Retirement holds the promise of living the good life. Your children are out of your hands, you have left the daily pressures of work behind, you can sleep as long as you like and you will have a lot more time do fun things. This is how you will enjoy old age.
The reality is, while some transition into retirement smoothly, many retired people start feeling bored and without direction after a just few months. While they probably still have a third or more of their lives ahead, they are already asking themselves “what now?”
While most plan for their finances and where they are going stay after retirement, few think ahead about how they are going to fill that extra time. The result is that the golden years might not bring the anticipated pleasure, leaving a feeling of disillusionment with life and the future.
This article looks at what researchers have found about happiness and a sense of well being. We then provide some suggestions of things you can do enjoy old age and how to enjoy old age.
What Makes People Happy?
Happiness is when you have more positive than negative thoughts and feelings about your life in general and when you are happy you perceive life as fun and enjoyable.
Three significant factors which researchers have linked to happiness, or feelings of positivity, are strong social bonds, physical activity and a sense of purpose.
Humans are social animals from the day they are born. People who enjoy life tend to be social and have strong relationships. Social connections provide you with a support system during times of crisis. Friends help you to see different perspectives when everyday frustrations get you down or even just make you laugh
Studies have shown that older people who have strong social relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. They develop fewer physical diseases, their immune systems are stronger and they are less likely to suffer from mental health problems like depression and dementia.
Our bodies are designed to respond to demand. It is a matter of use it or lose it. All adults should get at least 30 minutes of medium intensity exercise five days a week throughout life. The type of activity does not matter, it can range from gardening or walking, to taking part in extreme sports.
Physical illness or disability affects your ability to enjoy life. Regular activity will boost your overall physical health, maintain your mobility and balance, improve sleep, and also ward off chronic disease.
Additionally, exercise boosts brain health. Increased blood flow to the brain improves memory and thinking, and prevents or delays the onset of dementia. Exercise stimulates the release of feel good hormones and reduces brain chemicals associated with stress and anxiety. Studies have even found that exercise is often as effective for treating depression as medication.
A Purpose in Life
Happiness and motivation are linked to having a purpose in life. Through most of adult life purpose is provided by work, building a home and raising a family. There is usually little time left for hobbies and other interests.
When you retire you need to find new reasons for living. Otherwise you could find yourself on a slippery slope to loneliness, depression and physical ill-health. Find new meaningful, engaging and enjoyable activities. If the activity includes learning, which exercises your brain, it will also improve your mental health and help prevent mental decline.
Researcher Lahnna Catalino explained that actively focusing on trying to be happy all the time is unrealistic and often brings the opposite result. In contrast, she explains, one should plan to include activities which you enjoy into your daily routine. This sparks positivity and feelings of contentment.
What follows is a list of activities to give you some ideas and you will find that many of the suggestions combine two or all of the happiness factors discussed above.
Things You Can Do to Enjoy Old Age
Everyone is different and so you will have to spend some time thinking about which activities resonate with your personality and interests, but also do not be afraid to take the plunge and try something new. You can always move on if it does not work out for you.
- Many newly retired people kick off a second career, often referred to as “encore work”. You can use your lifetime of skills and experience, while also setting your own limits. Examples are consulting work, mentoring or coaching, writing and part-time teaching. You could even turn a hobby into a profitable business.
- Stay in contact with your children and grandchildren. However, do not allow them to exploit your retirement status and make demands on your time, for example babysitting, unless you really want to do it.
- Regular, face to face contact with other people, chatting and laughing, is a mood booster and cannot be replaced by digital communication. Work on maintaining at least one or two close friendships and also extending your social network.
- Join a club or society. Examples are a book club, a chess or bridge club, a crafting guild, historical society, or sports club.
- Commit to exercising and focus on including some physically active time every day and plan for variation. Some exercise might not be fun while you are at it but, once done, your mood will be lifted. Go for a walk or swim, invite a friend along for a hike in nature, mow the lawn, join a sport that provides for a seniors league.
- Volunteer and look for volunteering opportunities at community events, at schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities. You can also volunteer with charity and even political organizations. Besides meeting new people, doing something for others increases you sense of self-worth.
- Travel, whether near or far, provides stimulating new experiences and widens your horizons.
- Learn something new and expand on an existing interest or hobby or learn something new that’s always fascinated you. Use YouTube videos on the internet, or join a class which will also get you out of the house and meeting new people.
Decide to Enjoy Old Age
You can choose from among countless activities to socialize more, get in some daily exercise and engage in meaningful activity, all of which will add more pleasure to your life and make you happier.
It is up to you whether you are going to get moving and make the most out of old age, even if it takes some effort to get started. Or you can sit back and wait for the world to come to you, ending up feeling sorry for yourself and risking a rapid decline in your physical and mental health.