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7 Ways to Find Fulfillment in Retirement

People finding fulfillment in kayaking in retirement

Many people look toward retirement as a culmination of their life’s work, only to be surprised when they reach it that all those years don’t seem to add up to lasting fulfillment. One of the benefits of being retired, however, is the luxury of time to embark on something new.  

Whether chasing a dream that’s been in the back of your mind for years, picking up a hobby that never occurred to you, or finding a way to give back, the road to fulfillment looks different for everyone. Here are some of the ways that people we’ve spoken to have found fulfillment in retirement, along with a list of articles to help you delve deeper into the ideas that appeal to you. 

1. Learn Something New

School days may be long over for you, but perhaps it’s time to think about heading back to the halls of knowledge. Learning can and should be a lifelong pursuit. Not only does it keep aging brains nimble, but it’s a great way to meet new people. In our article “How Lifelong Learning Contributes to Happiness in Retirement,” Scott Guerin, professor of psychology at Kean University, says, “Keeping involved with others and learning new exciting topics can be one of the best prescriptions for a happy and healthy retirement.”

Just because you didn’t love school the first go around doesn’t mean continuing education isn’t for you. Education in retirement can take many forms, from planning a vacation that gets you up close with something you’ve always wanted to know more about to volunteering as a docent at a museum whose subject matter you’d like to learn more about.

Get tips and resources to help you continue your learning journey in our articles dedicated to continuing education.

2. Get a Job

If you’re missing the sense of purpose a full-time job once offered, consider returning to the workforce. Your second go-around doesn’t need to be in an office or even paid. Many retirees find fulfillment in starting a new career or sharing expertise from their old one as a consultant. Volunteering also offers an avenue for getting involved and restoring that sense of purpose.

Find more tips and inspiration in our articles devoted to second careers.

3. Make New Friends

Socializing is essential to maintaining a connection with your community. Continuing to make new friends, as you keep the old, offers a multitude of benefits. Rena Yudkowsky, a memory coach and geriatric social worker says, “Retired people have a wealth of life experience and wisdom to share. As they age, they need to feel useful, purposeful, and productive. One way to fill this need is to have meaningful relationships with younger people.”

There are many compelling reasons you might want to make some younger friends; our article below explores some of them.

4. Strengthen the Connections You Have

Making new friends is wonderful, but there’s also much to be gained by strengthening the connections you have with your family. Perhaps you have a child or grandchild you’ve always wanted to spend more time with. Now that you have time, why not reach out and find ways to spend it with them?

Joy and Brad Ryan are a grandmother, grandson travelling duo who didn’t speak for many years. Through a chance meeting and a shared dream they have been able to find meaning and inspiration in their renewed relationship that Brad says, “Was medicine for both our souls.”

But even if you’re not up for an adventure, connecting with family can be a wonderful way to find fulfillment and meaning.

5. Get Out and Get Moving

Whether pruning your rose bushes or forging a mountain path, finding ways to spend time outside can improve moods and help you stay active. In our article, “The Age Defying Benefits of Gardening,” gardening columnist and author Mary-Kate Mackey says, “[Gardening] lets us reflect, observe, and meditate on what is often overlooked. It allows us to get into the tiny world of scavenging ants, tune in to the birdsong, or simply step off the usual hamster wheel of thought.”

Gardening isn’t the only avenue for tuning in to the natural world. Hiking, visiting a botanical garden or arboretum, trying a new sport, or even taking a moment each day to sit outside and experience the wonders of our world can be grounding and soul-affirming.

Find inspiration for getting out into nature in the following articles that focus on staying active in the outdoors.

6. Get Out of Town

Exploring the world is one sure way to get out of your shell. Of travel after retirement, RV enthusiast Donna Brown says, “This is the time to visit those places you’ve really wanted to see. You can go anywhere, and what you see from your trailer is absolutely incredible.” Whether you’re crisscrossing the country in an RV or jetting to your desired destination, travel can offer new vistas, friendships, and even a new lease on life.

Our travel-related articles give tips and ideas for retired people looking to hit the road.

7. Find a Passion Project

Whether you have a passion for gardening, physical fitness, or genealogy, taking the time to turn your passion into a project can have life-altering benefits and give you a reason to get up in the morning.

74-year old therapist, Leonard Szymczak, says “retirement can bring tremendous joy if I am doing what I love. I retired many years ago from what I don’t want to do.” Finding fulfillment in retirement can be as simple as realizing that you now have the luxury of doing what you want to do.

While everyone’s passion project is different, here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning.