During the retirement phase of the family life cycle, many changes occur in your life. Welcoming new family members or seeing others leave your family is often a large part of this stage as your children marry or divorce or you become a grandparent.
This stage can be a great adventure where you are free from the responsibilities of raising your children and can simply enjoy the fruits of your life's work. Challenges you may face include being a support to other family members, even as you are still exploring your own interests and activities or focusing on maintaining your relationship. Many people are caring for elderly parents at this time. You may feel challenged by their emotional, financial, and physical needs while trying to help them keep their independence.
You may experience declining physical and mental abilities or changes in your financial or social status. Sometimes you must deal with the death of other family members, including your partner. The quality of your life, in part, depends on how well you adjusted to the changes in earlier stages. It often also depends on how well you have cared for your own health up to this point. Normal aging will affect your body, resulting in wrinkles, aches, pains, and loss of bone density. The chances of having a mental or chronic physical illness increases with age. But aging does not mean you will automatically experience poor health.
Retirement can be a fulfilling and happy time. Becoming a grandparent can bring you great joy without the responsibility of raising a child. But those who are without adequate support systems or not well off financially may have a more difficult time in this phase of life.
Specific goals to reach for at this final stage of your family life cycle include:
- Maintaining your own interests and physical functioning, along with those of your partner, as your body ages.
- Exploring new family and social roles.
- Providing emotional support for your adult children and extended family members.
- Making room in the family system for the wisdom and experience of older adults.
- Providing support for the older generation without doing too much for them.
- Dealing with the loss of a partner, siblings, and other peers, and preparing for your own death.
- Reviewing your life and reflecting on all you have learned and experienced during your life cycle.