for those who have seen only a slight change or no change at all, about 60% said their lives aren’t that different. Only 12% said their lives have changed completely. The data showed that, while lockdown is hard, less than half of happy retirees reported getting the lockdown blues.
Ways in which retirees have kept their spirits up and created a fulfilling life during this chapter include exercise, virtual and physical distance gatherings (think Zoom game nights and front yard happy hours), limiting their news intake, home improvement and gardening, and religion, prayer, and volunteering. (Making masks for essential workers is a popular volunteer activity.) Many retirees have used this opportunity to deepen their involvement with their core pursuits.
Those that haven’t retired yet have used the time to test drive retirement, getting a sense of how their post-career days will look. These folks have felt a notable sense of satisfaction in life during the lockdown.
What have they been doing? In addition to those listed above, popular activities include watching movies and TV shows and self-improvement endeavors. Many happy retirees reported learning a new instrument or playing music, picking up a new language, trying out painting or drawing, and taking an online class. A lot of these folks also said they have discovered new interests or core pursuits.
A significant number of respondents said the “un-scheduling of America and the unwind is wonderful.” Instead of rushing from place to place, those surveyed said they have more time to get back to the basics of a happy life. Traditional pastimes have made a comeback. Among other things, activities like taking walks with friends, fishing, reading, writing, and doing jigsaw puzzles ranked high on the list. So did spending time (safely) with neighbors, which most of us weren’t doing very often pre-COVID. The one thing these individuals said they missed was spending time with their grandkids.
Approximately 70% of retirees reported that they have tried to keep up their social lives during lockdown. They’ve done this by meeting up in physically distant and creative ways. Activities include in-person smart socializing (maintaining six feet of distance), connecting digitally through phone calls, texts, video calls and email, and through exercise and sports like walking, biking, and golfing.
When I asked whether those surveyed planned on returning to “life as normal” when lockdown lets up, 75% said yes. The other 25% said they plan to keep living the way they have been, by continuing to “unwind.” These folks also will stay home more and maintain the public health measures we’ve all gotten used to when they do go out.
There are 100 million Americans aged 55-plus. So, 25 million individuals’ lives have been forever changed by this pandemic.
Many people plan to continue working from home, avoid business travel and skirt restaurants. Some have even decided to retire earlier than they’d planned.
The numbers are there, and they’re very telling. It’s true that COVID-19 has rocked our nation and the world. We probably won’t emerge on the other side to a life that’s exactly the same as our pre-COVID days. Things will most likely be different.
People’s values have shifted, or solidified, to reflect the things that matter most to them. Social time with family and friends, the time to enjoy hobbies and activities, and the ability to slow down have all inspired many people to make a shift. And all of these things add up to a happy retirement. Here’s to seeing more happy retirees in the coming months and years.