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?
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.
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.
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.