COPE CopeLine Supervisor

June 2019

Your Wellness & Work-Life Newsletter

Wrapping Your Brain Around Retirement

The concept of retirement as we understand it today is a relatively novel concept: a product of the last 130 years. It runs parallel with industrial development, the greater separation of home and formal work, and the emergence of Social Security, pensions, 401ks and other social policies designed to support a "jobless" retirement. For better or worse, it is a concept that has become a culturally accepted stage of life.

Many of the factors that created the retirement phase are now under pressure and are being reexamined. We live longer. Employees want or may need to continue working. Others are ready for a new chapter but are concerned about how to plan for it. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, employees of all ages share three overriding concerns when thinking about retirement, according to MIT's Age Lab: the ability to finance their future, good health and social connections.

As you contemplate your retirement, consider the factors discussed below that may influence or even impede your decision-making. If you have questions about these topics, send an email to

People Who Need People

Genes account for just 25% of your longevity; the other 75% is lifestyle, according to a 2010 report in the The Journal of Health and Social Behavior. And as the chart to the left demonstrates, avoiding loneliness is one of the most important factors in maintaining good health and quality of life.

Recognizing loneliness isn't as easy as you might think. "We assume that an 80-year-old woman living by herself in an apartment must be lonely, yet she may have plenty of positive social interaction with others outside the home," says Marcia Ory Ph.D., M.P.H., and director of the Active for Life program at Texas A&M University. "At the same time, we think that a 70-year-old man living with his son's family cannot be lonely, yet he spends all day in front of the TV set and shuns all social activities."

Build Your Own Blue Zone

Casual and daily social interactions are one of the strongest predictors of how long you will live. In 2008, Dan Buettner published a best-selling book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest. It looked at places like Sardinia, Italy, where many clusters of people interact with others daily and live well into their 90s and beyond. Unlike Sardinians, we tend to live our daily lives without a similar beneficial level of social integration. Our immediate family members and childhood friends are often a plane-trip away. The number of people we engage with in person each day continues to drop as our reliance on smartphones climbs. We rarely know the grocer, postman or barista by name. Especially the younger generations among us may be more isolated than we realize.

Why does in-person versus online interaction matter? According to Susan Pinker, a psychologist, author and speaker at TEDTalks in 2017, "Face-to-face contact releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters, and like a vaccine, they protect you now in the present and well into the future." Simply making eye contact with someone or shaking hands is enough to release oxytocin which increases your degree of trust and lowers your cortisol levels, the primary stress hormone. When it comes to a long life, social media can't replace the real thing.

For insight into the science behind these findings, check-out Dr. Pinker's presentation beginning at the 10 minute mark.

Don't Let Money Issues Highjack Your Thinking

According to the APA's annual Stress in America survey, money is the top source of stress for adults. But you probably already knew that. What you may not know is that because we develop our beliefs and attitudes about money early in life, we tend to be less aware of their origins and by extension, how they affect us and our relationships with others. A better understanding of those underlying feelings can help set goals and mitigate stress.

Begin by acknowledging circumstances which may influence your relationship with money:
•By nature or experience, people tend to be spenders or savers. Unhealthy spending to fulfill unconscious needs can lead to debt and more stress; conversely, obsessive saving can lead to a life of self-deprivation.
•Money is central to our sense of security and life satisfaction. Is it your most important measure of success, or are other factors equally crucial?
•Many avoid addressing their finances. Do you have an overall financial plan to achieve your life goals? Are you addressing that plan, or ignoring it and hoping it will just resolve itself?
•People tolerate different levels and types of financial risk

Next, examine your personal relationship to money. Consider questions such as:
•Who influenced your ideas about money?
•Have you ever lost a friend over money?
• Is money a source of conflict with your spouse or partner?
•Do you feel money-safe or money-insecure?

Finally, if you believe you have some unresolved issues related to money, get assistance:
Examining your history with money is a good start. But money habits and attitudes don't change overnight. It takes not only a willingness to think about money but a concentrated effort to change behavior. If you'd like to work with a counselor or identify resources for your financial questions, contact

Cope Incorporated