Americans have a reputation for being defined by their careers. Despite planning, saving and looking forward to retirement, many people are unprepared for a peculiar side effect of leaving the workplace: your identity may suddenly seem to evaporate. So how do you fill those freed up hours?
For most people, retirement as endless vacation is not enough, says Jenny Gallagher, a life integration specialist in Sarasota, Florida. To decide what you really want to do, Gallagher suggests thinking back to when you were a kid. “If you liked playing with dirt, you’re probably an outdoorsy person,” she says. Gardening or camping might appeal to you. Gallagher also emphasizes the importance of activities that give retirees at least a little structure, motivating them to get dressed, leave the house and interact with others.
Hobbies are good for your cognitive skills, self-esteem and confidence. Researchers at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, found that cognitively demanding activity helps retirees stave off depression.
Possibilities are endless, but here are a few ideas.
Depending on your interests and fitness level, playing outside could do you good. Take a hike. Paddle a canoe. If you’re single or if your partner enjoys different activities, joining an active outdoor group could be especially beneficial. See if there’s a hiking club or rock hound group in your area.
Deedee Bondurant of Moneta, Virginia, wanted company on her Jet Ski outings. So in 2001, she founded a women’s jet skiing group called the She Doos. If your town lacks a group focusing on your outdoor interest, maybe it’s time to start one. Senior bungee club, anyone?
Stressful careers can fray your nerves. You might need to relax more now. Yoga has become a popular, mainstream activity for all ages and fitness levels. Depending on your physical strengths and limitations, you can join a vigorous power yoga class, opt for gentle chair yoga or anything in between.
Tai chi also appeals to many seniors with its graceful, low-impact movements and emphasis on serenity. Both yoga and tai chi are excellent for improving balance, which can decrease your fall risk as you age.
Many folks look forward to retirement as a time when they can finally see the world—or at least a little more of it. Depending on your budget, this could mean around-the-world cruises, around-the-country RV trips, or maybe just a few weekends away. “Travel expands your horizons and shows you what is possible,” says Nancy Mueller, an expert in travel for mature women and author of the blog WanderBoomer. “It helps you reinvent yourself.”
Retirees may enjoy volunteering their time, whether that means sharing your business skills with young entrepreneurs or trying something entirely new. If you spent your work life in an office, maybe you’d like to learn building skills with Habitat for Humanity. Culture enthusiasts can usher for plays or lead museum tours. Many retirees now join the Peace Corps. “Usually when you’re volunteering, you see things that make you realize how fortunate you are,” says Gallagher.
Link to study:
Places to Connect:
• Local Parks & Recreation
• Active Lifestyles Centers (Newport News)
• Fun Tours Bus Trips (Virginia Beach)
• Virginia ranks 10th for best states to retire
• 10,000 turn 65 each day
• Travel is the top activity of retirees