How many times when you were growing up did your mom bristle at the words “I’m bored”? What’s annoying coming from a young and active person can take on a different feel when it involves seniors in post-retirement. First, consider this: a person who feels bored doesn’t have a shortage of things they could do – rather, they don’t feel engaged with their environment. There’s a big difference. We all know from experts that staying cognitively active, especially through new experiences and learning fresh skills, is critical to senior brain health. Unfortunately, for seniors who’ve stopped working without a clear plan for next steps, it can be a challenge to feel that same level of engagement – particularly if they’re living alone, or slowing down physically. And disengaged seniors are not only at risk for cognitive decline; sustained feelings of boredom in this age group can also lead to depression and other serious health problems.
So how can retired seniors stay engaged and cognitively active after the daily work routine goes away? While travel is certainly a pursuit many turn to for amusement, it isn’t often sustainable, particularly for those seniors on a fixed income. Here are 5 key steps for you or someone you love to consider when taking this important step:
- Reconnect with what drives you: It can be easy to lose sense of things you love to do after a devoting yourself to a career, no matter how fulfilling. The AARP has a great visualization tool on their Life Reimagined site that guides visitors through a series of prompts towards core values they’d like to nurture in this next phase of life.
- Volunteer: They say there’s no substitute for experience, and that certainly applies post-retirement, when there are so many worthy causes out there looking for helping hands. Encore.org is a fantastic organization dedicated to helping retirees stay engaged in the world through connecting their particular talents and experience to corresponding nonprofits and organizations needing assistance.
- Keep moving: The benefits of exercise for seniors cannot be overstated, particularly when it comes to avoiding restlessness and potential depression. The NIH suggests that seniors design a fitness plan that’s realistic for their lifestyle and strength level, and that builds in a social element. Check their website to learn more.
- Watch the alcohol: Seniors with time on their hands – particularly those living alone – are at heightened risk for developing alcohol dependency. A snapshot: there are currently 2.5 million older adults in the US with an alcohol or drug problem, and seniors are hospitalized as often for alcohol-related causes as they are for cardiac issues. The National Institute on Aging outlines some helpful guidelines for healthy senior alcohol use on its website.
- Get inspired: Need some fresh ideas to get thinking outside the employment box? Here are some great books we recommend to get you started:
- Second Wind, by Bill Thomas
- Master Class, by Peter Spiers
- The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, by Marc Freedman
- The Encore Career Handbook, by Marci Alboher
- 65 Things To Do When You Retire, edited by Mark Evan Chimsky