How to stay busy in retirement

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You’ve done the hard part: you’ve spent your life getting out of bed and going to work, taking care of your family, and saving for a long and happy retirement. But what exactly are you doing to occupy all your hard-earned free time? Boredom and depression are common reactions to retirement, where there seems to be so much time and so little to do. Fight the restlessness by focusing on recreational activities or volunteer work to stay busy.

Explore new passions

  • Write memoirs, such as letters to living loved ones or journal entries every day. Recording your past experiences and adventures will allow you to share these moments with loved ones and pass on your life lessons to others.
    • Start by recording your memories in a journal or writing letters to a specific family member, such as your children or grandchildren. Try writing a little each day to get into the habit of writing down your thoughts and memories.
    • You could also take a memoir writing course at your local college or university. Many college-level courses are free or discounted for seniors.
  • Maybe you have an ongoing list of books you’ve kept all these years for when you have time to dive into them. Go to your local library and browse through a list of books, whether it’s a personal list or a comprehensive list of books on Western classics, great thrillers and mysteries, nonfiction, or great science fiction books.
    • You can also choose a specific genre or subject that interests you and focus on reading as much as possible on one topic. For example, World War II historical fiction or woodworking.
    • Ordering books online is easier than ever with Amazon or Indigo. Just Google the title or author of the book, search for it online and order it for fast, economical delivery right to your door.
    • Books on tape, or audiobooks, are also a good option if you prefer to rest your eyes and listen to a good book read by a professional actor or voice artist.

  • Learn a new language. Exercising your brain by learning a new language will keep your mental skills sharp and clear. Try a computer-assisted language program like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo. There are also over 48 languages, from Spanish to French to Chinese, that you can learn online for free with courses that you can download and complete at your own pace.
    • If you’re looking for a reason to get out of the house, sign up for a language class where you’ll do in-person activities and practice sessions to improve your conversation skills.
  • Get some physical activity each week. Staying active is another important way to stay busy in retirement. Physical activity such as tennis, golf, swimming or jogging once a week can keep you healthy and fit. If you’re looking to meet others or socialize, do team activities or sports.
    • Look for organized master classes for older or more mature participants. Sign up for a specific senior class to meet others and socialize.
    • You can also sign up for lessons or classes to improve your serving or fathoming. These classes will also help you meet other people who may be interested in the same hobbies or activities as you.
  • Join a club. Look for clubs that may be of interest to you, such as a bridge club, a recreational club for older women or men, a golf club or a religious club. Check out the list of clubs online in your area or the postings on the community bulletin board at your local coffee shop or grocery store.
  • Focus on a hobby you’d like to improve, such as learning to crochet more complicated patterns or carve more difficult wood sculptures. Look for classes at your local community center or university. You can also try learning a brand new skill and use your free time to explore a skill you’ve always wanted to try.
    • Many universities and colleges have lifelong learning programs for seniors, where you pay little or nothing to take adult learning classes. You can also make new friends in a learning environment.
  • If you’ve never been confident in cooking or are looking for ways to expand your recipe repertoire, pick a cookbook and go through the book one recipe at a time.
    • It could be a cookbook that focuses on a certain style of eating, such as a vegetarian or gluten-free diet, or a region of the kitchen, such as Thai or Polish cuisine. Or you can tackle a food bible and learn how to properly braise meat or make a delicious sauce.
    • Once you feel you’ve mastered a recipe, use your friends or family as guinea pigs and invite them to a big meal or potluck where everyone cooks something.
  • If no one in your family has compiled a family tree or record of your ancestors, use your retirement time to do so. Research and contact your immediate and distant family members to build a complete tree of all your family connections.
    • You can also use online tools such as ancestry.com or My Family Tree to help you with your research. When you’re done, make a decorative picture of the tree to give to your family members or make a scrapbook to keep and cherish for years to come.
  • If you have access to a car or RV and are taking a long drive, map out a route around your city or area. Or choose a destination on the map near you and look for a scenic route or a route with natural wonders or man-made sights (the world’s largest paper clip?) along the way.
    • Going on a road trip will introduce you to new sights, new people, and new experiences. Having access to an RV will allow you to take longer trips to more remote destinations in comfort.
  • Travel abroad or to another country. Maybe you have a relative you plan to visit across the pond or in another country. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to see Michelangelo’s sculptures in Florence, or the pyramids in Egypt. Plan a trip to see the great wonders of the world, either solo or with a friend or family member.
    • There are many flight deals available online, especially if you have time to travel during off-season or less popular times. Search the web for package tours, which usually include airfare, accommodations, tours and activities.
  • One of the best ways to use your free time is to spend quality time with your loved ones, from your grandchildren to your children to your siblings. If you are close to your family, organize weekly games with your grandchildren to give structure to your week. Go to cultural events, like the opera or ballet, or spend time camping and traveling with them.

Find odd jobs to supplement retirement

  • Sign up for mentoring opportunities through your local community center, whether it’s working with children as a big brother or sister or tutoring. Look for mentoring positions that use your individual skills and abilities and allow you to share those skills with others.
  • Volunteer with a local organization. Focus on local organizations that you would like to help or be part of. Contact them by phone or email and tell them what you would like to do to help. Many non-profit and government organizations are always looking for volunteers to donate their time and energy to a specific cause.
  • While you may not be ready to jump into another career after spending years in your previous career, think about a career or job you’ve always wanted to pursue. It could be decorating your home, starting your own business, or even freelance writing. Focusing on a new, less stressful career will fill your time and give new meaning to your retirement life. Continuing to work in retirement helps you forget about the stresses of everyday life.
  • There are many part-time job options for retirees, from limo drivers to tax clerks to tutors to nursery attendants. Look for seasonal jobs that put you in a new or interesting environment, such as working outdoors as a park ranger in a national park or as a caregiver in a nursing home.
    • Part-time work is also a good way to earn a small income and feel like you are contributing to society. Plus, it probably won’t be as stressful as full-time work or your previous career.

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