Retirement's emotional rollercoaster

Updated: 10 Jun 2024

While retirement should be a time to enjoy life, research revealed today paints a slightly different picture, with over a third of retirees reporting a rollercoaster of emotions.

The independent study*, commissioned by the Oddfellows – one of the UK’s largest and oldest friendly societies – showed how 39% of retirees have had to work through negative feelings such as loneliness, boredom and a reduced sense of identity and purpose.

Bored within the first year

Of those who felt bored, 66% said this happened within the first year, and a third (34%) in just three months. They also claimed their boredom was due to having too much time on their hands (64%), having a lack of motivation or purpose (61%) and that they struggled with a lack of daily routine (50%).

Headshot of Jane Nelson CEO of the OddfellowsJane Nelson, CEO of the Oddfellows, a non-profit which helps older adults forge new friendships and supports almost 40,000 members nationally at its branches, said: “What’s surprising here is the speed in which retirees have said that they’ve became bored or unmotivated, especially this early on after finishing work. You don’t expect that.

“From the get-go, retirement should afford you more time to focus on yourself and what you enjoy. But this time needs to have structure and purpose, or it can become problematic.

“We’ve seen this with new members to our friendship groups, how they’ve found the early stages of retirement tricky to navigate as former routines fall away, and their everyday contact with people outside of the home drops.

“While most people plan financially, they may not factor in ensuring that their emotional and social needs are kept stimulated after leaving work. The impact of this can’t be underestimated.”

Jane added: “As this study shows, if left unchecked, the result is often boredom which can lead to individuals feeling lonely and isolated – feelings which can have more serious physical and mental health implications.”

Plan for shifts in social needs

The survey of 1,800 UK adults aged over 55 suggests an underestimation of the impact being the boss of your own free time can have on your social and emotional health. While a third (37%) of respondents budgeted for retirement, 17% of those surveyed haven’t prepared for retirement at all, and just 19% thought about the needs of their social life in retirement.

Reassuringly, two thirds (66%) of retirees stated that retirement had met their expectations and that they were happy and fulfilled.

Following the findings, the Oddfellows is urging retirees to expect shifts in emotional and social needs and to keep boredom at bay by staying open to new opportunities – whether that’s through exploring new friendships, local community activities, or even through finding fresh avenues for creativity.

Stay open to opportunity

For inspiration, they’ve enlisted the help of social media sensations Joan and Jimmy O’Shaughnessy. Aged 70 and 71 respectively, the couple – better known as ‘twojays2’ on TikTok – have amassed more than 4 million followers thanks to their passion for dance.

Joan and Jimmy O Shaughnessy sat together on a bench in a park. They are both smilingInspirational retirees, dancing duo and social media sensations – twojays2 – Joan and Jimmy O'Shaughnessy

Joan, who lives in Southport, near Liverpool, keeps busy making and editing videos of the couple’s dance routines for social media. She said: “It’s easy to see retirement as a target to work towards. You work all your life until you reach this magic number and then you just take it easy and slow down.

“But for us it has always been a time for opportunity, to try new things and focus on enjoyment rather than work. We never guessed that we would be doing this, but we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t continued to challenge ourselves!”’s never too late to try something new. Jimmy O'Shaughnessy

Jimmy, a former engineer, was spurred on to enjoy an early retirement because his own father died when he was 52. He added: “The important thing to remember is that your retirement can be whatever you want it to be – it’s never too late to try something new.

“I do believe putting time and thought into it makes it easier – but it’s never too late, it’s about seizing opportunities and making the most of them.”

The Oddfellows offers its members opportunities to stay social and supported in retirement, as well as chances to volunteer. Each month, its branches hold around 700 events, in-person and online, from walks, talks and coffee mornings to lunch excursions and crafting.

Build new daily routines

Jane added that building a new daily routine in and outside of the home, staying open to new opportunities and looking at ways to be involved in your local community will help people’s retirements feel purposeful.

She said: “Joan and Jimmy are a fabulous reminder that retirement never has to be dull. We aren’t saying that everyone needs to become TikTok stars, but by staying open to opportunities – whether that’s trying a new activity or meeting different people – retirees can definitely reduce the chances of boredom from setting in.

“People deserve great retirements. They’ve earned it.”

Three Oddfellows members stood in a group smiling. They are off on a walk in a park
The Oddfellows offers its members opportunities to stay social and supported in retirement, as well as chances to volunteer.

Oddfellows friendship groups

We're always ready to welcome new members to our local Oddfellows friendship groups. You can find your nearest by using our Branch Finder, or use our Events Finder to search for social events and activities happening near to where you live.

Give the Oddfellows a try. There's no obligation to join. Contact us to request your free information pack and local events diary.

Read advice on how to get most out of your social life in retirement in our friendship guides section.

*Online research was conducted on behalf of the Oddfellows by OnePoll between 26 April to 1 May 2024, with 1,800 adults aged 55+ in the UK surveyed. 938 of respondents were retired. Full results are available on request.