Retirement Advice

How to start living after you’ve stopped working

Retirement Advice: The farewell speeches have been made, the expensive watch has been presented, you have packed the personal effects from your desk into a cardboard box, and loaded it into the car. Perhaps you have even shed a tear or swallowed a lump in your throat and you think...now what? 

Maybe you have retired unexpectedly after being offered an early retirement package, or perhaps you are simply one of those people who have been too busy in your career to plan for what comes after. The truth is that unless you are open to new experiences and take some decisive action, you may end up spending too much of your retirement sitting on the couch in front of the television, or looking after your grandchildren, instead of pursuing the fun and fulfilling projects and pastimes you had dreamt about. 

Many finances are tight now that you are retired; but that need not hold you back from engaging in hobbies and interests that are both affordable and enjoyable. Here are some suggestions.

Give of yourself and your time

The one thing you have in abundance now that you are retired is time. And you can spend some of these riches of time in the service of others: Volunteers are welcomed with open arms by many charities, welfare organizations and activist groups. You could continue doing the work you used to do on a voluntary, pro bono basis, such as offering to do some secretarial work or bookkeeping at your church, or you could find a cause you really feel strongly about and immerse yourself in their activities. 

There are many rewards attached to volunteering – you may find being able to share the knowledge and skills that you have gained over a long career very fulfilling, you may enjoy being part of a large organization or a dedicated team, you will take pleasure in the social contact and job satisfaction.

Never stop learning

There are many inspiring tales of retirees who complete degrees, even doctorates, after their retirement. You certainly don’t have to go that far to experience the benefits of keeping an active and enquiring mind. Think back over your life: How often have you thought that some subject interests you and you would really like to study it, if only you had the time? Photography, cooking, psychology, art and music are all popular fields of study that can take your life in a completely new direction. 

Taking a course at your local adult learning centre need not cost very much at all, but you can also investigate studying over the internet or with a self-help guide. For example, you can take a distance learning course in creative writing, or you can learn to play the guitar by visiting Gerald Crawford's website.

Release your inner artist

Some believe that the arts can promote longevity; whether it does or not, it will certainly enrich your life to engage in some form of artistic expression, whether this is through writing poetry, composing or playing music or drawing, painting, sculpting or any other multimedia art form. You don’t even have to have great talent to feel the positive effects of unleashing your creativity and being able to express something of what is in your soul and communicating this to the outside world.

Get wired to the worldwide web

The personal computer and the internet have changed all of our lives forever. Technology has brought the big wide world right into our living rooms, and for the retired person there is no end to the activities and communities you can join online. In fact, you may even consider starting your own website or web-log, better known as a blog, which is easy and free through the services of a number of website and blog hosts. If you make your online space interesting and refresh it regularly, you could soon have a large following in cyberspace and connect with likeminded individuals from all over the world.

The great outdoors

Regularly spending some time in nature has many positive consequences: Fresh air and sunlight are obviously healthy, but there is sufficient evidence that natural surroundings also promote health and recovery from illness. Taking walks, whether brisk or gentle, will keep you fit and flexible, and doing some light gardening is also excellent exercise. If you don’t have access to a garden, you can simply take a book and some bottled water to a nearby park and spend an hour or two reading in beautiful natural surroundings.

Caring for the animals

A lot is known about the beneficial effects of human-animal interaction, especially for older people who may be more socially isolated when they live alone and are no longer in full-time employment. A cat or dog will provide companionship and the responsibility of caring for another being, with all the attendant psychological advantages. If you are not allowed to own a pet where you live, try to find out if there is animal shelter or welfare centre in your area. You could, for example, volunteer to walk a dog at a shelter every few days – you will have the benefits of the walk and the interaction with the dog, but even more from the affection and gratitude of your canine friend.

Acknowledgement

I’m grateful to Gerald Crawford for his insightful retirement advice, and for inspiring me to learn to play the guitar as a great retirement hobby!

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