The years after retirement are for more than just relaxing. They’re prime time for pursuing passions you never got around to before.
When you were younger, you may have defined retirement by what you didn’t plan to do: work. But once you’re at or nearing retirement age, you may find that what really seems to matter is staying active and engaged.
Science backs up that insight. Research shows that people who take part in productive and meaningful activities with others may live longer. That’s a strong argument in favor of continuing some form of paid or volunteer work.
Other studies suggest that certain mentally stimulating hobbies, such as reading and playing games, may lower the risk for Alzheimer’s-related cognitive impairment and dementia. One theory is that these activities build up cognitive reserve. This is a storehouse of resilience that may help the brain partially make up for age-related changes and cognitive health issues.
Here’s how to make the most of this stage of life by exploring a new career path, becoming a volunteer, or immersing yourself in a hobby.
Cut Back to Part-Time Work
“Working retiree” may sound like an oxymoron. But a growing number of Americans are staying on the job past the usual retirement age, whether by choice or out of financial necessity. Keeping your job but reducing your hours lets you enjoy more leisure without cutting all your workplace ties. That’s a great compromise for many. Plus, it is sometimes an option if mild cognitive issues are making it hard to maintain a full workload.
Beyond the paycheck, there are perks for your well-being. Research has shown that part-time work may be linked to more positive health effects than full-time work for older adults.
Launch a Brand-New Career
What if your current job is unrewarding, very stressful, or difficult to do as you age? Or what if there’s something else you always wanted to try? It’s not too late for a career change.
Workers ages 55 and older now make up about one-fourth of the U.S. civilian workforce. That’s a sharp increase from just 13% in 2000. Employers are increasingly seeking the experience, judgment, and work ethic that older employees provide.
Browse these websites to find a job that’s a good fit for your “retirement” years:
Volunteer for the Greater Good
Volunteering to help others may be good for your own health and happiness, too. A study of nearly 13,000 people older than age 50 compared those who volunteered at least 100 hours per year to those who didn’t volunteer at all. Over a four-year period, the volunteers were less likely to become disabled or die. They tended to be more physically active and upbeat. And they were less prone to depression and loneliness.
Volunteering may strengthen resilience in the face of cognitive challenges, as well. One study of more than 400 older adults with cognitive impairment found that those who volunteered on a regular basis felt a greater sense of purpose in life. They also reported better health.
Search for volunteer opportunities at:
Pursue a Fascinating Hobby
Another path to a vibrant retirement is investing time in a hobby. Learning new skills may offer a cognitive boost. In one study, older adults who took up quilting or digital photography showed more improvement in memory than those who did less mentally demanding activities.
Choosing a creative hobby may be especially beneficial. Activities such as singing in a choir or taking part in improv theater not only enrich your life. There’s growing evidence that involvement in the arts also may help improve cognitive function, memory, and self-esteem. Plus, it’s a chance to connect with others while having fun.
Your 60s and beyond represent a new chapter in your life. But the story is still being written. By including activities that you find deeply meaningful or highly interesting, you can ensure that this chapter is one of the best yet.
Sources: National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Is Working in Later Life Good for Your Health? A Systematic Review of Health Outcomes Resulting from Extended Working Lives, U.S. Department of Labor, Volunteering and Subsequent Health and Well-Being in Older Adults: An Outcome-Wide Longitudinal Approach, Volunteering Served as a Transitional Role that Enhances the Well-Being and Cognitive Health Among Older Adults with Cognitive Impairments, Why Did Labor Force Participation Rate Decline When the Economy Was Good? Aging Boomers Solve a Labor Market Puzzle