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

Smooth Your Transition Into Retirement

Retirement is something to look forward to. Most of us envision a well-deserved escape from the stress and strain of working life, a new chapter where we will have the free time to pursue all those interests we were forced to shelf while laser focused on making a living. If we can somehow survive today’s struggles we just might get there.

Unfortunately once one arrives at retirement’s doorstep things don’t always go as planned. Making the switch from full time employment to full time retirement can be challenging. And since we have no experience to draw upon launching our second act is an unfamiliar adventure where to excel we must learn as we go.

I retired five years ago. After an initial adjustment period I am pretty satisfied with the life I now live. However there were times I struggled, stumbled and made mistakes. As long as you learn from your mistakes it’s okay, right? Here are a few important lessons I have learned along the way.

Realize an identity beyond your job

At a cocktail party when asked “what do you do?” a typical response tends to describe your role on the job. Often what you do is a major influence on your perception of who you are. Many are so absorbed with their job they have no real life outside the career. Now you are retired – who are you?

If you find yourself with no identity outside your job retirement can leave you feeling lost and without purpose, disconnected from a reality where until now you played a significant role. Once retired it is important to establish new roots to grow and nurture the post-job you. You were and are someone beyond your employment. Retirement allows that person to surface and take control, to make the best of what can be an exciting inspiring stage of life.

Don’t just keep busy, find meaning

Boredom is a real threat to the unprepared retiree. If you retire at age 65 you can hope to live 20 or 30 years in retirement. That is a whole lot of days and months and years. Playing golf or volunteering a few hours a week is not going to be enough. At the end of the day wouldn’t it be nice to look back on your activities and feel some degree of satisfaction, some small bit of accomplishment?

When I first retired I was fine with doing nothing. After 30 years of the old grind I deserved it. No one was telling me what to do. I was finally my own boss. I slept in, attacked a mountainous stack of books I had accumulated, took a few trips, revisited some long forgotten hobbies, and was happy basically watching the grass grow.

That lasted about six months. Now what? What was I supposed to do with the rest of my second act?

How we choose to spend time as retirees is a personal decision. Activities that excite me might bore the pants off you. What helped me was trying to stay open to the many possibilities that came along while building up the nerve to step outside of my comfort zone.  After five decades of life I was pretty set in my ways. Then here comes retirement, a blank page waiting for me to paint my own unique picture.

So I tried some new things, things I always wanted to do or had recently become interested in:

– I always wanted to be a writer so I started a blog “Retirement – Only the Beginning” where weekly I share my journey in search of a meaningful fun retirement. Taking things one step further I wrote and self-published two books handling everything from the content to the cover.

– After a few trips to Paris I thought it would be cool to learn a little of the language (at least enough to read the menu) so with the help of an app I downloaded to my iPhone I am learning to parle francais.

– My dad always loved gardening so I am giving that a try nurturing our plentiful roses and growing some veggies. There is something special about saving the seed from a favorite tomato then sprouting it, growing it and eating the fruit all over again!

You don’t have to be productive all the time

You cannot be good at your job if you waste time. Many become so accustomed to giving 110 percent they find it hard to gear down for even a weekend. Don’t be surprise to find you feel guilty “wasting time” in retirement. But it is okay to do so. With the job behind you are allowed to slow down. Every moment need not be productive. A good healthy mix of activity and downtime rids your day of stress and anxiety, neither welcome in any retirement plan. I learned an important ingredient to a happy retirement is finding a pace you are comfortable with and going with the flow.

Dedicate part of the day to fitness – mental as well as physical

It’s wonderful to no longer deal with the hectic stressed-out pace of full time employment. On the other hand your mind will probably never as sharp as when you were making snap decisions or dealing with unexpected events that populate the typical work day. The job keeps you on your toes. When you remove that from the equation you might lose a step or two, perhaps slow down a bit from that top-of-the-food chain whirlwind you had become. In retirement it is important to find new challenges, try new things, and keep the old mind engaged. Like any muscle if you don’t work it out your brain will atrophy. My wife and I partake in a myriad of brain games including cards, backgammon, jigsaw puzzles, remembering names, discussions with smart friends, and revisiting specific details of past trips and experiences.

As for the physical side I recently discovered a guideline that helps me stay on track. The goal is to take a minimum of 10,000 steps each day. Mileage may vary according to the length of your stride but for me that works out to close to five miles a day. At first the distance sounded unrealistic – how can I possibly walk five miles every day? So I picked up a “fit bit” and began tracking my steps. Soon I found myself “taking the long way” whenever possible – walking instead of driving to the nearby store (2 miles round trip), using the stairs rather than elevator, happily strolling to the far side of the house to retrieve some forgotten item. At the end of the day it all added up and I was pleasantly surprised how often I hit that 10,000 step target.

There is no universal blueprint for how to transition into a fulfilling retirement. Each of us needs to find our own path. But we might learn from the experiences of others. And if we are fortunate we may avoid repeating mistakes endured by those who have gone before us.

LoveBeingRetired.com