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What Comes Next?

People-hiking-with-mountains-in-the-backgroundWhen people think about retiring, their first thought is often, “Well, what will I do?”

Some people are eager to retire because the demands of their jobs become exhausting as they get older.  The elementary classroom teacher and the hospital nurse come to mind.  Even those who are looking forward to leaving their work are wondering what they will do.  This seems to be a universal question, whether one thinks about it long before retiring or after the actual transition from work to retirement.  In talking to a number of friends who have been retired for varying periods of time, I found a wealth of creative ideas for finding rewarding pursuits in this new phase of life.  Here are some of them:

A very useful book that offers help in making this transition and even talks about what to do in the first 30 days is The Retirement Boom: An All-Inclusive Guide to Money, Life, and Health in Your Next Chapter by Catherine Allen and others.  This book is helpful in thinking through all the important issues one faces in retirement and planning ahead for them.  Some intriguing chapter titles are: “Renegotiating Life at Home,” Simplifying Your Life and Living a Life of Passion,” and “Making Your Money Last.”  The authors’ major recommendation upon retirement is to take time for oneself and to reconnect with friends.   After a lifetime of work, most people need a chance to decompress, to reflect on what they want in the coming years, and to focus on taking care of their bodies and health.  Other helpful books include Get the Most Out of Retirement: Checklist for Happiness, Health, Purpose, and Financial Security by Sally Hurme, and How to Make Your Money Last: The Indispensable Retirement Guide by Jane Bryant Quinn.

Travel is high on the list of priorities for many retirees.  Although people prefer to travel with a spouse or a friend, there are also other options if that’s not possible.  A number of travel companies offer small group trips all over the world.  Eldertreks is an adventure travel company for those over 50 that allows one to choose an activity level from easy to challenging and an adventure style from cultural to diving to photography.  Other active vacations are offered by companies like Vermont Bicycle Tours (VBT), which offers tours worldwide that include combinations of activities, like biking, hiking, and kayaking (with the option of electric bikes) and bike and barge river trips.  Road Scholar (formerly called Elderhostel) offers educational travel in 150 countries and provides lectures and guides to help participants learn about each location.  Untours is a company that offers something unique – independent travel with support.  An “Untour” provides a private apartment or cottage in the chosen location, a rental car, assistance on arrival and departure, a free cell phone, and planning advice and support throughout your stay, all for a very reasonable cost.  These are but a few of the numerous travel companies that will happily take your business.

Volunteering opportunities are available in the schools, environmental organizations, political action groups, Public Radio stations such as WBUR and WGBH, and many other organizations.  Tutoring adults in literacy skills – English as a Second Language (ESL) or reading and writing – is a very rewarding activity, some say the most rewarding volunteer work they’ve done.  Free training and support for this work is offered by the Literacy Program at the Norwood Public Library twice a year.

Child Care – Many retirees who love children or have grandchildren become involved with babysitting on a regular basis.  They may commit to a regular schedule, which has the pros and cons of a part-time job, or being “on call” to help out.  Many other people prefer lots of visiting time with grandchildren, without the commitment of a regular schedule.  Either way, one of the pleasures of retirement for many is the opportunity to spend more time with grandchildren.

Household projects — Retirement provides the time to tackle long-postponed organizing at home.  In short, this is a chance to simplify one’s life.  Decluttering/downsizing after years of accumulating is a goal for many.  Out with clothes held onto for 20 years in hopes they’ll come back into style.  Time to clean out the belongings of adult children who have stored their life’s possessions in their childhood rooms (if you haven’t succeeded in persuading them to do it themselves).  For some, there’s the project of organizing a lifetime of photographs, or making plans to remodel a room.  In retirement, there’s finally the time to work on projects one didn’t have energy for when working full time.

Hobbies and new learning – Retirement is an ideal time to pursue new or deferred interests.  Many people choose to learn a musical instrument, take up photography, do art projects, go birding, begin a writing project, or join book groups.  Retirees have time to take better care of themselves (and often need to).  One can join a gym, take more walks, or attend a cooking class. There are many opportunities for lifelong learning courses designed for older people, such as those offered at Wellesley-Weston Lifetime LearningEvergreen at Boston University, and community Adult Education programs.

The following thoughts were offered by a good friend who has been retired for several years:  “Be open to new things, start with a few.  Take a class (a good way to meet people).  Build slowly, don’t rush into things.  Keep a balance.  Remember that everyone finds their own way.”  One of the greatest pleasures of being retired seems to be finally having time flexibility and leisure time, a chance to start the day with a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper.  As we get older, we need more time to reflect, to savor our experiences, to slow down a bit and smell the roses.

Bonnie Wyler is an Outreach and Literacy Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Bonnie’s column in the February 1, 2018 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Lydia Sampson

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