If I say "retirement," what are the first five words that come to your mind? If they are "leisure," "relaxation," "comfort," "golf" and "old age," you're thinking about yesterday's retirement. This is the 21st century, when the new 60 looks like the old 40. And when retiring means "growth," "new opportunities," "excitement," "challenge," and "self-discovery."
Look on the bright side. When you retire, you have more time to pursue your passions. That's what Harry did. He was an on-air personality in the Midwest for most of his working life. When he retired, he moved to Sedona, AZ, where he had sought refuge during the years when the hectic pace of his life left him exhausted.
For the first couple of years, he played tennis and read. But soon he got bored, so he turned to photography -- an early love abandoned when he got his first big job. Before long his photos were published. Then he started a small greeting card company. He didn't need the money, so he donated the proceeds to a local arts program for teenagers. Then he put the two together and his greeting-card company offered exciting intern programs for aspiring artists. Harry still plays tennis three times a week, but he isn't bored any more.
Photography and tennis may not be your thing. But I'm certain there's something out there that will get you engaged. The new retirement is about personal growth. It's a chance to mend fences, heal old wounds, and really get to know you. Since you have more time, take up journaling. Indulge in the luxury of going deep -- and understanding your life, your relationships, and your lifetime motivations. Keep a "Gratitude Book" and write down the things you're thankful for -- the large and the small.
Dr. George E. Vaillant, author of Aging Well, a book that chronicles three studies of 824 people followed from their teens into their 80s, found that a capacity for gratitude is a major factor in successful aging. Practicing an attitude of gratitude can be done any time of day, but try it just before you go to sleep each night. Review the day and notice all the things you're thankful for from the rose bush that finally has a bloom to your third grandchild -- a girl at last.
Grow your mind, too. Learn new things by taking classes at your local community college or travel with Elder Hostel to study the Impressionist painters in France. In the "old" retirement you'd hang out with the same friends -- the threesome on the golf course or the regular Monday night bridge game with the couple you've known for 30 years. You'd design your life around the same activities day in and day out. Studies have actually proven that getting stuck in deadening routines can be dangerous to your health. Instead, meet new people. Do something novel you couldn't imagine doing even a few years ago.
Marcia had lived a very diverse life. An actress and a trained chef, she had played off Broadway and been a pastry chef on a Caribbean yacht. Her life's dream was to own a country inn, and she found the perfect place on the rugged Oregon coast when she was in her mid-fifties. But after 10 years of working 24x7 to meet the public's demands, she was ready to retire.
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