Arthritis Friendly Retirement Activities

Written by Jessica Hegg

Freedom from job obligations is probably one of the biggest advantages of retirement, but the “take this job and shove it” effect is usually only short term.

Apropos of nothing, I’ve always found it interesting that a man who sang about quitting his job chose a stage name like Johnny Paycheck. There is probably a deeper meaning there that eludes me.

Back to the blog. Most of us who retire around 65 can expect to live at least another twenty years, because as they say, 60 is the new 40 and 80 is the new 60. All these days and hours will start to drag unless you have a sense of purpose, and since many of us define ourselves by our occupations, this intentionality is not always easy to find.

Somewhat complicating matters, many of us start experiencing chronic physical illnesses, such as arthritis, in our 60s and 70s. Although arthritis is not fatal or even terribly serious, it can transform previously enjoyable activities into chores. Furthermore, because of unwanted side effects, powerful muscle relaxers or painkillers are often not a very good option.

So, what are some arthritis-friendly ways to not only pass the time as we age, but also help us find purpose and meaning?

Low-Impact Exercises

Physical exercise is important at all ages, and the most recent research suggests that even a little bit of moderate exercise, such as a half-hour of brisk walking four or five days a week, has significant emotional and physical benefits.

Walking is very easy on the joints, so even folks with arthritic knees and/or ankles can do a few laps without much of a problem. A few light stretches after exercising should help ease any lingering discomfort.

No-impact water aerobics may be an option as well, and many people also benefit greatly from senior-friendly yoga classes. Such activities address not only the physical component, but the emotional component as well. Loneliness is a fairly significant problem among older people, even people who are married. Being around like-minded people of a similar age and station in life may help participants feel like they belong somewhere. Many class participants might go on to teach their own classes, thus giving them a sense of purpose.

Aquatic exercises place no strain whatsoever on joints, and yoga stretches might actually reduce arthritis pain, if for no other reason that the participant focuses on something other than achy joints for about a half hour a day.

Art Therapy

Some people communicate better visually than orally, and art therapy is simply an extension of that idea. Primarily, two types of people can benefit from this activity:

  • People who have experienced traumatic events in their lives and need to understand them, and
  • Those who are looking for personal development.

Many retired people fall squarely into that second category.

Similar to yoga, art therapy is a good way to stop thinking about arthritis pain for a few hours a week. As for using arthritic fingers to paint, many people ask “do arthritis gloves work?” The answer is a resounding yes. The compression and heat ease discomfort, and many gloves have no fingers, so fine motor skills, like holding a brush or manipulating a phone, are largely unaffected.

Volunteering

Practically no one has arthritis of the jaw, and there is no such thing as arthritis of the soul, so even more advanced arthritis cannot stand in the way of volunteering for a cause.

To find temporal fulfillment as well as emotional fulfillment, volunteering in this context probably means operating a soup kitchen instead of serving lunch a couple of times a week or being a higher level campaign operative as opposed to an envelope stuffer. While there is certainly nothing wrong with serving lunch or stuffing envelopes, and these activities are vital to their respective organizations, retired people have a near-limitless resource to share (their time), and this resource is arguably more precious than money or anything else.

You did not call in sick due to a head cold while working, and there is no reason to call in sick during retirement either, especially when there are so many available options.

Retirement Advice I Would Give the Twenty Year Old Me

If I only knew then what I know now. Way back when I was 20 thoughts of retirement never crossed my mind. There were plenty other distractions. I could not even imagine being retirement age. But funny thing – here I am.

I have learned a thing or two over the years whether through my personal experience or those of friends and family. If I could share with the 20-year-old-Dave any words of wisdom to prepare for the road ahead, it would go something like this:

Prepare for the non-financial side of retirement

Everyone knows it is critical to save enough to subsidize the retirement lifestyle you hope to live. But too few consider the importance of preparing beyond finances. What will you do to find meaning in your day? Who will you become once you are no longer defined by the person you were on the job? How does your spouse envision retirement? It is too easy to waltz into retirement without preparing for the coming 10 or 20 or more years ahead. Without genuine preparation you risk boredom and dissatisfaction during a time of life that should be anything but.

Hands off retirement savings accounts

Over my 30 year career I moved from job to job quite a bit. One consequence was repeatedly facing the option to cash out 401k accounts. In most cases the temptation proved too great. Too often I withdrew the funds, paid the 10% additional tax fine and had money to do as I wanted. The only good thing is I did not use the money to splurge but rather to pay off bills that had accumulated. Still I sacrificed potential growth over multiple years that could have added to my ultimate retirement nest egg. “Leave it alone and let I grow” would be my suggestion to the younger me.

Don’t count on staying at the same company

In my career as a sales manager focused on start-up companies there was not much latitude when it came to hitting target goals. If quota was not achieved, no matter how unreasonable or inflated the number, your job was on the line. I had a pretty good batting average over all but there were times when missing a quarterly target cost my job.

Message to younger self: be prepared to work at many different companies over your working years. The days of spending an entire career at one place are gone.

Understand the financial realities of retirement

Retirement will not be cheap. According to Fidelity healthcare costs for the average couple retiring in 2016 will ring in at $260,000. Healthcare insurance rates are sky rocketing with double digit yearly increases becoming the accepted norm. Everything is getting more expensive while your income remains fixed.

