Keep Busy with Senior Activities and Projects

To fill the hour – that is happiness ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It can be the greatest joy or just as likely the dreaded curse of retirement life. After years of working in a profession and at a career that we may or may not be enthralled with, we finally graduate into retirement. No more doing what the boss demands or stressing out as we struggle to meet project time lines. Our time now belongs solely to US! Retirement is our time to do what we want to do when we want to do it, answering to no one other than our self. What a glorious feeling of freedom.

So, now that we have arrived, what is it that we are actually going to do to keep busy? How do we plan to spend approximately fifteen hours each day, seven days each week, 52 weeks each year retired?  Our time to play is finally here – now what?

Most of us have some ideas of what we would LIKE to do to stay busy once the chains are severed and we can disembark from the slave-ship-galleon that was work. But we discover that there is a LOT of time in each day and it may not be quite so easy to keep busy and stay entertained.  Could this free time be more than we are capable of handling?

Thinking along these lines over the past year, an idea began to take shape in my mind. Since retirement is our time to do what we want to do, it makes sense that step one would be to figure out exactly what it is that we want to do.  We don’t want to waste our valuable time and keeping busy will not be a chore if we are in fact doing what we want to be doing. Choices for senior activities are many and vary according to our individual interests and imagination.

What if what I find interesting and am passionate about turns out to also be intriguing to you even though you have never thought along those lines prior? And what if your pursuits and your hobbies and your passions open up new avenues for me to explore as well? Suddenly our list of rewarding senior activities triples in length, our interests are piqued, creative juices start flowing, and it is not so much a matter of keeping busy as much as it is finding enough time in our retirement day to get everything done.

Probably the difference between man and the monkeys is that the monkeys are merely bored, while man has boredom plus imagination ~ Lin Yutang

Senior Activities to Keep Busy

Over the coming months, I will periodically focus my blog on various “senior activities” that may be of interest to readers. These projects can be one-time-events or on-going endeavors. They may focus on specific hobbies or general ideas. But the aim is to identify specific activities for us to keep busy in retirement.  And not just identify but investigate, highlight and provide some guidance to allow us to get started. And not just projects to keep busy but that are enjoyable, engaging, and rewarding.

I have some ideas stirring about and I happily welcome your input to identify others. In addition, I have created a new category called “Keep Busy” which will be the repository for posts specific to senior activities and projects.

I look forward to uncovering new ways for us to keep busy in our retirement life.

Stay tuned for the “first edition” where we will provide you with a plan to archive your family memories to share and enjoy across your entire clan.

The Best Anti Aging Tip

The world in which we live has long worshiped youth. Movies starring young and vital actors and actresses, incredibly fit and beautiful, represent everything that we want to be. On the TV we are bombarded with 20ish women carefully treating their skin to fight the effects of aging (as if 20ish year old skin has even BEGUN to age). And advertising in general is built around beautiful, youthful, still-wet-behind-the-ears individuals with perfect white teeth and convincing smiles.

It is no wonder that there is an incredibly receptive market for anti-aging offerings. Everything from salves and ointments to pills and poultices offer the promise of delaying the appearance of aging and extending our youthfulness. Some of the things we willingly put onto our faces and bodies would cause a sane person to wrinkle their nose and head for the door! But we want to look younger than we really are and will try almost anything. And you can bet that these “solutions” are not cheap with anti-aging products ranging from $100 to thousands of dollars. Is it money well spent?

Watching a recent Dr Oz show which focused on anti-aging solutions, the topic of facial masks came up and various options were evaluated. In the end, we learned that Milk of Magnesia has all of the working ingredients that provide the best results and at a cost of about $6 per bottle. Makes you think a bit…

As the old ad used to say, “a little dab will do you” and if using these potions makes us feel better and we can afford them, what is the real harm? Is there anything wrong with our obsession to look young?

I think the answer is yes. I believe that the real harm is fostering the current perception that young is cool and old not so much. Aging is not about wrinkles in our skin, it is about our growth as individuals, our life experiences, our contributions to the world in which we live, and raising families to be proud of who will ultimately take us into the future. With age comes wisdom and through the myriad of life’s experiences, we learn what to do and most importantly what not to do again. This experience is incredibly valuable to ourselves and our personal growth but even more so to those around us who are “too young” to know better. None of this growth happens quickly or easily – all require time and effort, trial and error, success and failure. And guess what – aging is one universal that applies across EVERYONE no matter what race or color or creed. We need to accept this fact and truly make the best of it. Avoidance is not an option, acceptance is the way. It is time to be proud of our wrinkles, our character lines as mom always said. At our age, we have earned every one of them!

James Hillman in his book “The force of character and the lasting life” addresses what he calls the force of the face, claiming that “older faces are marked by character, that their beauty reveals character, and that their lasting power as images of intelligence, authority, tragedy, courage, and depth of soul is due to character. The absence of these qualities in contemporary society and its public figures is due to the falsification of the older face on public view.”

One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them ~ Virginia Wolfe

Appreciate Your Aging – Stay Young on the Inside

There are no magic elixirs to return those youthful rosy cheeks and tight chins, but that does not mean we should not live retirement to the most. Our outside is not what we are about but instead, just like an Oreo cookie, the best is inside. And the reality is that if we feel good on the inside, we will look good on the outside. People respond to positive vibes so tune up and turn it on.

