The kids are all out of the house and the days of a 9 to 5 job are behind you. Life suddenly has lots of space and time and possibility, which can be wonderful and freeing – and maybe a little intimidating.
Without a clear structure to the day, some people say they no longer have a sense of purpose the way they used to. This feeling of purpose is particularly important during transitional times in life, like retirement.
"Meaning comes from what you believe, value and understand about yourself and the world around you,” Kristin Vickers Douglas, professor of psychology at Mayo Clinic, said in an interview with the Mayo Clinic News Network. “By finding meaning and purpose in your life, you can have more joy and less stress each day."
Research backs up the benefits of finding a meaning to your days. Studies show that leading a purposeful life reduces feelings of loneliness and increases longevity and happiness.
If you have trouble thinking of a new purpose for your life, try asking yourself some questions.
- What is an activity that I have returned to over and over in my life?
- What is something that is so engrossing and enjoyable for me that I lose track of time?
- If I could do or be anything, what would that be?
- What makes me feel proud?
Need more inspiration? Here are some common ways retirees add more structure and meaning to their days.
Are you passionate about animal welfare or climate change? Volunteering for a cause you care about will instantly give you feelings of motivation and purpose. Volunteering also instills self-confidence and allows us to be a part of a community and learn new skills.
Don’t know where to find volunteer opportunities? Try searching on VolunteerMatch.org for postings that match your interests and skills.
Go back to school
School isn’t just for the youngsters. Go back to school for the simple love of learning. Try Italian 101, delve into 18th century opera, or finally learn what a bitcoin is.
These days, lots of places offer continuing education programs, where you can take classes without the intention of earning a degree. Your town may offer low-cost programs, or your local college may offer age-based discounts for area residents. Don’t forget to check out online programs like Coursera and EdX.
Afraid you’ll be the oldest person in the class? Don’t be. Chances are you’ll find other people your age. And besides, older adults are often more motivated than their younger peers. They bring a unique perspective to a classroom, which can benefit all students.
Need another reason to head back to school? Not only is learning fun, it’s been shown to slow cognitive aging.
Focus on your health
Hit the gym, take up a new exercise, or discover new ways of staying active and fit. Try a new sport, like swimming, yoga, Tai Chi, or golf, all of which are low impact and great options for older adults.
Many gyms also have classes that cater to older adults, so be sure to check at your local fitness center. Group classes can be an easy way to meet more people, too.
Related reading: Will Medicare Pay for a Gym Membership?
Try a new hobby
Ever wanted to learn how to play the guitar? How about tennis, pottery, or poetry? Sure, you may not become a master, but you’ll be surprised how good you can get at a new hobby, even when starting later in life.
In fact, why not try them all? You’ll never be bored, and the kicker? Learning several new things at once has been shown to increase cognitive abilities in older adults!
Related reading: Why You Need a Hobby, Plus 7 You Can Master Right Now
Get involved with your community
Whether you live in a small town or big city, finding your community is a great way to make new friends and rediscover a sense of purpose. For some, finding community through a place of worship works best. Non-religious people might find their tribe by joining a community garden or community theater.
Whatever you choose, being around people who share your values and interests will increase your sense of belonging.
Do you have Medicare questions? We have answers.
When it comes to Medicare, one plan definitely does not fit all. At ClearMatch, it’s our mission to match you to the policy that best serves your unique needs. It’s all we do, and we do it better than anyone. Check out our extensive library of articles for answers to your Medicare questions. Or, compare plans in your area to get started finding the policy that’s right for you.