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What to Do in Retirement: 20 Serious (and Fun!) Things to Keep You Busy!

By Rita Call July 07, 2022 Lifestyle

My best friend was recently forced into an early retirement. While she was within a year of wanting to retire anyway, it came as a bit of a shock when her job position was eliminated, and she was faced with trying to occupy the hours in the day.

Fortunately, she and her husband had planned for their retirement financially, so she did not need to find another job to supplement their income. However, not much thought had previously been given to what she would do to keep herself occupied during retirement. With retirement thrust upon her so unexpectedly, she felt unprepared, lost, useless and a little depressed.

Each individual faces a unique set of circumstances that dictates how and when they will retire. Some people plan for early retirement, while others feel they will never be able to retire due to financial constraints or health issues.

Here is my top list of things to do in retirement:

  1. Travel – Visit the world’s most sacred places.
  2. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone – Do something you have never done before.
  3. Learn New Hobbies – Learn photography, painting, playing an instrument, etc.
  4. Clean / Declutter – Organize your space and get rid of whatever you don’t need or use. 
  5. Volunteer – There’s always help needed somewhere. 
  6. Write – Now’s the time to write that memoir you have been thinking about. 
  7. Stay Social – Join meet-up groups in your community. 
  8. Spend Time With Family – Now you have time to spend more quality time with the grandkids. 
  9. Sports – Stay active and take up tennis or hiking, for example. 
  10. Celebrate Yourself – This is a great time to take inventory of all your life’s accomplishments.

What’s Next?

In reality, getting the most from retirement is hard work. It requires us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and decide proactively what’s next. Have a look at these three important questions to help you on your retirement journey.

If you are one of the lucky few who are reasonably well set financially, have good health and little-to-no guardian responsibilities, then you need to embrace retirement as a new phase of life with unlimited possibilities. Develop the attitude that you are indeed lucky!

So much of our lives is spent doing the things we have to do – going to school, learning a trade or skill, earning a living, raising children and caring for the elderly or infirm. We should be shouting from the rooftops when and if we reach retirement with a little money in the bank, healthy and free to choose the rest of our life.

Numerous lists can be found on the Internet for things to do when you are retired. I’ve listed a few of the most popular choices below for your consideration if you are about to retire, new to retirement, depressed that you have nothing to do or are bored with what you are doing.

#1 Travel in Retirement: Visit the World’s Most Sacred Places

If you’ve always wanted to visit some of the earth’s most sacred, mysterious and wonderful spaces, Machu Picchu is a great place to start. Adios Adventure Travel offers trips to this sacred site that is an iconic location of the Inca civilization, and is willing to customize the trip to meet your needs.

Also, you can go on day trips, cruises, travel to new countries, or visit each of the contiguous United states.

#2 Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Get out and do something that you have never done before. It doesn’t have to be something big, nor does it have to be expensive. Go to that new trendy coffee shop, drive to the next town and stroll in a new park, read a racy novel, anything that makes you feel alive and brings you the experience of new things.

Master a foreign language online with a website like Duolingo, for example. Or why not up your computer skills or other skills you have always wanted to learn.

#3 Learn New Hobbies in Retirement

Too numerous to mention all, but some choices are: drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, playing the piano or other musical instrument, singing, knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, quilting, scrapbooking, photography, gardening, cooking, woodworking, genealogy, crafting. Read this article about the variety of hobbies that women over 50 are participating in.

#4 Clean / Declutter

Instead of spring cleaning, do a ‘retirement’ cleaning and organize, simplify, and declutter your house. This can be a daunting task and often feels overwhelming. Start with a small room and be strict with yourself. Donate items you no longer use – as they say, ‘one mans trash is another man’s treasure’.

You will definitely feel lighter and freer without all those extra possessions.

#5 Volunteer for as Long as Possible

There are diverse groups of organizations that need volunteers to help with their cause and program activities. You could select a cause that is important to you or go to one of many sites on the internet that will match your skills to organizations needing volunteers, like Volunteer Vacations for example.

Trips range from one to three weeks, and you choose where you want to go and how you want to volunteer. This is a rewarding experience that you can do anywhere in the world, so let’s get out there and make a difference!

