Senior Living Q & A: Making the most of retirement

Dear Nancy, I recently retired, went on a trip with my wife and am now settling into a routine of doing nothing all day. We can’t travel all the time. There must be more to retirement than this. What do you suggest?

Research has shown that an active lifestyle has a lot to do with good health and good function. Emerging research also indicates the possibility that engaging in social and productive activities you enjoy, like taking an art class or volunteering in your community, may also help maintain your well-being. Research shows that people who are sociable, generous and goal-oriented may be happier and less depressed than other people. According to researchers, older adults who participate in what they believe are meaningful activities, like volunteering in their communities, report feeling healthier and happier.

Look back at things you have enjoyed during your life, and see how you can use those skills to volunteer now. If you have a strong interest in politics, you can volunteer with a political campaign. If you are concerned about the environment, you can volunteer with one of the many environmental groups. If you have strong computer skills and patience, you can tutor other seniors at the Y in basic computer skills. What a vast world is opened up to seniors when they become computer proficient.

Groups that help homeless people need volunteers to serve meals or organize clothing donations. Operation Gratitude needs people to send care packages to soldiers stationed overseas. Animal shelters need help caring for dogs and cats—the list goes on and on. Researchers have found that older adults who take part in these types of activities often do so to make a difference in their communities and feel good about what they are doing.

The Y has many social activities open to all seniors in the community. You can play Mah Jongg, pinochle or Bingo, crochet or knit with a group of like-minded ladies, participate in a drum circle and hear lectures on a myriad of subjects from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to preparing for travel. You can even try a different restaurant every month or go on a day trip.

Everyone has different limits to the amount of time he or she can spend on social or other activities. What is perfect for one person might be too much for another. Don’t compare your activities to someone else’s. You may be content with one activity every other week, while your friend wants two activities every week. Remember, participating in activities you enjoy should be fun, not stressful.

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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