When we dream about retirement while we’re still in the workforce, we often imagine a relaxed, stress-free life that’s like being on vacation 24/7. While napping in a hammock, reading books and enjoying your down time is all very important, many retirees have found that after several months they end up needing something a little “more” to give them fulfillment and purpose.
“We don’t necessarily think about purpose when we’re younger, because our purpose – whether that’s career, family or something else – seems to just naturally happen,” says Mary Scott Russell, Director of Community Relations at East Ridge at Cutler Bay. “In retirement, when we no longer ‘have’ to do anything, it’s our chance to take a look at our lives and discover what we ‘want’ to do. After a lifetime of having our purpose spelled out for us, it can take some time and experimentation for retirees to find out what truly will bring them contentment and purpose during their golden years.”
Many studies have shown that having fulfillment and purpose in life has many benefits for whole-person health, such as promoting happiness, relieving loneliness, decreasing the chance for premature death and building up a sense of well-being. Mary says that’s why as you plan for your retirement, you should be thinking about the personal side of your plan alongside your financial needs.
“Your purpose can be whatever you want it to be,” she says. “By thinking about what it could be for you, you may better be able to map out your retirement plan and how you’ll use your resources moving forward. It can also help you decide where you want to live in your senior years, and what type of community will suit you best.”
The famous psychologist Viktor Frankl once wrote, In other words, pursuing happiness for the sake of happiness is counterintuitive. However, if you are pursuing something that satisfies your wants and needs (or, in other words, to be fulfilled and have purpose), happiness will follow.
What sorts of things will make you happy? What sorts of things will help you find meaning, fulfillment and purpose in your golden years? Here are some ways that older adults have been pursuing their “something else” after retirement.
Head back to work.
If you’re still currently working, the idea of going back into the workforce may seem ridiculous. After all, isn’t this supposed to be the time of your life where you don’t have to work? And that’s the clincher – the words have to. Surprisingly, a lot of older adults find that they truly enjoy and find purpose in being a working, productive member of society. The difference is generally personal motivation: in retirement, you have a chance to do work for something that motivates you. This can be returning to your previous career as a consultant or working on a part-time basis, or it can be a chance to launch a new business or switch careers entirely. When you’re doing something that fulfills you, you may be surprised that it hardly feels like “work” at all.
Discover the world.
Many retirees dream of traveling to faraway locales or certain cities they’ve always wanted to visit. But discovering the world doesn’t mean that you have to be traveling overseas all the time. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed about buying an RV and going on cross-country trips to see new sites, visit friends or have new experiences. You could also try “voluntourism,” which is donating your time and energies in different countries.
Spend time cultivating relationships.
Building and maintaining relationships brings lots of fulfillment and purpose to our lives. Retirement gives you the time to do that in deep, meaningful ways. Some older adults spend their retirement moving to where their families are and helping raise grandchildren. Others choose to head out and form new friendships and relationships with people across the world. Others choose to deepen their existing relationships with family members and friends.
Become a mentor.
Many seniors have life lessons that they’re eager and willing to share with other generations. Oftentimes, this translates into becoming tutors or other forms of mentorship. You can go as formal or informal as you like. You could teach classes at a local community college, create online lessons via video or become an in-person tutor for local students. You could also work with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters to volunteer your time on a more personal level.
Volunteer for a cause you care about.
A study by the reports, “Older adults who volunteer and who engage in more hours of volunteering report higher levels of well-being.” Volunteering allows you to give back to the community while also gaining something in return – such as a sense of pride, fulfillment and self-esteem. Because you’re not doing it for a paycheck, you can afford to be choosy about where you volunteer your time – to great results.
Learn something new.
Retirement is a great time to teach ourselves something we’ve always wanted to learn, whether it’s a skill like cooking, playing an instrument or learning a language. This is your chance to dip your toes in the water and discover what things really intrigue you. It’s also an opportunity to pick up any favorite hobbies that have fallen by the wayside while you were busy working or raising a family. Learning new things keeps our minds sharp and provides us with a sense of – you guessed it – fulfillment.
So often we think of exercising and eating right as something we have to do in order to stay healthy. But what if you changed your thinking on that and instead made it an exciting new purpose for your retirement? By keeping yourself healthy and active, you’ll be able to stay strong and able to do the things you love – and want to continue doing. It also means you’ll be able to stay independent for as long as possible, which is definitely something that many seniors want in their golden years.
“Finding your fulfillment and purpose in your senior years is a journey that is ever evolving, and that’s a beautiful thing,” says Mary. “East Ridge at Cutler Bay has been designed to help our residents live their very best lives by taking chores and tasks off their plate. Our goal is to help our residents discover what truly fills them up, and we’re here to help them do that now and in the future.”
About East Ridge at Cutler Bay
East Ridge at Cutler Bay is Miami-Dade County’s only true Life Plan Community. The nonprofit community draws from the neighborhood charm of suburban Cutler Bay and the vibrancy of Miami in a lush tropical setting of 76 acres, located at 19301 SW 87th Avenue. The community offers a continuum of care including independent living, assisted living and memory support residences in a neighborhood setting; respite care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation services are available within Three Palms Health Center.
For more information or to schedule a tour, please call 305-256-3564.