No one knows what unplanned health event their future may hold. My parents experienced this recently when my dad had a stroke. Initial hospital charges were huge and the bills keep coming. Thankfully they have a Medigap plan which helps pay healthcare costs not covered by Medicare including co-payments and deductibles.

In retirement you want to do those things you have dreamed of. Realizing those dreams will generally not be cheap either. When budgeting don’t forget to account for those things you have been waiting all your life to do.

Note to 20-year-self: put those dollars aside now so you can do all you dream of when you finally have the time to do it.

Getting retirement right takes practice

Since this will be our first time at it, none of us has any real experience being retired. It is possible you may not get everything exactly right from the get go. Be prepared to be dynamic, to go with the flow. Make changes where necessary, try new things, and don’t be too hard on yourself. There is no deadline to get everything right. So long as you continue to learn as you go you are making progress.

Keep exercising

When I was around twenty I began a life-long commitment to good health setting aside time for regular exercise and attempting to eat a decent diet. I would remind the younger me that good habits now will continue to be good habits later in life. Exercise is an important part of any happy retirement. Keep weight training for muscle and bone strength. Continue yoga and stretching for balance and flexibility. Get some cardio to keep the heart healthy. And don’t neglect exercise for your brain one very important “muscle” to keep in shape. The retirement journey will be that much more enjoyable when you are healthy in mind and body.

It might have been helpful to hear these words of wisdom when I was younger. But I cannot complain. I am retired with my wonderful wife in a beautiful part of the world. We are healthy and happy. And I just started a part time job pouring wine at a wonderful little winery walking distance from where we live. All in all, retirement has turned out a-okay for us.

LoveBeingRetired.com

When Working In Retirement Is The Way To Go

Back when I was working full time I occasionally fantasized of that day in the not-to-distant future when I would no longer be chained to “the job”. It’s not that I hated what I was doing. Far from it – over my working years I met wonderful people, some who have become lifelong friends. I was fortunate enough to play an important part in the growth of numerous small companies where the camaraderie and esprit de corps were as important as making money, sometimes even more. I was inspired by talented bosses who took the time to guide my development. My memories of the working world are for the most part positive.

But never working again – that sounds pretty darn good.

Start your day when you want. Spend time doing what truly interests you. Live at a pace that fits your mood. Read…walk…nap…rinse and repeat. Having control over what you do when you do it is something I could get used to.

My plan was to retire somewhere close to 65, maybe 62 if I was lucky. At the moment that was more than a decade off but at least I could see light at the end of the tunnel. Then at the tender age of 53 I became what I call “technically retired”. The company I worked for was purchased, my role was no longer required, and despite scrambling madly for the next year I was unable to find a position anywhere. Welcome to retirement!

Fortunately my wonderful wife continued working which covered our medical insurance and paid the bills. At least we would not be destitute.

I believe retirement is something you need to create. Since you are free to do as you choose it’s ultimately up to you to make it happen. We all have different interests, passions and dreams. What works for your retirement may not be close to what I want. And that is a great thing – we have the ability to create our own retirement custom made to fit who we are.

When I first exited the working world I knew for a fact I would not go back to work – ever. My dues were paid now onward to bigger and better things. On the other hand I never faulted those who choose to include work as part of their happy retirement. If it makes you happy why not add it to the equation?

Who could be more surprised when one day after five years retired, old hardcore never-work-again-me found the perfect part time gig. Our favorite winery – Mercy Vineyards – needed some help in their tasting room. Two days a week sharing with happy visitors wonderful Pinot Noir and Chardonnays lovingly crafted from grapes sourced solely from unique local vineyards – not too shabby. My wife and I felt the owners were great people from the first day we met. Visitors to the tasting room are invariably happy and having a good time. And I can walk to the job site in about 15 minutes.

When the owners Mike and Mark proposed I join their team they did not have to ask twice! I have been at it a few weeks now and love it. The job adds variety to my days, I meet and socialize with fellow humans, plus I get out of the house and continue to learn more about a passion I have had for decades – wine.

If a part time gig in retirement sounds intriguing, here are a few considerations to help make it a good experience:

  • Do something you are interested in better yet passionate about
  • Work with people you like
  • Don’t do it if it stresses you out – you did enough of that before retiring
  • Remember part time is part time – don’t take work home with you (unless you really love it!)
  • Try to minimize your commute ideally traveling during non-rush hours
  • As long as you do not need the job remember you can call it quits if it does not work out

There are plenty of options out there when it comes to part time work. My wife signed on with a temp agency that finds her short term gigs at a variety of local companies. She gets to meet new people, learn new things, keep her mind engaged and leave the stress behind. Her biggest challenge is since she is so good at what she does companies quickly end up offering her full time employment which is not the plan.

I have come to believe there is no reason your retirement cannot include some sort of work. The trick is to enjoy what you are doing. It may take a bit of trial and error to find the right fit. But what is the hurry? After all you are retired.

And should you ever find yourself in the neighborhood, stop in for a taste of some truly wonderful wines. As our tasting glass so appropriately says “Have Mercy”. Cheers.

LoveBeingRetired.com