Before Diane Lipinski retired in 1996, she dreamed of long days on the beach with a good book in hand and a warm sun overhead. “When I was younger, I’d pack a chair in my car and drive 35 miles to the beach to meditate. I loved sitting there, just writing, reading and listening to the waves.” But today, with lapping waters only steps away, the former accountant spends most days inside, watching the world pass by through the glass doors of her Miami condo.
“I’m having a real difficult time right now,” says Lipinski, who was first diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, in 2001. “I’ve been here a year, but I don’t know anyone yet, and I don’t have any family here. I know I need to meet some people, but I guess I just don’t integrate too well.”
To be fair, it might help if the 58-year-old ventured out into the sun once in awhile. “I’m ashamed to say, but I go out only once, maybe twice a week, and only if it’s a necessity,” she says. Like many adults with ADHD, Lipinski says she never quite fit in socially, and since retiring on disability, she has often felt isolated and depressed. Still, her relatively quiet social life “is a blessing,” she says.
“I thank God every day that I don’t have to get out there and go anywhere. I don’t have to answer to anybody.”
Nationwide, Lipinski is not alone; for the first time in the history of the disorder’s diagnosis, people with ADHD are retiring. And while many of these individuals find life after work to be everything they’d dreamed of, many more—like Lipinski—manage to get lost in retirement’s great expanse of unstructured time.
According to Kathleen Nadeau, a clinical psychologist and the director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland, retirement poses unique challenges for people with ADHD. “Planning and organizing, being consistent and being aware of time, developing patterns and routines—all of these things are very difficult for people with ADHD. None of these things comes naturally to them,” she says. “And in retirement, people have to provide all the structure in their lives.”
Many times, though, retirees with ADHD lose control, says Nadeau. They stay up late, sleep late, skip meals and slouch on hygiene. “They sort of float through life,” she says. “And a lot of women also go into hiding. They just don’t want to be criticized anymore for not fitting society’s mold.”
Though commonly associated with children, ADHD also affects some 8 million adults—4 percent of the American population over the age of 18—according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Ten years ago, the medical community believed that children with ADHD would eventually outgrow their disorder. But today, that consensus has changed, says Nadeau. “There’s an increasing acknowledgement now that you rarely outgrow it,” she says. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a lifelong condition.”
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