Next Avenue: Try these ways to feel younger and find meaning in retirement
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org.
How can you feel younger in your retirement years? This is a big question and one I am just starting to get a handle on, I think.
I am almost 67, quite healthy and am fortunate enough to not have serious financial worries. Both my wife and I are psychologists and still working about one to two days a week — just enough so we don’t have to dip into our savings. We are lucky to have flexible careers that we still love doing.
I also love playing hockey, all year-round, as well as golf and biking. These activities help me to feel younger, but not totally. They don’t fully answer a bigger dilemma: What am I going to do with the rest of my life?
How to avoid the abyss
I don’t want to fall into what Riley Moynes, a former financial services company CEO and author of “The Four Phases of Retirement,” calls “the abyss of insignificance” in retirement. This fall can occur when you lose structure, identity, purpose, power and relationships during retirement. Losing any of these is like losing a part of yourself.
So, I’ve come up with five ways to avoid plunging into the abyss and think they could help you, too, feel younger in retirement. (I’ve also created a free ebook, “How to Feel Younger in Your Retirement Years,” that expands on them; you can get a copy at Awarmheart.ca.)
I’ve been able to avoid the abyss after discovering a moving story about John Wood, a Microsoft
executive who came upon a school library in rural Nepal with almost no books in it and no money to buy books. Wood returned the next year and hand-delivered over 3,000 donated books to village schools in Nepal.
The excitement and gratitude were so moving, he quit his job and co-founded the nonprofit project Room to Read in 2001. Today, Room to Read has assisted over 23 million children in 10 low-income countries, helped set up ways to publish books for children in their own languages and established programs to keep young girls in school.
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I felt younger just reading about Wood’s energy and huge accomplishments. His attitude toward life has also made me feel younger.
So, I decided to just get started on my own quest, to learn and figure things out as I go. My initial steps involved setting up the website A Warm Heart to promote the great work of charities like Room to Read and writing blog posts. I am responsible for the content, design and format of the site and have loved every minute doing it. I’ve felt creative and energized as I designed and built each webpage.
5 ways to feel younger in retirement
I think a retirement project like this can help you feel younger in retirement and find meaning. Here are five ways you might consider:
1. Get creative and stimulate your mind. Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin defines creativity as the generous act of solving an interesting problem on behalf of someone else. I love that.
I’ve found website design and writing to be creative, challenging and rewarding. At the end of the day, I can see a product I have built, with new additions every time I write an article.
2. Engage with people of all ages. Many people seek out volunteer work, often for the social benefits. You might try to combine social engagement with keeping updated on technology and social media. You don’t have to become as proficient as some younger people, but you can avoid the feeling of being out of step with the modern world.
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Part of my work with A Warm Heart has been learning how to promote it through social media. Learning about Facebook
and Instagram has been interesting and stimulating. It is easy and free to get started. Pick any platform to begin and join the conversations with the millions of people, of all ages, who use social media today.
3. Stand up for what you believe in. This can be done in a variety of ways. You can write about your views on specific issues, with a blog, articles or social media posts, support others’ views or join groups that are doing the kind of work you value. While doing this, you may learn more about what you stand for. For me, becoming more open and informed about today’s complex issues helps me feel younger and a part of what is going on in the world.
4. Commit to making a difference in others’ lives. Your commitment doesn’t have to involve money, but even a little bit can open new worlds for you. Many worthy organizations would love your support. When you become a monthly donor, with even a small donation, you will receive access to information about the organization you want to support and become part of its team and mission.
Sharing your growing interests with friends will encourage them to share with you what they might have learned. This can easily be done personally or by sharing through email and social media. You can easily tap into the energies and passion of younger people by watching a few YouTube videos on your favorite subjects or charities.
5. Learn from your younger self. When you were younger, you likely had many interests and dreams. You might have even thought of these activities as a basis for work or career. Now, at retirement age, you can free yourself from this constraint and follow your dreams because they excite you, not worrying about whether they’ll help pay the bills.
In today’s world, skill development has become much easier with many free resources on the internet.
All in all, I think the secret sauce to feeling younger in retirement involves activities and ideas that bring you energy and excitement. Start by taking a few steps, even if it winds up being down the wrong road. Find someone to help you do it. Or offer to assist someone who is doing something you think is worthwhile.
Read next: Why I’ve dumped my smartphone
In these modern times, your retirement years can span several decades. And feeling younger can help you make the most of them.
Michael MacDonald is a semiretired clinical psychologist and author of “Unbelievable Pain Control,” two ebooks and the blog “A Warm Heart.”
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.
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