You can stay close to home and volunteer in animal shelters if you love the company of furry friends.  Also, look for volunteer opportunities in food outreach/kitchens or similar groups to help out in your community.

#6 Write! Even if You’re the Only One Who Reads Your Work

Finally, there is time to write that book you always wanted to, or to set up and manage a blog, write articles to be published in magazines or elsewhere, poems or your memoirs.

If writing a book sounds a step too far, why not start a gratitude journal! It is a great way to stay mindful and in the moment. It is the place where you can write down your reflections about what’s positive in your life and what you are grateful for every day.

#7 Social Organizations

Join meet-up groups that are geared to certain interests or populations. Clubs centered around books, chess, astronomy, or gem and mineral exploration are great opportunities, and so are dating sites.

One of the hardest things about making the transition to retirement is coming to terms with our changing social circumstances. For many of us, our family members were the most important people in our lives for decades. Even if we still live close to our kids and have a good relationship with our grandkids, there is no denying that our social world shifts significantly in our 50s and 60s.

Many women in the community have shared that they had to relearn how to talk to strangers after reaching their 60s. They discovered that they could no longer rely on people coming to them. If they wanted to have a rich social life, they needed to get out into the world and meet people on their own terms.

This could be as simple as having the courage to talk to people in public places – on the bus, while standing in the line at the supermarket, etc. Or it could involve something more formal, such as getting involved in a club or sport.

As kids, we are taught that talking to strangers is dangerous. As older adults, it’s time to reset our expectations and give other people a chance. The risk of social isolation and depression is far greater than the risk of being taken advantage of.

#8 Remember Your Family in Retirement

Spend more time with family, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. For the older grandchildren, you could attend school and sporting activities, take them to special events, zoos, museums, and sports games.

You can offer to babysit the younger grandchildren. Help with their education by reading to them, drilling them on upcoming quizzes, help with special projects and tutor where needed.

#9 Find a Sport

Participate in whatever sport interests you, such as fishing, hiking, running, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, surfing or scuba diving. If you are looking for something more gentle, try online yoga classes. Why not try our 5 Tips To Help You Start Running After 60.

#10 Celebrate Yourself

Create a list of your past accomplishments and contributions. This is an easy way to remind you what has given meaning and joy to your life and how purposeful you truly are. Once you have this list, you are likely to realize exactly what you’ve loved and want to focus on!

#11 Mentor or Teach

Help schools by tutoring children in reading or math. Teach English to foreign speaking individuals. Help an adult learn to read or if you have special skills developed during your career, mentor young people starting out in the same field.

#12 Re-Engage with Spiritual Activities

Whether you take part in an organized religion or simply follow the voice in your own heart, retirement can be a fantastic time to put things into perspective.

Don’t let anyone define your spirituality for you, but don’t leave the questions of your heart left unanswered either. Ask yourself tough questions and listen every day for the answers. Why am I really here? How do I want to change the world in the time that I have left here on earth? Do I believe in a greater power and, if so, how do I want to connect with the divine?

The specific answers are not important, but the questions mean everything as we look to bring meaning into our life after 60.

#13 Stay Fit

No matter what anyone tells you, it is absolutely possible to be in amazing shape in your 60s or 70s. I would be lying if I said that fitness after 60 is easy. It isn’t. But there are simply too many examples out there of people who have challenged stereotypes and gotten in the best shape of their lives to say that physical decline after 60 is inevitable.

If you don’t believe me, read about Willie Murphy, a 77 year-old weightlifter who is so inspirational.

For many women getting in shape was the single most important thing they did to get the most out of retirement. Here are just a few of the many benefits of fitness after 60:

  • Getting in shape gives you the energy and confidence to explore the world.
  • Exercise is one of the only things you can do to lower your chance of many illnesses.
  • Physical exercise is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline in later life.
  • Exercise can improve your physical appearance better than any “anti-aging” pill.

If you are interested in getting back in shape, my advice to you is to start small. Use the one-minute technique to develop good habits. Find physical activities that you can do with others. Get back into nature. Whatever you do, do something!

#14 Take an Interest in Reading in Retirement

For some occasional quiet time, sit down with a good book. You can read for enjoyment or learn something new. Fact or fiction, there are quite literally thousands of books to choose from. For the latest bestsellers check out The New York Times Best Sellers list.

