Leaving work behind can be exciting and challenging in equal measure.
Perhaps you’ve anticipated what to do in retirement for years, but when the time finally arrives, you’re unsure how to use all the extra hours.
You’re not alone. Many people making the switch to a life of leisure find the process difficult.
So in this article, we’ll see how to make retirement as enjoyable as possible.
But first, let’s look at three typical later life struggles and why it’s essential to have a plan in place.
Unless you’re self-employed, many careers are spent satisfying the expectations of companies and organisations.
Fulfilling our work obligations is part and parcel of performance and doing a good job. Upon retiring, such 9-5 guidance disappears, however, and we’re suddenly promoted to CEO, free to determine our own timetable.
While this is a dream for most, the abrupt transition can constitute a real culture shock. It’s important not to feel guilty in adjusting to this new routine.
Strong work ethic is bred into us at a young age, and once careers are removed, it’s easy to feel like we’re lazy and not doing enough.
Know that retirement is a time for enjoyment, and experimenting with life in new and novel ways.
Having waved goodbye to children who’ve embarked on their own careers, many retirees may only see family irregularly, especially if they don’t live nearby.
While in many ways this can be liberating, the feeling of caring for loved ones also fosters a profound sense of purpose.
Such feelings may be compounded in cases of bereavement or divorce.
This energy may have to be invested in other areas of life. Maintaining strong social bonds and local connections can help provide a renewed sense of contribution.
Perhaps the biggest shock upon leaving the working world is just how many hours there are to fill. Time that was once consumed by meetings, projects and conferences is now fair game.
Such freedom can easily feed into a feeling of ennui. After all, listlessness develops when the days stretch long with no plan of action in place.
Indeed, loneliness and depression are common issues faced by many later lifers, especially as they adjust to their new reality.
This is completely normal and can affect even the most sociable and outgoing among us. As with any big life change, it takes time to adjust.
Addressing such issues through activities and events is essential, which we’ll cover now.
There are many activities and hobbies that help to alleviate any social withdrawal you may be feeling from work. Here are six core areas you can focus on:
Perhaps the most important thing we can do for our happiness at any age is socialising.
Indeed, the longest psychological study into happiness, started by Harvard University in 1938 to track the lives of its participants, demonstrated the importance of social connections in happiness and wellbeing.
“Our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships, with family, with friends, with community,” says Robert Waldinger, director of the study. Check out his TED talk below:
There are many opportunities for interacting with fellow retirees. From coffee mornings to meet and greets, Mirthy has been created to bridge the gap between those seeking social connection and community contribution.
If you’re stuck wondering what to do in retirement, the best approach is often to think outside yourself.
There are a plethora of good causes crying out for help.
While many roles are likely to be unpaid, the benefit you’ll experience from contributing to a cause close to your heart cannot be underestimated.
Indeed, feel free to reach out to us at Mirthy. We may have volunteer opportunities or be able to recommend suitable organisations.
Similar to volunteering, teaching provides its own unique set of rewards. After all, imparting your knowledge is inherently satisfying.
If you’re experienced in a particular field of study, professional domain or personal hobby, you can put your skills to good use instructing others.
This could be in a group environment or mentoring one-on-one.
You can work with any age group, perhaps helping as a teaching assistant for children or tutoring older adults.
Whereas you’re likely skilled in many areas, retirement also presents the opportunity to explore new avenues of interest.
And in case you’re worried, rather than losing our ability to learn as we age, studies suggest that, through the process of neuroplasticity, our brains are receptive to acquiring new knowledge and skills at any age.
By remaining curious and sustaining learning habits in later life, not only can we gain interesting new skills, but also maintain our mental health.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to create poetry, write that novel and paint landscapes.
Having extra time to pursue such endeavours and practice your craft is possible in retirement.
The creative urge doesn’t diminish with age and the intrinsic reward of self-expression trumps artistic ability.
You can create simply for its own sake or as a way to provide gifts for friends and family.
The arts and crafts community is going strong and there are plenty of classes to teach you the skills and materials required for any area of interest.
Rather than a mere 28 days of holiday a year, you can now dedicate as much time as you like to travelling and seeing new places, resources permitting.
Let’s face it. Reaching exotic, far-flung locations has never been easier.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to experience the wonders of the world, like the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu or the Great Barrier Reef.
Such trips liberate your inner explorer, forcing you to adapt to an entirely new culture and language.
I know, I know…you’re retired, so why would you want to resume work?
The fact is, many later lifers retire from stressful, demanding full-time jobs. However, that’s not to say that working itself isn’t enjoyable.
Choosing a job on your own terms is often a wonderful way to pursue something more enjoyable or wind down from a stressful career.
Many retirees choose part-time positions with inbuilt flexibility, working in areas of personal interest.
Retirement also provides the opportunity to embark on your own business or side hustle, free from the pressure of financial return.
Although some retirees might not have dependents nearby, many choose to relocate to be closer to their children, especially when grandchildren are involved.
As a recent retiree, don’t be surprised if you’re called upon for babysitting duty!
This can be a big change, and often involves downsizing or perhaps investing in a retirement home.
However, being present for family events more than compensates and brings much joy to many older adults.
Whereas previously you might not have invested in your health and wellbeing while juggling career and family responsibilities, retirement provides the perfect opportunity.
Such activities are especially important to maintain your physical and mental health and prevent the onset of many later life health conditions.
Luckily, getting healthy is achievable at any age.
Joining exercise classes or starting regular meditation will help to safeguard your physical and emotional health, keeping you fighting fit well into your golden years.
Hopefully, that little list has sparked some ideas for what to do in retirement. However, it’s also beneficial to seek support closer to home.
Confer with your partner, spouse or friends to either talk through your retirement or prepare for the transition, along with any concerns or feelings you have.
Reaching out to those with comparable experience is helpful and with their assistance, you can create a plan to address any areas of difficulty.
Take a pen and paper and write down a list of things you can do to re-engage with life. At first, this might simply centre around existing hobbies or vague interests.
Try not to censor yourself. When you have a group of ideas, you can search locally to see what’s on offer.
Research shows that the more active and social we can remain in retirement, the better our mental and physical wellbeing.
So at first, simply fill your schedule with events and activities using some of the suggestions above.
Many later lifers may find it hard to engage in life, especially when transitioning to retirement.
While it’s always advisable to consult with a health professional amidst deeper underlying issues, focusing on the essentials can help significantly.
At Mirthy, we’re determined to connect older adults, providing a forum for skill sharing, knowledge exchange and entertainment.
We achieve this by organising a variety of events and activities, focusing mainly on speakers and local talks.
If you’d like to get involved or have any suggestions, please reach out to us here.