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Going online can help fill the post-retirement void

Author: Nancy Allegrezza

Both the actual retirement age and the expected retirement age for America's labor force have increased dramatically in the past twenty years. From retiring at age 57 in 1993, the figures from 2014 show that the average U.S. worker now retires at 62.

Economic factors resulting from the past recession undoubtedly play some influence in causing more Americans to leave the workforce later. The escalating cost of living sometimes means that older Americans need more of a retirement "nest egg" than they had previously planned.

It's also true that US residents are now living longer than ever before, and so, today's seniors may need to save for more years of retirement than they originally thought.

Financial necessity plays a big role in making the decision to delay retirement, or even - as in the case of a growing number of seniors nowadays - rejoining the workforce in some capacity after initially retiring.

But holding a job brings advantages beyond just the money. Most workplaces provide a base of social interaction, which psychologists suggest is vital for everyone, especially retired seniors living independently, to have for maintaining their emotional and mental well-being.

Surveys show that as many as one-third of recently retired seniors express difficulty in being able to adjust to the social vacancies caused by leaving their jobs.

A 2012 study from the University of Alberta (available here in PDF form) also reveals that participating in the workforce provides a source of identity and meaning, especially for individuals whose careers were in highly skilled professions or management.

The researchers found that it was common for the retirees in the study to feel an initial rush of relief after leaving the workforce, followed gradually by much more negative feelings about losing such a significant part of the structure of their lives.

Almost all jobs provide a basis of engagement in society, and when retirees stop working, especially if they've been doing it for most of their lives, the social benefits can be very difficult to replace.

Ask someone who's about to leave the workforce what he or she is most looking forward to about retiring, and "spending more time with family and friends" will almost always be near the top of the list.

As it turns out, that's a very good thing to make a priority.

Whether a senior family member has been retired for ten days or ten years, getting the right social support in place is critical for filling the void.

Getting senior family members connected to the internet can be very helpful for providing this support. Social media and e-mail can help them interact daily with their loved ones, and can also enable them to connect with other local seniors who share their interests.

Keeping active and engaged is essential to a healthy retirement, and thanks to the wealth of new opportunities being online opens up, it's much easier for seniors to live on their own and still get the social time they need.