03/15/2015 07:50 EDT | Updated 05/15/2015 05:59 EDT

Healthy retirement requires prep work, says expert

Retirement can seem more like a daunting ordeal than "Freedom 55" for some people, especially if it wasn't planned.

It can feel like a loss in routine and sense of identity, and when illness suddenly comes into the equation, retirement can feel more like a punishment than a blessing.

But this major life change doesn't have to be  an ordeal if you're psychologically prepared says longevity columnist Sharon Basaraba.

"If you've got a mostly positive view of aging, that's going to go a long way," she told North By Northwest's Sheryl MacKay. "You'll see retirement as an opportunity to pursue interests and spend more time with friends and family."

Here are some of Basaraba's suggestions on how to prepare yourself for a healthy post-work life. 

Do your research

A few years or months before you plan to retire, take a course or attend a conference to see what may interest you once you've stopped working.

"Take a look back at what you liked to do when you were younger for clues about what you chose to do before you needed to make money doing it," Basaraba said.

"Was it sports-related, was it musical? What you're looking for is clues about aspects to activities that you loved that you might be able to incorporate into this next phase."

Wean yourself off your full-time job

Adults who retire, but maintain some kind of part-time work or are very active in the community are usually more satisfied with aging, said Basabara.

"Phasing yourself out of the workplace more gradually can help give you time to adjust, investigate some new hobbies or interests," she said.

"You can do that by, say, working part-time in your existing workplace, doing consulting work in your area of expertise or taking some other employment altogether."

Diversify your personal portfolio

"Have a number of activities to juggle — anything from areas of travel or hobbies, continuing education, exercise, mentoring, volunteer work," said Basabara.

"That way, say something gets railroaded by illness … you've still laid the groundwork for other satisfying ways to spend your time and actually keep yourself engaged."

To hear the full interview with Basabara, click on the audio labelled: Tips to ease yourself into a happy and healthy retirement