Three keys for living well after retiring

In an article published by Fortune magazine, author M.T. Connolly noted a lot of people get happier as they age because they start focusing on more meaningful parts of existence.

That may be correct, but I also think seasoned citizens reach an age when they feel they can stop pretending to be people they are not. They stop caring about what others think of them and become more tuned in to ways to impact others.

It can be difficult to find your footing after retirement when work no longer supplies a sense of identity and accomplishment, M.T. wrote. Even worse, the shift can be sudden, abrupt and startling, especially when companies don’t transition workers to part-time or contract work on their way out.

“We have this American norm where we work just crazy hours,” she explained. “And then suddenly—boom—you’re retired. Here’s your pen. Enjoy your retirement.”

I have seen that play out repeatedly over the years. We are told to make way for the younger generations and their “new” ideas conceived without the benefit of wisdom earned through years of struggle and youthful ignorance.

M.T. identified three ways to find purpose after retirement. They include:

1. Volunteer or become involved in a community

It’s true that many seasoned citizens find themselves socially isolated when they give up working. Their identities were wrapped around what they do for a living, and their social lives were often tied to formal and even informal connections made in breakrooms and around conference tables.

That’s why communities like Sun City, Ariz., where I live, are so popular. There is a plethora of social opportunities available in the city of 60,000 residents that boasts of eight recreation centers as well as eight golf courses.

But people don’t have to move to retirement communities in Arizona, or Florida for that matter. They can join or form communities anywhere. Although having lunch and playing golf are fun ways to pass the time of day, they really don’t give people a sense of purpose.

M.T recommends people volunteer their time supporting activities and causes which interest them. When people give away their time to help others, it often comes back multiplied in terms of joy and personal satisfaction.

“Older people who volunteered with at-risk kids also had lower levels of inflammation and better health long term,” M.T. explained. “Volunteering further puts us into the mix of humanity.”

2. Engage in storytelling

Everyone has a story to tell — EVERYONE. We have all endured a lot, overcome a lot and experienced a lot, both good and bad. The world would be a better place if we took time to share our stories and listen to others who are sharing theirs.

Some seasoned citizens have taken time to write about their experiences and the lessons they learned in books of their own. Others have created audio recordings or videos describing key moments in their lives and the world in which they grew up. Not only does that ensure your stories will live on in future generations, they offer a perspective often missing in today’s culture.

Where would the world be without writers like Laura Ingalls Wilder, who talked about growing up traveling across the prairie in a covered wagon and enduring all types of hardships.

“But, but, but, I don’t have anything fun and exciting like that to share,” many people will tell themselves. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. People over 50:

  • Witnessed the advent of the space program and the shock of Challenger’s explosion.
  • Experienced the new atomic age with weapons of mass destruction, playing “duck and cover” in school, and the fear associated with the Cuban missile crisis.
  • Witnessed the assassination of political leaders and cultural unrest of the 1960s.
  • Actually lived in a time when cell phones and instant access to information wasn’t possible.
  • Grew up in thriving two-parent families where kids played outside ALL THE TIME.
  • Enjoyed a simpler life before television, video games and streaming services offered round-the-clock entertainment.
  • Had their political views shaped by Watergate, the Civil Rights Movement and the McCarthy inquisitions.
  • Lived through a Great Depression and Great Recession.

Absolutely everyone has a story to tell and lessons to share about their experiences during a half-century of living. Each story comes with a lesson or two that could be beneficial to others living through those same experiences today.

3. Maintain intergenerational relationships

A woman I interviewed, Betty Mills, helps girls and teens fall in love with horses. She also invites teens over to her home for conversation and snacks while assembling a puzzle. What an incredible way to impart wisdom and life experiences to people young enough to alter the trajectories of their lives.

I just interviewed a couple, Mike and Betty Gill, who continue to work part-time at an amusement park. Although they are well into their 60s, they work with people in their teens, 20s and 30s all the time. They can guide them into realizing there is much more to life than what they see on TV and, especially, social media. The couple teaches youngsters to start dreaming.

Churches have youth groups which need adults to impart wisdom to youngsters. What if you just talked to kids and teens about mistakes you made when growing up? Befriend that kid growing up in a single-parent home down the street. Teach a kid to fish or play an “old-fashioned” board game.

One of my all-time favorite movies is On Golden Pond, where a man turning 80 befriends a 13-year-old boy for just a few weeks one summer, and their lives are changed forever.

Finding purpose post-retirement doesn’t need to be complicated. It can lie in the simple acts of showing up for others and being open to new connections, the article explained.

The full story is available in Fortune magazine.

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