According to the MIT AgeLab, Americans can expect to live about 8,000 days in retirement – a period of 22 years, and roughly as long as other major life stages.
How do you plan to fill those two decades of possibility? One psychologist suggests focusing on 10 key areas to help round out the life you’re looking for.
Get a job
Branch out from your old career and pursue a long-held passion, perhaps start a business. While the prospect of building something new may be daunting, consider the decades of experience, success, passion and emotional intelligence you would bring to a new venture. Working may not seem appealing at first, but it can create a routine instead of dramatically going from 40 hours a week to zero. You continue to earn income, stay atop of changes in your field and continue to see those you’ve worked with for years. The benefits of staying in touch with people you care about go beyond the emotional aspects of keeping yourself busy or entertained, according to research from the Yale Medical Group.
An active social life can lead to lower risks of heart problems and high blood pressure, fewer incidences of cancer, and deter osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Perhaps most important, it strengthens connections in your brain, lowering your risk for Alzheimer’s and mental health issues.
Focus on areas that enhance your existing relationships and make room for new ones. Establish weekly game nights with friends or Sunday dinners with family, for example. Studies show having friends and family for entertainment and support significantly enhances a retiree’s quality of life.
Take a yoga or aerobics class. Swim. Even walking around your neighborhood can create opportunities to introduce yourself to others. It’s crucial to keep your mental and physical health a priority. And don’t forget to relax! You’ve earned it! Take time for yourself when you need to, and take those naps if you want.
Stay young at heart
Take up an old hobby or find a new one. Learn welding or Spanish, play a new instrument. Perhaps even train for a triathlon, now that you have time to do so. One financial expert suggests investing time into three to four “hobbies on steroids” will ignite your creative or productive passions.
The point is to plan and embark on a new adventure every week, even if that’s tutoring an elementary student in math or trying a new restaurant. Find something that keeps your brain firing and your heart happy.
A desire for lifelong improvement may prompt you to spend time exploring new ideas, languages, instruments or hobbies. If you really want to dive in, consider that Harvard and Stanford have established online learning programs for leaders who have already distinguished themselves during their careers.
Find a furry friend
Pets often become part of a family, greeting you when you return home, offering unconditional companionship, as well as health and social benefits. Just be sure to carefully research the time, energy and costs that go into being a responsible pet parent. If you prefer, there are lower maintenance robotic – yet realistic – versions.
Places of worship can connect you to others with similar values and lifestyles and may extend your life. Blue Zones researcher Dan Buettner and the National Geographic Society found that attending religious services was common among the centenarians they studied.
Why not invest in experiences and indulge your wanderlust while you have the energy and resources to do so? Consider joining a travel club geared toward like-minded adventurers, who may literally be in the same boat as you.
Spend time with great friends savoring a meal, relishing how food and drink (not necessarily alcoholic) awakens the senses and increases your quality of life. Culinary experiences not only indulge the senses, but also can create delicious memories with those you care about.
Acts of kindness make everyone feel good. Contribute time, talent and, yes, even money to support a cause close to your heart. Perhaps become a docent at your favorite art museum. You’ll likely meet fellow retirees and make a difference at the same time.
Sources: Yvette Guerrero, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco, “Psychological and Emotional Aspects of Retirement: Planning for a Successful Transition”; Cardinal & Gray Society; T. Rowe Price; Forbes; The New York Times, “Thriving at Age 70 and Beyond”; Employee Benefit Research Institute; U.S. News & World Report, “How to be happier in retirement”; Hartford Funds/MIT’s AgeLab; money.usnews.com; marketwatch.com; verywellmind.com; madfientist.com; thinksaveretire.com; usatoday.com; investopedia.com