#15 Find a Part-time Job

Even if you don’t need the money, sometimes having a little extra spending cash in your pocket lets you buy something you normally wouldn’t. Check some of the internet job sites for companies looking for someone to work a few hours a week.

#16 Take Civic Involvement Seriously

Run for a political office in your community or become an activist for a cause you care about.

#17 Have a Second Childhood

When we are children, the world is our oyster. We think that we can do anything. We ask for forgiveness, not for permission.

Then, as adults, the reality of life hits us. We are suddenly asked to conform to other people’s standards. We are surrounded by bosses, family members and other authority figures that are more than happy to tell us what we can and can’t do.

Retirement, or semi-retirement, is an opportunity to become a kid again. It is an opportunity to pursue our passions without guilt or self-consciousness.

Think back to the early years of your life. Are there things that you always loved to do that you put on the back-burner as you built your career and supported your family? Maybe it’s time to start them up again.

For most of our lives, we carry so much weight on our shoulders. The happiest retired people I know have found ways to introduce a little silliness into their lives. They go to frivolous movies. They mentor kids. They draw, just for the fun of it.

Isn’t it time that each of us remembered the simple joy of being a child?

#18 Play Games in Retirement

Challenge yourself by playing games against others on the internet. This blog site, Sixty and Me, has numerous games to choose from to play for enjoyment or to keep the mind fresh.

See More: The Best Free & Paid Brain Games for Seniors

#19 Create a Bucket List

Write down a list of things you’ve always wanted to do, but never could because of time, money, courage or whatever. Set a goal to do, and cross one thing off the list once a month.

See more: Why It Is Imperative To Have A Bucket List After 50.

#20 Start a Business Around One of Your Passions

I saved this one for last because starting a business is what I did when faced with the question of “What do I do now that I’m retired?” It was not something I thought about prior to retirement, but I had an idea of a product that I thought would help people and I now had the time to develop it.

Starting a business around one of your passions can help to keep you socially connected. It can also give you a sense of purpose. If you make a bit of extra money along the way – so much the better!

Think about what you might be able to offer to the public – a service or a product and research whether it’s something that would sell. Starting a business on the internet is easier than ever and has very little start-up cost associated with it.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that starting a business is one of the best ways to get the most from retirement. This probably sounds a bit counterintuitive. After all, isn’t the whole point of “retiring” to stop working? Not necessarily!

Retirement Doesn’t Have to be a Time for “Taking it Easy”

I know people, especially those who managed to save millions of dollars, who are perfectly happy sitting on the beach, sipping pina coladas. But, for the majority of us, staying active is a far better way to stay happy after 60.

Part of the problem is that “retirement,” as a concept, has a lot of emotional baggage. Pretty much everyone – the media, the government, our families – encourage us to think about retirement as a time of quiet relaxation. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The happiest people over 60 that I know are the ones that see retirement as a beginning, not an end. These women explore the world, even if they only have enough money to take a bus to cities near where they live. They follow their passions, even if they need to start at the very beginning. They take responsibility for their minds and bodies.

At the end of the day, the wisdom of the women in our community can be summed up in a few simple words – get active, get passionate, get social and get real. If you do these things, I am confident that you will find all of the happiness and joy in retirement that you deserve.

If there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that retirement is a choice. We may not be able to choose when we have to retire, but we can choose how we spend the final decades of our lives. I hope that the resources mentioned here help you to achieve the happiness, good health and financial security that you deserve in retirement.

What are you planning to do in retirement? Are you finding you have less time to do things now that you are retired? Do you have all your affairs in order? What are some other things to do in retirement that you would like to share? Please join the discussion below!

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Jennifer Logullo

Maintaining purpose and meaning in life is so important after retirement, and you’ve provided some great ideas to accomplish that! This article has some additional helpful information as well: https://endeavorhomecare.com/activities-for-older-adults-with-purpose-and-meaning/


Mary Chialastri

Great article. Fantastic variety of options. Thanks!

The Author

Rita Call is a licensed CPA who performed audits of small businesses, employee benefit plans and non-profit organizations prior to retiring in 2015. After retirement, she started an internet business that sold flash drives with convenient and easy-to-use software for recording and storing personal and financial information.

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