Post by Gerald Crawford
After a lifetime of working for a salary and following the corporate work ethic, the concept of retirement represents boundless freedom to most people – freedom from rush-hour traffic, freedom from stress, freedom from tiresome bosses and colleagues, freedom from schedules and meetings, and most of all, the personal freedom to spend your time as you wish.
You may have dreamed of spending more time on the golf course, or travelling, or with your family and loved ones, or pursuing new hobbies, or simply relaxing more. But handling this freedom is not always as easy as it seems. After a while, unless you take charge of your life after retirement, you may find yourself once again constricted – this time by boredom, by domestic drudgery, even by the unexpected demands of a spouse or partner on your time. And unless you plan for them, you may find the fulfilling activities you hoped would make your retirement years happy and meaningful, simply do not happen by themselves. Remember that as an employee you have had other people plan a major portion of your waking hours for many years – now it is your responsibility to schedule your day and ensure that you stick to your intentions.
Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of the riches of time that come with retirement.
Find your personal creative outlet
You may never have thought of yourself as an artist, but retirement gives you the freedom to explore entirely new directions, and you are under no pressure to make this hobby financially rewarding – you can simply do it for fun. You can start with some paintbrushes and watercolours or oils, but whatever medium you choose, it is certain that getting creative will be a very enriching experience, and may even, as some believe, lengthen your life expectancy.
Explore the digital world
The world has changed since you first entered working life: A whole new world has sprung up consisting of online communities, blogs, Facebook groups, YouTube videos, Skype, and new and fascinating websites are being added every day. With the help of your PC or laptop you can download the latest music releases, play chess with someone on the other side of the globe, or lose yourself in a role-playing game. In fact, this world is so extensive and diverse, you need never leave your home to learn new things and have new experiences.
And immersing yourself in the internet need not be the unhealthy, deskbound activity it seems at first: You can use the worldwide web to get some exercise in your living room, from yoga and various dance routines, to playing one of the many fitness video games available online.
Get in touch with nature
Technology may be mesmerizing, but reconnecting with nature can be equally enchanting. Fresh air, open skies and sunlight are healthy and good for you, physically as well as spiritually. Start by gardening, if you have access to a patch of soil, or taking a daily walk to the park. In fact, walking is one of the single most beneficial activities for all human beings, and walking in nature – the beach, a riverside promenade or nature trail – will uplift your spirit at the same time as it exercises your body.
And there are other activities to explore in the great outdoors, such as fishing, cycling, and bird watching. For years you have had to limit adventures in nature to weekends and peak holiday times – the very time when the crowds descend on resorts and nature reserves. Retirement is the time to take advantage of weekday and off-season visiting times.
Spend some time volunteering
Not working may well seem to be the whole point of being retired, but spending a little time working for others and sharing the knowledge, skills and experience you have gained over a lifetime can be incredibly rewarding, and will provide you with intellectual stimulation as well as social contact and job satisfaction, some of the things that are experienced as real losses by the newly retired.
There are many opportunities for volunteering at welfare organizations, the local library and hospital, charity shops and fundraising groups.
If you live close to a university or college you may consider enrolling for a course in something that has always interested and excited you, such as a foreign language, philosophy or psychology. Or if you have always wanted to learn and master the blues guitar now is the perfect time with hundreds of guitar classes available online. Investigate a nearby adult school where you could attend classes in subjects such as cooking, photography or any number of crafts. And don’t forget to check out the availability of the broad collection of courses offered over the internet.
Animals keep you connected
One great way of making your retirement years energetic, vigorous and enjoyable is to get a pet, or, if you already have a pet, to devote more time to it than you were able to when you were still working. The advantages of human-animal interaction are numerous: There are health dividends, as well as emotional and social benefits. A dog will demand to be taken for a walk, and a cat will provide sociable companionship to someone who is alone for most of the day; in short, they encourage involvement with other living beings and the outside world, and will richly reward all affection that is lavished on them.