You waited your entire working life for your retirement. However, it’s not quite all you anticipated. Golf isn’t all that exciting when your buddies are still in the workforce, and you can do only so many crossword puzzles in a day. Your problem in retirement becomes something you’ll have experienced many times before — you’re bored.
First of all, remember, your mindset is a choice. Buddhists say that someone mindful can never be bored: there is always something new on which to meditate, explore and learn. Instead of looking at each new day as an echo chamber of empty time, look at the gift you have. Your younger self would have sold a kidney to shake off your boss’s yoke long enough to do the things you love a few years ago — what’s keeping you from doing them now?
What you need are a few ideas to reignite your spark. Here’s what to do when you’re retired and bored to kick retirement boredom to the curb.
First of all, what is retirement? Redefining this life stage
Your first order of business is to check yourself and reassess your outlook. Retirement isn’t what it used to be. You are extraordinarily blessed if you can hang up your working apron for good.
Countless older adults continue to work well into their 70s and 80s, even beyond, as Social Security doesn’t scratch the surface of modern living expenses. Many members of the younger generation have given up on ever-amassing enough savings, thanks to inflation and wage stagnation.
Therefore, you might need a long, hard look in the mirror if all you do is complain that you’re bored to death in retirement. Could your behavior push away the people you love and want to share your time with? The old rule that nobody likes a Negative Nancy in the workplace carries over to real life. Muttering about having nothing to do will eventually wear on your listeners’ nerves.
Instead, think of it this way: If you can say, “I’m bored in retirement,” you’re blessed. Many people become depressed and anxious in retirement, wondering if they’ll have enough cash to last until they die. The next time you catch yourself lamenting, “I’m single, retired, and bored,” cognitively reframe that sentence into “I’m blessed with ample time to do the things I love most.”
Many people never fully retire these days, anyway. They may retire from their full-time jobs but remain in their fields in a part-time or consulting capacity. Have you considered that option? Hanging up a shingle means you control your income and can deduct expenses at tax time. Those who are retired and broke must exercise caution with W2 employment if they leave the workforce early and worry about their age impacting their Social Security benefits.
Putting your old skills to the test is only one way to thrive in retirement. What else can you do? Let’s explore the possibilities.
5 ways to avoid being bored in retirement
The world is your oyster, you lucky retiree. Here are five things you can do to kick retirement boredom and depression.
1. Dive into your passion
Think back to how quickly the weekends flew by during your working life. You would have given your left leg for having just one more day to work on restoring your 1968 Chevy Camaro or writing that novel locked inside your brain. Your hard work paid off, and now you have that blessing — dive into the hobbies you feel passionate about with a vengeance!
Maybe your mind is what stands in the way of your enjoyment. Do you feel lost when you wake up without a to-do list? Is there any reason you can’t use your trusty old workday planner to schedule activities that make you want to get out of bed?
Sit down on Sunday night just like you used to and chart your week. Take a mini yoga retreat on Monday and spend several hours amassing your poetry chapbook. Plant your garden for the season on Tuesday, followed by honing your author’s bio. You get the idea.
2. Get involved with a worthy cause
The modern world faces multiple challenges, and those in the workforce often lack time to get involved as much as they might like. There’s a reason that most politicians are over 65 — they have the time for civic responsibility.
Where can you help? Here are a few causes that could use all hands on deck:
- Health care: Are you lonely? Americorps has a senior companion program where you can volunteer to provide friendship and assistance to older adults who need help with daily tasks like shopping or paying bills. The American Red Cross nearly always needs blood drive volunteers, and you can earn a few bucks if you get certified to teach first aid and CPR classes. You can also join political action groups and advocate for needed reforms.
- The environment: Do you worry about the planet your grandkids will inherit? Local cleanup projects help you meet people and get valuable exercise. Did your former high-powered corporate career leave you comfortable hobnobbing it with bigwigs? Multiple environmental advocacy groups need smooth-talking liaisons to work with business and political leaders to bring needed reforms.
- Animal welfare: Do you love taking care of fur babies? Local shelters always need dog walkers and kitty socializers — it’s another fun way to meet others and get exercise. Are you passionate about vegan eating? Perhaps you could provide information on the lifestyle at a local health fair or even volunteer to help a soup kitchen prep some cruelty-free meals.
3. Use your work skills the way you want
Hanging up your full-time apron doesn’t mean losing the skills you honed over your long and successful career. It’s not the work that makes people lust for retirement with the thirst of a lost desert hiker spying on an oasis — it’s the long, grueling hours coupled with having to ask “how high” every time your boss says “jump.”
Now, you have the retirement freedom to apply your skills in ways that reignite your passion. For example:
- If you worked in finance: Help people manage their money better in retirement or assist with tax preparation during the season.
- If you worked in education: Classrooms everywhere need aides, or you could teach classes at libraries, community colleges, and recreation centers.
- If you worked in the skilled trades: Newcomers to the field need mentors. Plus, you can apply your knowledge as a consultant to construction firms.
4. Inspire the next generation
Once upon a time, communities revered their elders — they were the fountains of knowledge. You have a lifetime of experience and expertise to share.
Fortunately, there are still ways you can teach. Libraries offer free courses for people of all ages, and many area parks and recreation centers provide fun classes in everything from basket weaving to yoga. If big classrooms of students aren’t your thing, you can tutor online or in person, working one-on-one with those who need extra help at any age. Do you love the little ones? Some parents in your community could use new childcare options.
5. Treat yourself
You’ve spent your entire life working and helping others around you, and now it’s finally time for you to take a load off and enjoy the little things. When was the last time you had a luxury spa day? When was the last time you took the family for a trip to the mountains? When was the last time you went cruising unfamiliar territories and seeing tropical paradises for yourself instead of just reading about them?
There is quite literally an endless horizon of possibilities out there to explore. Countless times you’ve heard young people saying, “I can’t wait to go and see the world someday.” That “someday” is today. Gone are the times of putting money aside for rainy days. There is unlimited joy in the world to be experienced and nothing left to stop you from going out and seizing it.
Retirement isn’t boring — make it the best stage of your life
You looked forward to retirement throughout your entire working life. Instead of fearing boredom after you retire, make this your best era ever. Create a life you love with the blessed free time you now have in abundance!
Jack Shaw is a writer and editor for the lifestyle magazine Modded, as well as a car enthusiast and lover of nature, trying to enjoy life one day at a time.