Hull Veterans Support Centre

Looking After Yourself in Retirement

When we work in the Armed Forces, we’re looked after by our superiors and our squad mates.

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When we take retirement, or are forced into it, the social and professional network that we’ve grown accustomed to over the period of our employment is taken away from us.

From living a structured, regimented life where our human needs are met on a daily basis, veterans can often be jettisoned out into a world which requires them to act with a lot more autonomy. We’re all capable, of course, of looking after ourselves – after all many of us spend our working lives in foreign lands, often with the responsibility of caring for our fellow troops as well as ourselves.

That being said, when we leave the Forces, it can be hard to adjust to independent life. If you’re struggling with looking after yourself post-retirement or you’re about to take the first steps into civilian life, have a look at these pointers to give you a head start:

Staying social

One of the hardest parts of leaving the Forces is the sudden lack of social engagement. We’re so used to being surrounded by our squad mates during our work life – on the field, in the barracks or the mess tent. When we retire, life by ourselves can feel quiet or even lonely in comparison. Those of us who are lucky enough to return to a family upon retirement might still struggle with readjusting to the new social rules that we are required to follow.

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What you can do about it: Being socially active in today’s age has never been easier. The internet has allowed us to reach out to millions of other people, this includes the hundreds of thousands that are going through a similar thing. Use social networks to find like-minded people or simply research where your closest Veteran’s centre is.

Staying on top of your health

Working in the military is a physically demanding job, one where we can pick up more than our fair share of knocks and injuries. Whether it’s an old wound picked up on the battlefield or even a more serious condition that might have gone undetected for years, it’s imperative that you stay on top of your health issue once you leave the Forces. No more routine health and fitness checks means that you could miss an important diagnosis.

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What you can do about it: Make the most of the NHS, if you can’t get the answers you need from them, then you might be able to get the funding to go private. Although you might have to travel further afield you can still get a CT Scan in Manchester or an MRI Scan in Liverpool for a relatively small sum.

Being mindful of alcohol

There’s a common misconception that men and women in the military struggle with alcohol dependence much more than people in other professions. Although this kind of judgement does not do the reputation of military men any favours, it may still have a grain of truth to it. The Army and Navy are social institutions that are ruled similarly by intense drinking rituals. When on leave, men and women can consume vast amounts, something that they cannot do when on base.

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What you can do about it: When rejoining civilian life, be wary of how much alcohol you consume. Drinking with civilians will be a slightly different experience than to drinking with your old colleagues, take your time and pace yourself.

Eating well

Once you leave the Forces there’s no going back. That means no more sharing bunks, no more communal showers but, most importantly, no more free meals! It’s quite common for veterans to put on weight after retiring. We get used to eating vast quantities during our time at work, which we need to keep us fuelled throughout our intensive work days. However, if we continue to eat that much through our retirement, we soon find that we put the pounds on.

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What you can do about it: Watch your weight and reduce your calorie intake in relation to how active your lifestyle is. If you want to continue eating as much as you did before, you’ll want to make sure that you join a gym and exercise as if you were back on base!

Staying active

The most important thing to remember when taking retirement is that your post-military life will be a great deal more sedentary than what you’ve grown accustomed to. Even if you fall into a job that requires you to stay on your feet, you’ll never be pushing yourself to the same extent that you were in the past. Exercise is a key part of mental well being, the pheromones and chemicals that are released into the body when we exercise help our mood and increase our libido.

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What you can do about it: Exercising can be as simple as going for a walk or a light jog. Gym memberships can come very cheap these days, with budget gyms costing as little as £16.99 a month. Amateur sports clubs are always looking for new members, take a look online to find ones in your area.

Making the transition from military service to civilian life is difficult, ease yourself in and find something to focus on.