Attitude – it is essential for our sanity to accept the fact that aging is a part of life. Over the years, our bodies are being used and used up and the results cannot be disguised indefinitely. When we look in the mirror and see that face that is so unfamiliar compared to memories of our earlier years, accept it. This is my face – some people will like it and some will not but it is my face and I will live with it! I have earned these wrinkles and I will wear them proudly. Woe to you of youthful smooth faces who have not yet earned such distinguished badges of courage.

Participate versus observe – live life rather than watch life go by – how many times have you heard that age is a state of mind? I have seen 80 year old women in Switzerland heading up steep mountains for their daily activity. They may not look as spritely as they did at 25 but I would not want to try to keep up with them and their mountain-climbing-pace. We read regularly stories of amazing physical feats performed by the elderly. I believe that with medical advancements extending average lifetimes and seniors living more active retirement lives, what was perceived as “amazing” twenty years ago is going to become common place. This is our time to do as Mr. Spock said, “live long and prosper”.

Make a positive impact – no one has time or is interested in humoring an old grouch. Complaining and finding the negative in everything is not how senior citizens want to be characterized. Do not fall into the trap of negativity. A smile on our face goes much farther than a growl. Active involvement in discussions brings us closer to those around us. We all WANT to be with intelligent, engaged, positive people no matter what their age. Who would not prefer hanging around someone who makes them laugh versus someone who makes them cry?

Exercise and diet always play an important role in how we look and feel. Regular, safe, interesting activity is a must. And we know what we should be eating to make ourselves healthy inside and out.

Appreciate aging and be thankful for all that we have become over our extended years. The smooth-skinned crowd have a long road ahead and changes along the way may not all be to their liking. We however have arrived safely and intact. If the price of the journey is a few wrinkles, don’t you think it a fair exchange?

Why Boomers Need To Accept Impermanence

Nothing lasts forever. Given enough time, colors fade, buildings crumble, continents shift, even suns grow cold. People around us grow up and grow old. We grow up and grow old. It is the nature of things; it is the way of life. At a logical level, we realize this. After all, boomers are smart people! And yet, despite accepting reality and despite our logical thinking, it is not always easy to remain positive as we witness and participate in this gradual decline all around us. A loss realized is a loss felt.

Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone. ~ C.S. Lewis

If boomers are not careful, it is possible to become obsessed with the impermanence of life and what is taken from us, fixating on the negatives. If in the end I am going to lose everything, what is the value of anything? I don’t want to become attached since I will ultimately lose it. Relationships and commitment scares me since 50% are destined to fail – why put in the effort?

On the flip side, boomers knowledge and acceptance of the impermanence of life can be a way for us to focus on today, appreciate what we have, not take for granted our loved ones, and generally live a more complete and satisfying life.

The Challenges and the Promises

If not for the impermanence of life, I would not be able to witness my daughter growing up and becoming the beautiful woman she is. Ever changing, ever progressing, we go through the process together. It is important to remain consciously aware of what is happening and appreciate each step along the way. Together we experience her first words spoken, her first unsure steps, the start of her school career at the wise age of five, school plays where she sings her solo and I in the audience with my heart pounding in rhythm to help her succeed, graduation from high school, and so quickly after that graduation from college. Each step along the way a distinct memory and one more piece of the final puzzle that will be her life. Without change and evolution and impermanence none of this could take place.

It is through impermanence that we start each spring observing life busting out as trees bud and bloom. Leaves grow and fill out the branches and life is abundant. Then as the months pass, we notice the greens fading to yellows and reds and oranges in vibrant displays of magnificent color. We know that this change in colors indicates the coming end of summer and the arrival of winter. And ultimately, leaves fall and trees are bare and life seems to stand still. But were it not for this cycle of life we would not have colorful autumns to populate our memories.

If I can learn to appreciate the impermanence of the world, hopefully I will stop taking for granted what happens to me each day. I will wake up next to my wife and truly appreciate her for the wonderful person she is and hug her close to me. When my uncle begins his rambling discourse on the topic du jour, I will pay attention and hear what he is saying. As I drive down the road with my wife in the passenger seat, I will be conscious of her presence and the blessing of our togetherness and I will not take it for granted.

Nothing is forever so we boomers need to appreciate now:

  • Enjoy every moment with those we love
  • Respect and value every experience and everything around us
  • Appreciate what we have now – good health, a roof over our heads, enough to eat, water to drink, warmth on a cold night, protection from the storm
  • Do not take friends and family for granted
  • If we have something nice to say, say it now
  • Don’t save all of the good wine for later
  • Live your life so at the end you have no regrets

Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me. The carriage held but just ourselves and immortality. ~ Emily Dickinson

Because of impermanence and the ever-changing world in which we live, bad weather storms in and then moves on, anger rises and abates, tears well up and then dry, and hope springs up in the most unlikely of places. Boomers need to learn to appreciate the value of impermanence. If I am healthy now, I will do what I can to maintain that health. Knowing that life itself is impermanent, I will appreciate each experience that much more. For each moment, I will be thankful, engaged, appreciative, and above all I will live and love that moment.