Retirement means newfound free time—but for many older Americans, the lack of structure (and resulting social isolation) can be a source of stress.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. From fun fitness classes to stimulating day trips and world adventures, here are three ways you can make the most of your Golden Years.
Keep On Moving
Did you know the average older adult sits for about nine hours a day? This sedentary behavior has been associated with increased risk for heart disease, kidney disease, obesity, and diabetes.1 Fortunately, new research shows that any kind of movement—be it walking, swimming, biking, gentle yoga, golfing, or even gardening—can have positive (and often immediate) health benefits.2
When planning a new exercise regime, aim to make it enjoyable and rewarding (just be sure to check in with your doctor before getting started, especially if you are not normally active3). Try an exercise class for older adults or boost your mood with a walk in nature—and better yet, invite a friend.
For optimal health benefits, be sure to keep your mind active as well: Take a class, join a bookclub, tackle a jigsaw or crossword puzzle, or challenge yourself to learn to paint, quilt, or play a musical instrument.4
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Seize the Day (With a Day Trip)
Have you ever daydreamed of taking a day trip to a winery, camping under the stars, or taking a dip in the ocean—but were stuck in a cubicle or office? No more of that.
Your newfound free time provides the perfect opportunity for an out-of-town adventure. Catch an exhibit at a museum in a neighboring city, picnic at a scenic spot with a friend, go on a one-day meditation or wellness retreat, enjoy your favorite musicians (and perhaps a glass of wine) at an outdoor concert, or indulge in a massage and spa treatment at a local resort, if pampering is in order.
You may wish to invite along the grandkids for some of these activities. Research from the Institute on Aging at Boston College found that when grandparents are able to give and receive support from grandchildren, both generations report increased psychological well-being.5
Volunteering is another way to get out of the house, develop new friendships, and strengthen your sense of meaning and purpose. Love animals? Volunteer at a local animal rescue. Relish art and music? Inquire about opportunities at your local museum or concert hall. Want to support cancer research? Participate in a local walkathon or other community fundraiser!
Your body will thank you: Research suggests that volunteering can help older adults lower depression6 and stay physically and mentally active.7
Go on an Out of the Box Adventure
One of the best things about retirement is the ability to travel—and with no office to get back to, you might as well make that traveling experience more enjoyable with a slow travel.
What is slow travel? Slow travel, an offshoot of the slow food movement, encourages travelers to immerse themselves in the local culture and take their time exploring new places, rather than rushing from one tourist attraction to another.
Wanting to brush up on your Spanish? Learn from the locals in South America or Spain. Hankering to try your hand at pottery, jewelry making, or other craft? Take a course with a local skilled artisan. History buff? Explore long gone civilizations by walking in the steps of your favorite poet or author, visiting ancient castles, biking through the countryside, relishing a concert at a centuries-old monastery, or delving into local histories with a local over a glass of Cava or cup of coffee.
While long-term travel might sound prohibitively expensive, it’s actually quite the opposite. Vacation hosts on rental websites like Airbnb and VRBO often provide sharply discounted weekly and monthly rates. Hotel reservation sites such as Booking.com now offer highly discounted monthly rates at hotels—and even with private hosts.
Crave something a bit more structured? Consider taking a cruise led by a historian—and rub elbows with like-minded travelers. (Just make sure your travel plans harmonize with the vision of your spouse or partner, whatever adventure you choose.)
Just looking forward to a day (or month) off may have positive health benefits for older adults: The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that seniors with a positive bias toward themselves and life are 44 percent more likely to fully recover from a bout of disability than someone with a negative outlook.8 Other studies suggest that older Americans who think of aging as a positive experience live longer9, with a higher quality of life.10
The time is now. Create a vision for your life, and embrace it—and prove that for the young at heart, youth is not wasted on the young.
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