Proactive Aging: A Road Map to Arrive and Thrive

When I made the decision to retire, I was surprised at the number of people who expressed to me their belief that I would be bored when I didn’t have a job to go to everyday.  My response was the same, 100% of the time:  

“…only boring people get bored.”  

But– maybe also people who don’t plan for what’s ahead. If you are currently contemplating retirement, now is the time to begin building for that future. If you have already retired and feel like you’re floundering, it’s not too late to begin.

In a culture where often the first thing we are asked by a stranger after initial introductions is “what do you do?”  is it any wonder that so many of us are largely defined by our work?    I learned early on to view my work as a means to support my life vs my life supporting my work.  For me that meant that while I worked hard to give my best effort, I also endeavored to  maintain a life outside my job.  It was often challenging to manage that goal.

I have a friend who had a very successful career in a field she loved. She retired after some health issues made it difficult to continue, but has since failed to thrive and is largely housebound.  She is an example of one who was so involved in her successful career that she failed to build a life outside of it.  

If you are approaching retirement, here are 10 suggestions to consider :

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  1.  Build scheduled activities into your schedule now so that you have a reason to get up and get out when you’re no longer going to work.    I’ve attended a Monthly Bible Study with a small group of women for the last 20+ years.  In addition I’ve long attended weekly services at my church.  Once I ceased working, I added in classes at the gym three times a week and began walking one morning a week with a group of women friends.  These routine activities keep me active and involved in lives outside my own and give me something to look forward to nearly every day.IMG_4788
  2. Kill two birds with one stone.  Exercise your body while staying in touch with friends.  Instead of meeting for lunch or coffee, meet at a park and go for a walk, giving you time to catch up while keeping your body strong and agile.fullsizeoutput_add4
  3. Don’t restrict friendships to others your own age.  If all your friends are your age or older, eventually if you are fortunate enough to have long life, you will face losing many who are dear to you.  Hence, there is a great benefit to having friends of various ages.  I have found many young women who are desirous of being in relationship with an older woman who shares their values and can be a source of wisdom that comes with age.  Multigenerational activities are enriching and expand our horizons.  Spend time with grandchildren while they’re young so you’ll have strong relationships when they age.
  4. Don’t be afraid of technology/social media. While it’s true that social media can be misused, but it can also be a blessing.  Facebook and Instagram have been a means for me to stay in touch with friends all over the world.  Today I was able to converse in real time with my friend who recently relocated to Luxenbourg.  I group text with a several small groups of friends regularly.  And, my granddaughters introduced me to Marco Polo, an application that allows us to send video messages. I’ve been using it for months and recently some of my 30 something friends have discovered it.  This Senior was ahead of the curve!fullsizeoutput_7848
  5. Exercise hospitality at whatever level works for you.  You may not feel like hosting a dinner party but who can’t manage a pitcher of iced tea and a bunch of grapes?  Invite friends over for a movie night or a potluck holiday gathering.
  6. Find a place to volunteer where you can use your gifts for the benefit of others.  We all need a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives.  I spend one day a week with my grandchildren, freeing my daughter to have some time to herself.  I spend another afternoon volunteering at my church, supporting women’s ministries and events.  Wherever your interests lie, find a place to exercise them on a regular basis.  
  7. Remember that isolation is your enemy.  Don’t end up like my friend who believes retiring was the biggest mistake of her life.  Ideally you start building a life outside of your work while you’re still in the game.  But, if you can’t, make it a priority to do so soon after you leave the workplace. cookie 169
  8. Rediscover your partner and the things you enjoy doing together.  Whether it’s going to the gym together, walking your dogs, hiking, travel or movies, make time for each other and for social activities with other friends. 
  9. Rediscover your spiritual side and the faith you may have abandoned. As we near the end of life on earth we are more incline to realize that our spirits need to nurtured and stretched. For me that means reading my Bible in the morning as I enjoy a hot cup of coffee. Ive found God’s Word life giving and able to fill my spiritual tank, enabling me to live with purpose. It means gathering with like minded believers so that we may spur one another on to good work. And, it means feeling prepared for whatever may come.
  10. . Serve others. It may be a neighbor, a friend or someone in your church. Find ways to give of yourself to bless others regularly. Prepare and deliver a meal to a sick friend or a new Mom and her family. If you don’t cook, deliver take out or a gift card to their favorite restaurant. When you make soups prepare a double recipe and freeze half to share with someone later. Offer to babysit your grands overnight and give your adult children a night out sans children. Offer to pick up things at the market for someone who has difficulty getting out. Help with preparations for events you enjoy. The possibilities are endless and as you bless others you, too, will be blessed.

The beauty of retirement is that we have the freedom to choose where and when to spend our time and effort and with whom. It is NOT the time to burrow in for the winter. We are not groundhogs, people.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’re either preparing to or are already thriving as you age.

Here’s to Blooming in Winter! With a little preparation it can be the icing on your cake.