You wait and save and plan for retirement your entire life, it seems. And then, what?
Retirees often find themselves, quite suddenly, with more free time on their hands than they’ve made a plan for. Here are some of the most rewarding, productive or stimulating ways for retirees to spend their time.
1. Get fit
Physical conditioning after 50 is an investment in yourself. Building muscle strength can boost energy levels, help protect you from fractures and allow you to bounce back when ill. It has been found to support sleep, elevate mood and reduce stress and anxiety.
Fitness even can help shore up your finances, shielding you from costly health problems like high blood pressure, cancer, stroke and depression. Walk in the neighborhood, learn to play pickleball or train for a half-marathon. Whatever sounds good to you.
2. Learn all you want, for free
After decades of life lessons, often in the school of hard knocks, many older people are eager to return to school — to learn for the sake of learning or to earn either another college degree or the degree they didn’t get long ago.
Seniors enjoy discounts on many goods and services, and that tradition extends to higher education, where some colleges and universities offer free access to classes for retirement-aged students where space permits.
You may be able to audit classes (sit in on a class without earning credits) in person or online, or possibly work toward a degree, tuition-free.
3. Single? Start dating again
Many seniors are happy with the single life. But, if that’s not you, retirement offers a chance to make a fresh start.
Finding love online may seem impersonal to a senior. But it’s second nature to a child, grandchild or younger friend who may have valuable experience to share on what to expect, how to get started and how to stay safe and avoid scammers.
4. Find part-time work
Retirement-age people increasingly either stay at their jobs or seek a new sort of work after retiring from longtime careers.
The median — or midpoint — age of the American workforce is rising, the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds. It jumped from 39 (in 1999) to 41.5 (in 2009) to 41.9 (in 2019). The BLS expects it to keep rising, to 42.6 by 2029.
5. Follow your passions, finally
Retirement offers a delicious reality: You now can pursue things you’ve dreamed of doing but had to put off to earn a living.
Hobbies, for instance, add longevity and quality to life. Maybe you’ll spend the day learning to paint, gardening, reading or golfing with pals. You may want to start knitting, playing bridge, cooking, baking or learning to sail.
6. Help others
You’ve spent decades acquiring skills and experience that can add great value to the lives of others. Share that hard-earned expertise. If you are ready, your help is needed somewhere.
Pick up a hammer and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Put your business experience to work helping up-and-coming entrepreneurs through SCORE, a mentoring program offered free of charge through volunteers in conjunction with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Or, find a local chapter of Rotary International, a global fellowship of business, professional and community leaders working to improve communities in the U.S. and abroad. Look for ways to help at your synagogue, church or mosque; schools; food banks; homeless shelters; libraries; or the Humane Society. AmeriCorps Seniors matches volunteers over age 55 with people and organizations in need of help.
7. Get marriage counseling
The divorce rate has risen among seniors, and the challenge of retirement can be a factor. If you expect to go the distance with your partner, engaging a good marriage counselor to help you through the retirement transition can be a valuable investment.
Retirement demands communication skills. Use this moment to become a great listener, to get to know yourself better and to renegotiate with your newly available spouse about how you will share life in this new phase.
8. Get a divorce
Is divorce one of the best things you can do in retirement? Perhaps you have been miserable for decades while hanging on until the kids were grown. If you have tried but failed to make the marriage work, divorce may ultimately be a rewarding decision.
But it is likely to be a difficult one. The decision requires thoughtful exploration. Divorce can be financially damaging, especially for seniors, who can’t rely on a growing career to help them bounce back. Take into account that your overhead costs will increase when you’re living alone.
9. Hop on a bike
Remember the wild and free feeling of pedaling a bike as a kid? Revive that experience. Growing networks of bicycle trails around the U.S. make bike riding a delicious prospect.
For inspiration, visit the site Curbed, which documents 12 great bike rides around the country and 10 bike-friendly cities. A visionary 3,700-mile bike trail — the Great American Rail-Trail — planned to cross the nation through 12 states from coast to coast, already is more than half-complete.
Electric bikes have become wildly popular during the pandemic, and seniors are hopping on. “The bikes draw power from a battery and motor to make pedaling significantly easier,” The New York Times explains.
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