When you retire, one of the most important keys to staying healthy is to keep active, both physically and mentally. But many retirees discover that leaving one life to begin another is harder than they thought. The truth is, even though most professionals look forward to retirement, the transition from a 9 to 5 lifestyle can be unexpectedly traumatic.
According to USNews.com, “An active retirement is not just keeping busy, but engaging in quality activities that make your life worthwhile.” This is the time to explore your passions that you might not have had a chance to pursue earlier in life. Here are some tips to get you started during this important transition.
- One of the most obvious ways to stay healthy is to get moving. In retirement, you have the luxury of exercising when you want – and you have more options to choose from. Whether you’re hiking on a trail, swinging a tennis racket, or even chasing your grandkids around, physical activities promote stronger bones, improved strength and balance, reduced risk of heart disease, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Studies also have shown physical exercise helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and some researchers suggest exercise may also improve immunity.
- Get up and get started. Once you’ve caught up on your sleep, learn to appreciate the bliss of early mornings. Early morning hours where you don’t actually have to be somewhere can be refreshing. You get to set your own pace and decide what you want to do that day. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a day when you get up early, but don’t need to report to work.
- Stimulate your mind. Without the stimulation of a work environment, keeping your mind sharp is harder. Choose activities that make you think. Some people read, while others prefer the challenge of a puzzle or brain twister. Take online courses from the comfort of home. Learn to play a musical instrument. One study showed that participants who engaged in creative hobbies were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who were intellectually inactive.
- Try something new. Identifying and pursuing new interests can be a refreshing adventure in what may otherwise become an uneventful routine. Learn how to use technology better. Take dance classes. Write a book. Travel.
- Get better at something old. Revisit a long-lost skill. With all that free time, retirement can be the perfect opportunity to get better at something we have always loved. Renew your love of singing or playing the piano. Brush up on your chess. Work on your golf game.
- Play cards. Invite some friends over for the evening to play a few hands of bridge, and you just might give your immune system a boost at the same time. Research has linked bridge players’ need to use memory, visualization and sequencing during the game with increased numbers of immune cells afterward.
- Stay close to your friends. Since work isn’t getting in the way of pleasure, you can dedicate more time to personal relationships. Researchers say building up your “social capital” promotes health and happiness as people age. Frequent social activities—such as watching movies, attending sporting events and playing games—decreases the chances of dementia, significant cognitive decline, and even physical disability.
- Renew your sense of purpose. Work is the way we find identity as individuals and how others identify us. As a consequence, retirement can be devastating to some. Instead of sitting around, volunteer your time, years of experience, and wisdom. Research has shown that having a sense of purpose may help you live longer, and other studies have found that older adults who participate in activities they believe are meaningful often report they feel happier and healthier. There are thousands of organizations seeking volunteers, so it shouldn’t be hard to find something you love.
As Will Rogers once said, “Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” Retirement doesn’t mean stepping back from a full, healthy life. With roughly 20 years of life remaining after retirement, many retirees have time enough to do anything and everything. By making their health a priority in retirement, the retired set can keep their minds and bodies acting as young as they feel.