50 Fulfilling, Productive Things to Do in Retirement
Some choose retirement, and some have retirement thrust upon them. When it comes to figuring what to do with the decades of free time facing modern retirees, retirement coach Steve Lesser of Delta Advisors suggests taking inventory of what you find most important, whether it be leisure, socializing, contributing to a community or cause, or pursuing hobbies. Work also may be the most important thing, either for the income or for the sense of identity. More than half of people over 60 say they will work after retirement, according to a CareerBuilder survey. Here are 50 ideas for retirees deciding what to do with their days.
People with skills and knowledge to sell to individuals or companies can become consultants, a job with plenty of flexibility for free time. Consulting requires the ability to market and sell those skills, and it can take a while to build up a clientele.
Freewheeling seniors can take advantage of a loose schedule by touring the continent in an RV. Whether to buy or rent depends on whether this is going to become a lifestyle or just a one-time RV vacation. RVs run from little tow-behind caravans to huge mobile homes that sleep six. Is the expense worth it? Money magazine calculates that, at the very least, having a built-in kitchen and bed can save on meals and hotels during long-term travel.
The National Park Service offers people 62 and older a $80 lifetime pass to all national parks, recreation sites, and historic homes run by the agency. It applies to everyone in the vehicle at parks where admission is charged per vehicle and up to three other adults where admission is charged per person. The pass also confers discounts on individual campsites, some guided tours, and other fees.
Another way to get away from it all is to go to camp -- a camp meant for seniors. Some concentrate on basic camp experiences, such as archery, boating, and campfires, while others focus on particular activities such as wine tasting, bird watching, or the arts. Some are adults-only, and some offer shared experiences with grandchildren. Adult camps aren't necessarily in the summer, and some last for only a weekend, including some pricey fantasy camps that indulge the inner child and let grownups be cowboys or train for spaceflight.
Amtrak gives seniors 15 percent off the highest coach fares. Seniors can get discounts on trains in most European countries, too. The European Rail Guide helps make clear which passes are available to U.S. tourists for each travel destination. RailEurope offers discounts to seniors over 60 mainly for first-class travel. Interrail offers a 10 percent discount to seniors traveling in first or second class.
There are also plenty of people in this country who need to learn English as a second language. Tutors work with them one-to-one on reading, writing, speaking, and sometimes on just getting by in a new setting. Tutoring requires very little training, although teaching a class requires TEFL certification. Finding volunteer positions is easy, starting with classes, conversation groups, or tutoring at municipal libraries.
The Peace Corps is an excellent way to get immersed in another culture while doing good -- and it's not just for young people. The organization is making a play to recruit more mature volunteers, who bring lifetimes of expertise and experience. The Peace Corps often requires a two-year commitment and proficiency in another language, but there are many openings for English-language teachers in places such as China, Liberia, and Cameroon, and teachers of various subjects, including art, in other remote locales.
The Senior Corps of Retired Executives offers advice to people starting small businesses. Volunteers with entrepreneurial experience and professional skills lend their expertise by mentoring in person or by phone, leading workshops, and teaching skills such as accounting or writing a business plan. SCORE advisers can also serve as a sounding board and part of a startup team.
People living near historical homes and other sites can volunteer as docents -- an opportunity to learn, teach, and spend time in lovely and significant locations. Damaris Botwick, who became a docent at the nearby home of a famous poet, said she learned more about the poet than she ever thought there was to know, and it's exciting to share the knowledge with a variety of visitors.
Retirement can bring to the fore things you may have puttered around with for years but never had time to really concentrate on. Paul Hubert of Ashland, New Hampshire, used to play guitar in a band when he was young but let the skill slip as he made a living as a middle school music teacher. Now that he has retired, he's back on the bar circuit, playing gigs all over New England, including every open mic night he can get to.
Revive a love of art by taking up drawing or painting. This doesn't require a lot of supplies to start -- for drawing, just a pad and a set of pencils or some charcoal will do. To begin, there are free lessons online on Craftsy and other websites, but taking a class opens up a new social circle. Almost every community college has some sort of art classes, and often a senior tuition waiver is available to lower the cost of those classes.
Even a basic point-and-shoot camera is fine for newbie photographers, and sites such as PhotographyCourse.net can act as a beginner's class. Photo and camera clubs can pick up from there, offering companionship, mentoring, and a venue for exhibiting work. Talk to people at local camera stores to find out where the nearest clubs can be found, or try the Photographic Society of America.
Take gardening expertise one more step and become a master gardener. Every state has master gardener training that accepts people who are passionate about growing and have some skills to offer; the American Horticultural Society has a guide. After the program, there's work to be had in arboretums and botanical gardens as a volunteer, and sometimes for pay.
There are 120 Lifelong Learning Institutes on university campuses throughout the country, all designed for people over 50. The courses vary from one institution to another and are not free. The program at the University of Massachusetts Boston, for example, costs $225 a year, but the fee entitles members to attend three classes at a time, ranging from tai chi and yoga to digital photography. Brown bag lunches, museum trips, and other social activities are included.
Every state has at least one college or university, usually public, that offers courses with low or no tuition for seniors, and many states have tuition waivers for seniors who audit classes. The site Seniorresource.com can help find them and explain each school's requirements for enrollment and selection of classes.