Aging Options

8 steps to building a more social retirement

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Few Americans are financially prepared to retire but if you are one of the lucky ones don’t pat yourself on the back yet. That’s because you still have one more step.  An article in USA Today says that retirement isn’t just about the money, it’s also about your social activities.  I’ve written before about how important having a sense of purpose will help you live a longer, better life here and here.  Having hobbies, friends and activities will keep your retirement from becoming a drag and help you longer at the same time.  Some people have spent their entire work lives doing little else but working so the article provides tips on how to go about developing a life after retirement.  They include:

  1. Joining a retirement group. A family friend retired from first the Air Force and later from the border patrol.  He’s the kind of guy that invests everything he has into the thing he’s doing now.  So, I wondered how he would take to retirement but I shouldn’t have worried.  He joined a museum group on a California base that works with old air planes and is working more hours as a volunteer than he did in his previous careers.  That’s good because he would have driven his wife crazy and instead some organization gained a jet propelled volunteer that’s helping them get to the next level as a museum and a non-profit.  There are retiree groups for doctors, military, teachers, and many other skill sets.  In addition, the ranks of volunteer organizations benefit immensely from people who don’t wish to work full-time any more at their particular skill but love their career fields enough that they don’t wish to give them up completely either.  If you want to give up your old work patterns to something else entirely, the national parks, disaster relief programs, local libraries and a nearly unending list of other organizations are desperately looking for folks that can help them achieve their goals. The Corporation for National & Community Service offers a taste of what is available.
  2. Develop a network. My dad spends time each day keeping up with the guys he worked with when he joined the Air Force 50 years ago.  As a military brat, I’ve noticed that military personnel seem particularly adept at taking up where they left off in a relationship even if they haven’t seen each other for decades.  It means that even though I’ve failed to ever make it to any reunion, my parents regularly take off to meet up with old friends and work groups and remember people and events far better than I ever have. Some careers are naturally good at those relationships.  Some are not.  But if you belong to a large union, profession or organization, you probably already have a built in network.
  3. Develop a regular habit of participating in retirement activities. A friend of mine is a nurse.  Until recently she worked a casual job at local senior centers offering foot care.  She regularly takes off for the far corners of the world to volunteer with crisis and non-crisis situations where a skilled nurse is desperately needed.  Her retirement career has provided her with opportunities to travel, meet a lot of people she genuinely loves and do something valuable.
  4. Start a new business or work a part-time job. In my previous position I had sales staff that were all retired.  Selling advertising for a non-profit newspaper provided them with the opportunity to continue to develop relationships with people in the community while also providing a small revenue stream.  That revenue wasn’t enough to support them but did provide them with enough income to allow trips, eating out and other entertainment options that simply wouldn’t have existed for them without that extra income.  If you always wanted to try something as a career but couldn’t make the income work for you, retirement offers the opportunity to explore that avenue.
  5. Take classes. We shouldn’t ever stop growing or learning and one thing that can aid in that aim is going back to school.  A lot of our current seniors had their educations interrupted by war or the need to begin earning a paycheck.  Attending school now can help them achieve lifelong dreams and has the added bonus of potentially providing years more of income.
  6. Read. Seattle ranked fourth in a recent list of most well-read cities.  It’s easier than ever before to read thanks to e-readers, the internet and the availability of books, both virtual and real.  The Pew Research Center found that Americans who used the internet or other digital devices read more than non-users.  Book reading as a habit has dropped since the 70s when a Gallup Poll found that 12 percent of adults had not read in the previous 12 months compared to a similar poll in 2011 that found that 19 percent of Americans hadn’t read a book in the previous 12 months.  Still, reading provides people with topics to talk about and provides a basis for other conversations.  Local libraries offer book clubs for all sorts of readers, you can find others on the internet and most senior centers have them as well.
  7. Get healthy. Join the Y, the Cascade Bicycle Club, the Washington Dragon Boat Association or some other organization dedicated to getting out and exercising.  It’s easier to exercise with other people.  Joining an organization can help you stay mentally and physically active.
  8. Make a bucket list. Making a list can help you set goals and stay on track to achieving them so that the everyday doesn’t side track your ability to accomplish long held desires.

Retiring can create a sense of loss if you don’t find things to replace your accomplishments in the work place. Find a purpose for your life and build on that.

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