Purpose Adds Life to Retirement

Let’s be real, we tend to ‘want’ to live more when we have a purpose to do so. You need reasons to want to wake up when you retire, reasons to get out of bed.  Researchers from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, and the University of Rochester in New York, tracked the physical and mental health of more than 7,000 American adults ages 20 to 75 for 14 years, and found that those who felt they had a purpose or direction in life outlived those who did not. Being grateful for life will keep you living longer, healthier and happier. E. Christine Moll, PhD, a professor in the department of counseling and human services at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, and member of the American Counseling Association says having an attitude of gratitude is key, “Be grateful for what you’ve done and where you’ve been, and look forward to more of the same.

saDon’t stagnate! There are so many things to do. I will give you 10 to get you thinking. A no brainer is Join a gym. A survey by Norwegian researchers published in 2011 in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that exercising at any level is associated with better physical and mental health, especially for older men and women. “If you’re confined to a wheelchair, you can still move your arms or even your eyebrows — that’s like doing exercise,” Moll says. Meet people who have similar interests. You can make dates with your gym buddies and have something ‘new’ to look forward to.

What did you enjoy before you retired? Your hobbies? Do more of what interests you. There’s no reason to stop now, Moll says. You may need to alter your hobbies to fit your physical abilities, but you can and should still do the things you enjoy most. “Adapt what you love to fit what you’re able to do today,” she says. Find new interests too. Retirement doesn’t mean you retire from life, says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, a Chicago area psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. “This is an opportunity to try something new — maybe learn a new language or travel somewhere you’ve never been,” she says. Redirect your purpose once you retire to redefine how you spend your time.

There are so, so many. Become Politically Active. You have time to attend city council meetings and share their wisdom and their experience. Consider working on the campaigns of candidates whose views you admire. If you’re unable to go to campaign headquarters, you can volunteer to make phone calls from home. A number of colleges and universities, including Ivy League schools, allow seniors to audit courses at no charge. Learn something you have always wanted to know or know more about. If you’re homebound, you can take courses online. Opportunities to give back and volunteer are almost limitless. The local food pantry or library could likely use your help, and so could area hospitals and nursing homes. Volunteering will get you out and with people of all generations, Kennedy says, and having to be somewhere to do something regularly will keep you feeling needed.

yy.pngEnjoy your local culture. Keeping active intellectually is as important as keeping active physically, Kennedy says. Plan trips to local art galleries, museums, and science centers to learn new things and see what you can recall. Play games. Play whatever you find fun. Find others, neighbors or members of your church or senior center who are interested in what you are interested in. Meet regularly to play. Can’t get together? Play chess or other games online. Play basketball, if you want. Never say never. Ha! Offer your professional skills. Become an emeritus. If you were an accountant before retirement, you might volunteer your services at tax time to help other seniors. If you were a teacher, consider reading to, or recording books for, the visually impaired. You get the idea. Do you enjoy children? You can babysit and help local families with childcare needs. It might even bring in a little extra cash.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while. Remember, like anything new, retirement can take a while to hit your stride, find your ‘thing(s)’. As I said, the ideas are many! ENJOY your retirement. After all… it is for the rest of your life.


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