It happens sometimes. After forty years in the workplace the long-awaited retirement ceremony arrives. Co-workers and friends pat you on the back saying “Well done, now you can do all those things you’ve dreamed of doing.” You’ll travel, never set an alarm clock again and life will be a dream. Except it isn’t. You find that retired life is a bit lonely, you can’t afford to do the luxurious things you dreamed of and at the bottom of the mixture of feelings you’re experiencing is a lack of purpose.
You’re not the first person to experience these thoughts and feelings. If you’ve worked hard for many years it can be a difficult adjustment when your schedule is wide open—it’s a major life change. While the freedom is appreciated, the way to use all that free time may not automatically fall into place. Some people go back to work and find they’re happier for it. Others find a part-time job to fill some of the hours and bring in a little extra income. However if you want to embrace retirement but just need a few ideas to make it a richer and more vital experience, here are a few tips to point you in the right direction.
After many years as an elementary school teacher, one sixty-seven year old
grandma decided to go back to college and earn a Bachelor’s Degree. She
began teaching in the days when credentials weren’t necessary and she said
she “wanted to finally earn the money she was worth.” It’s never too late to
learn something new. You may not be interested in a college degree, but how
about a cooking class, or a foreign language, or a class on writing your life
Find a Purpose
What matters to you? Do you have a heart for children? Perhaps you’d like to
volunteer in a school classroom or an after-school program. Do you love to
interact with the elderly? There are countless assisted living homes with seniors
who would love to have a visitor. Would you like to become involved with
programs to help the poor overseas? Get online and see how you can become
involved. Or maybe you have an area of expertise such as financial advising or
estate planning that you can share with others. We all need to know
that we’re here for more than just our own pleasure—we want to leave a legacy.
Sharing a skill or donating your time is a great place to start.
Take up a new hobby
It may be cliché, but learning to do something new is a great way to use the
time we have in our retirement years. Take up a sport, join a book club, study
a topic of interest, try a new skill. All of those long years when you worked
forty hours a week or more you wished you had time for…..what? Well, now
there is time so get busy and figure out the things you’d really like to try. If
you find you don’t enjoy one activity, go on the next. Take this interest inventory
if you want to jump-start your brainstorming.
If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Most of us don’t want to run marathons, but
we all know we’ll feel better and be healthier if we have at least one physically
challenging activity in our schedules. Join a health club, find a senior dance group,
take yoga—just get moving. Read this article on the kinds of activities seniors
can choose to maintain peak physical health.
Learn to Relax
Do you ever ponder the pace of today’s lifestyle? Imagine what the people a
hundred years ago would have thought if we’d put them into a car, fastened their
seatbelts and drove them onto a freeway? Our bodies and minds are moving at
speeds never before experienced by human beings. We must find ways to slow
down and relax in the middle of our busy worlds. You know the activities that
work to reduce your stress. Now that you have time, be sure to include relaxing
activities into your days. Read a book, garden, take a hot bath, go for a walk
or whatever helps you to ease the knots in your shoulder muscles.
When you retire from a long-term workplace you leave behind many friendships.
Although you may intend to keep up with the people you’ve enjoyed all those
years, the chances are those relationships will weaken over time. You won’t have
a natural opportunity to see them and without real effort to meet outside of the
workplace it won’t happen. What to do? Make some new friends! There
will be those important friendships that last a lifetime, but we all need some more
casual friendships too. Keep your eyes open for people with whom you “click”
and don’t be shy about suggesting a coffee date or a walk together. Interactions
with others add a spark to an otherwise routine day, so go ahead and reach out to
Life is good at any age and retirement life can be rich and full. Do all you can to stay healthy and be sure you’re generous with both time and resources. Include some laughter in each day and treasure time with family and friends.