Retirement often seems, in advance, like a wonderful bejewelled blessing, waiting on the horizon – a reward for a lifetime of work, and the opportunity to finally kick your feet up and relax.
Retirement can certainly be deeply rewarding, but it’s also the case that many new retirees find themselves shocked by the unpleasant realisation that, without their day jobs and previous responsibilities to keep them occupied, boredom sets in quickly, along with a lack of momentum.
There’s good evidence that, to some extent anyway, we all need to maintain a certain level of activity and action in our lives, in order to feel properly fulfilled, and to live our lives in the most rewarding way possible.
Relaxing on a sunny tropical beach with a mojito is great – for a day or two. But, if you do that for too long, you’re likely to find that something is missing, and that you really want to get back to a bit of adventure and challenge.
It’s as important to maintain an active life past retirement age, as it is before it. So, here are a few tips for maintaining an active life as you get older.
Participate in groups, clubs, and community events
The Internet is a pretty remarkable resource in a variety of ways. One of its many benefits is that it makes it easier to identify events, community groups, and clubs to join in with. A quick web search of a term like Best Senior Citizen Centers Guide is likely to furnish you with plenty of helpful results.
When all is said and done, it’s a lot easier to get involved in meaningful and fun activities, when you have a group of peers to get together with.
Senior citizen centres, hobby clubs, and other groups in that vein can provide just what you need in terms of group support, if you’re interested in trying out new things, or even just getting out of the house more often, but don’t necessarily have friends or relatives in the immediate vicinity who are available to meet up with you on a regular basis.
It’s often a good idea to attend a variety of different groups and workshops, in order to get a sense for the social dynamics within them, and to see what activities you most enjoy. So, stay open-minded, and consider trying your hand at everything from an art class, to a weekly poker night, to a dance class.
Set goals and work towards them
The neurotransmitter dopamine is associated with the pursuit of meaningful goals and desirable future outcomes, and there’s a good deal of evidence to suggest that having goals that you really care about, and working towards them, is one of the best ways of keeping yourself energised, enthusiastic, and driven, throughout life.
Once you retire from work, it may be tempting to more or less put the idea of goals aside altogether. But that’s not necessarily a great idea, and may cause you to become apathetic, and demotivated.
While you’re not necessarily going to embark on a whole new career in your 60s or 70s, there are still all kinds of goals you can set and work towards – things that you can get invested in, and become excited about.
Maybe you want to write a book. Or maybe you want to carve something extraordinary out of a giant block of wood. Whatever the case may be, it’s always better to have something to work towards, than nothing.
This isn’t so much because it’s fulfilling to achieve goals, either. Rather, evidence suggests that it’s actually the simple act of pursuing and moving closer towards goals that helps to generate much of the enthusiasm, momentum, and positive energy that is to be had in life.
So, find a target, aim for it, and enjoy the journey.
Challenge yourself to pick up new hobbies (and go all in on them) on a regular basis
In his highly influential book, “The Brain That Changes Itself,” the neuroscientist Norman Doidge looks at many remarkable case studies of people who dramatically improved their mental functioning and well-being, even in circumstances where it seemed like hope was non-existent.
Some of these anecdotes had to do with cases of chronic injury being reversed due to certain forms of cognitive exercise. But – there were also some interesting insights included on how to keep your brain healthy and alert as you get older.
For a long time, it was assumed that the brain was “done growing” at some point between childhood and the mid-20s, and then stayed in a set and rigid state throughout the rest of a person’s life.
More recently, however, Research has revealed a phenomenon known as “neuroplasticity” which means that our brains are constantly in a process of remodelling themselves throughout life, based on our actions and habits.
In the book, the author recalls the example of an older man who maintained a habit of regularly throwing himself into new hobbies, and dedicating himself to them obsessively for a year or two at a stretch, before moving on to the next one.
He was very sharp, and enjoyed a high degree of energy and well-being, perhaps largely because the act of learning new skills seems to promote good cognitive health, and the growth of new neuronal connections, irrespective of age.
If you want to build momentum – and keep it – challenge yourself to pick up new hobbies on a regular basis, go all in on them for a while, and then switch to new ones after a reasonable amount of time has passed.
Follow a diet that helps you to remain as healthy and vital as possible
Diet plays a tremendous role in our health, our energy levels, and our ability to stay as active and vital as possible, at all stages of life.
The proponents of different diets may not agree on too many things, but they do all agree that following a diet that includes lots of processed and pre-prepared foods as a recipe for disaster, and certainly not a way of boosting your energy levels.
There are many different diets out there to explore, and some may be more useful than others for treating certain conditions. You should make a point of trying to identify, and then follow, a diet that helps you to feel as vital as possible – while also conferring benefits for your overall health.
To give one example – Nathan Pritikin was well known for innovating a mostly plant-based diet, very low in fat, which had an apparently miraculous ability to reverse heart damage in people who were in very poor health.
Pritikin centres still exist – and there are many remarkable stories of elderly people attending those health retreats, when they were barely able to walk down the hallway, only to leave with such major improvements in health and energy that they were hiking up mountains a short while after, with extra years – sometimes decades – tacked onto their lives.
Spend quality time with your family (especially if there are young kids among them)
Family is one of the great joys in life – hopefully – and you should always make time to get together with your family as often as possible, assuming you can all get on.
There’s something extra special about a family gathering with young kids present, however. Young kids have an energy and zest for life that many of us find ourselves drifting away from, and even forgetting, as we age.
Simply watching your grandkids, or nephews and nieces, running around, playing games, and having a great time discovering the wonderful world around them, can leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready to get out there and have some more adventures of your own.