Expert Health Articles

Generativity in Retirement

We work hard through a 30-plus year career. We contribute to 401k or look forward to that pension. Retirement happens and then we feel freedom and bliss right? Not necessarily. 

Recent studies have shown as much as a 40 percent increase in depression after retirement. That daily grind we put in for years was difficult, sometimes we put in blood, sweat and tears while working long and tedious hours. However, that job gave us a sense of purpose and meaning.

Renowned psychologist Erik Erikson identified the positive aspect of adulthood as generativity. Generativity could be looked at as bringing home the “bacon” and building our “nest egg.” Then we finally decide to crack the nest egg and live on what we earned. But live for what? Without a sense of purpose and duty, it is easy for one to fall into a state of depression. 

One of the things I tell my patients is, “Don’t focus on what you are retiring from, enjoy what you can retire to and focus on those activities.” After putting in the thousands of hours, blood sweat and tears, it is very appealing to enjoy that first few months of retirement by sipping coffee, taking naps and living the “life of Riley,” but, often, this becomes stagnant and depressing.

There are ways to overcome that stagnation. But it takes planning. Plan to go on trips with intent and future orientation in mind. Realize that you have wisdom and abilities that you still can bring to service in some capacity. Find your sense of purpose even though you are retired.  Giving your time to a good cause, a church or charitable organization is a great way to regain that feeling of generativity. Focus on what you retired to and find hope that it gives you purpose. 

Christian Steiner, MD
Psychiatric Center of Northwest Ohio