Once you retire, you might have fantasies of getting into all kinds of life activities which you’ve long postponed or you might fear an anticipated loss of income, life purpose or activity. Retirement is can be a time of renewal or reinvention. The choice of lifestyle belongs to you.
If you’re not certain about how you want to approach your retirement years, you might need to re-discover a past passion or maybe investigate a new one.
So how do you even begin to learn what exciting avenues are open to you? Many people pursue their passions through volunteerism. Volunteer opportunities are everywhere. You can work alongside doctors, feed zoo animals, conduct tours, become enrolled as a Red Cross volunteer or sit at the bedside of hospitalized children. A good first step is to contact your United Way or the Retired Senior Volunteer Program to learn what volunteer opportunities are available in your area.
Some people find that retirement is the time to dig into learning. Many colleges allow older adults to take classes without tuition payments. You won’t earn credits but you’ll gain knowledge along with the possibility of new friends. Many great programs are held across the country focusing on particular geographic areas or a particular area of learning through the Elder Hostel programs. Additionally, most senior centers offer classes in everything from computers to watercolors to genealogy.
If you have an interest, now might be the time to join a club. Clubs for gardeners, investors, square dancers, ham radio buffs, poets, and walkers can be found in the listings of your hometown newspaper. Other clubs might be service oriented or may be affiliated with your career such as the Retired Federal Employees Association. Clubs offer a perfect opportunity for learning and sharing both a passion and friendship.
There is one danger of retirement. Many people will now see you as the possible solution to their needs. A club might want to recruit you for a Board position. A daughter might see you as the perfect emergency babysitter. The school where you taught for years might want you to lead the library fund drive.
But be sure to make your choices carefully or there will be no time left to do what is most meaningful and rewarding to you.
Creating a life plan for the third age
What lifestyle would you like to have after retirement? Words like “retirement” or “elderly” are no longer adequate to describe the reality of what most people experience when they turn 65.
New words like “Third Age” are emerging to describe the period of time from age 55 to 90+ when people are re-inventing their lives to fit the current trend toward longer life expectancies.
What does it mean to have a life plan for the Third Age? While most people tend to think of a financial plan for retirement, that type of thinking is too limited and often not fully appropriate. Many people past the age of 55, 60, 65 and even 70 are going beyond the issue of how to live on Social Security and taking a look at issues like housing and work.
Where will you live? Some cling to their loved homes but others opt for retirement communities or buy an RV and travel. Others opt to downsize into condos or find co-housing, senior apartments, home exchange programs or live with their families. Thoughts to keep in mind: What is the long-term affordability of this arrangement? Are there relocation costs? How flexible are you to change?
What will you do? Many people who are at retirement age want to keep working both for the money and social benefits. You can work full-time, part-time or do temp work, seasonal work, or contract your services. Will you become a volunteer or a mentor? Is overseas mission work something that appeals to you?
Just as books teach financial planning and career planning, there are books dedicated to life planning. Here are a few popular titles:
- Age-ing Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development by George Vallient
- Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Aging by Rabbi Schachter Shalomi
- My Time: Making the Most of Rest of Your Life by Abigal TrafforZ
And just remember, all life plans need fine-tuning so allow yourself the freedom to revise your plan. Your life plan is not a one-way lane to how you will live but instead can be considered a road map with many different routes leading to life enjoyment, enrichment, and fulfillment.