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Do We Purposefully Look for Variety in Our Lives?

By Ann Richardson July 08, 2023 Lifestyle

Variety is the spice of life, so they say.

I’ve heard that saying so many times, I can’t even remember when I first heard it. More importantly, I’m not sure I’ve given it much thought.

But it is worth thinking about. As we settle into our later years, we can easily get into a routine with little change from day to day.

Is that a good thing?

Leaving Work

You would think that the point at which we leave the job that we (often) had for many years would be the point at which our lives would become most varied. No longer the regular commute, with regular hours, seeing the same people from Monday to Friday.

Suddenly, a whole new world opens up. We can travel whenever we like, depending on the work status of our partner and our finances. We can take day trips, see old friends for lunch, take up new hobbies.

A terrific sense of freedom. And every day different. The chance to discover new things.

(The pandemic changed that equation for many of us, of course, so that those who were still at work found themselves managing their own time through working from home. But they were also highly constrained – and, in any case, that is another story.)

Being Retired and Variety

Retiring is a period of change. Nothing new in that proposition. If you have retired, you have doubtless seen many changes in your day-to-day life.

But have you also seen greater variety? Or has it been a period when one regular routine was exchanged for another? Retirement can bring much greater variety, but it doesn’t necessarily do so.

And retirement goes on for a long period these days. It was once the case that we retired at age 60 or 65 or so and were dead by the age of 70. No more. I am 81, which means that age 60 was over 20 years ago. The post-work period lasts a very long time.

So, you may have retired, gone on a cruise (or travelled around by less glamorous means) and then settled back down at home into a dull routine. Or you may be more active than ever all the time.

Only you know whether your current situation is right for you.

Is Variety Always a Good Thing?

We need to be careful in any assumption that variation is a good thing for its own sake.

Some people like to travel and see as much of the world as they can. Some are happy ‘tending their garden’ – both literally and figuratively – in their longstanding home. It just depends on what kind of person you are.

And what categories of your life do you want variety in? Probably not your partner. Having been happily married for 60 years, I am in no position to comment, but I would assume that we seek stability in that department.

Similarly, although we may want to move house in order to downsize or for some other reason (to move to a retirement community? to live near your children? to gain a better environment?), few of us would want to move very frequently.

On the contrary, stability brings comfort and ease. I have lived in the same house for nearly 50 years, so again, I am not one to comment here.

Yet I don’t know about you, but I like to find that every day brings a slightly different pattern in what I will do or who I will see. Waking up every day to exactly the same routine would be a bit dull.

Most of us want other people in our lives, whether only once in a while or frequently. And we want to be stimulated by something or someone.

A bit of difference does add ‘spice’ to our lives.

How to Get Variety

If you are finding that your life has settled down to a somewhat boring routine, what can be done to obtain more variety?

If you are still able and active, do seek out new activities in your area.

There are few places that do not welcome volunteers, although you would usually need to commit to a certain number of hours per week.

Whatever your skills, there is likely to be somewhere that would love to make use of them. Driving? Sorting correspondence? Chatting to lonely people? So many needs to be filled.

Alternatively, there may be groups of people in your area with a common interest (such as walkers or bridge players or any number of other things). Indeed, if not, you could try to start one. Even if it failed, it would be an adventure to give it a try.

Grandchildren are another way of achieving variety. Do you live near enough to see them frequently? If so, do you look after them too much, so that it has made your life too much of a routine? If you can, find the right balance.

If not, do you stay in touch? Have you the means to communicate with them (in my case, this seems to be What’sApp, which I have just about mastered).

Whatever you do, don’t decide that you are just too old.

You are never too old to make some changes to your life.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have enough variety in your day-to-day life? What activities bring this variety? Would you prefer some changes to your routine? What would you most like to change?

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The Author

Ann Richardson’s most popular book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head, offers a series of reflections on growing older. Subscribe to her free Substack newsletter, where she writes fortnightly on any subject that captures her imagination. Ann lives in London, England with her husband of sixty years. Please visit her website for information on all her books:

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