The kids are grown and out of the house, leaving you with more time on your hands than you’ve had in decades. While that feeling of freedom can be gratifying at first, after a while, it can also start to feel a little boring, especially if you’ve also retired. In fact, launching your children out into the world is considered to be one of the most difficult life transitions to face.
If your life has gotten rather mundane as of late, instead of sinking further into the doldrums, consider taking part in one or more of these activities that are sure to prevent empty-nest boredom, soothe your soul, and boost your happiness levels. Comment below to let us know about your favorite activity, even if it’s not on this list.
Find PURPOSE in Your Life
To live a decade or more longer, know why you’re waking up in the morning, because having a sense of meaning and purpose in your life can do more than just give you focus. Studies show it can help you live longer too. One 14 year study showed that people with a sense of purpose were 15% less likely to die during the study period compared with those who were more or less aimless. According to this NPR report, it didn’t really matter when they found direction to live by. It could be in their 20s, 50s or 70s.
So how do you find your purpose? That’s a heavy question, but you can start anywhere, even with a Google search, where you might find 7 Strange Questions that can help you Find Your Life Purpose or more spiritual advice at Discovering Your God-Given Purpose.
When someone asks, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my purpose?” Aren’t they really just asking, “What can I do with my time that is important?” or “What should I do now?” Find what’s important to you: somewhere to use your talents to advance cause or serve a purpose. You might start by watching the videos in Before I Die.
This is a presentation (start at 1:30) that I gave to a Job Seekers’ group about finding work that gives you purpose, followed by the slides I used.
We know that staying healthy includes eating well, staying active, not smoking, getting enough sleep and the recommended immunizations and screening tests. But our health is also determined our social network and the opportunities and resources in our communities. Americans who are more social are generally healthier than others.
Where do you develop new friendships when your old ones faded away as your kids moved away? After all, they were often your kids’ friends’ parents. Search a site like Meetup to find people with common interests. Consider joining a church choir or a local choral group, because singing and music is known to make people feel happy. It was ranked just behind going to the theater as one of the best activities for boosting happiness levels by The Happiness Project. So, if singing by yourself is fun, then group singing should be even better. Group singing has been shown to change the brain, relieve anxiety, reduce stress and release endorphins, reports Time. If you look, you can find everything from casual singing groups to professional choirs across the nation.
Tell Your Story
How do you want to be remembered when you die? Why not tell your own life’s story so your children and grandchildren can learn about your values and accomplishments and what was important to you? Just think about the media upon which you record that story and the role social media can plan, because technology could make it obsolete some day.
Do it now while you can, because after you’re gone so are all of the insights you could have shared. It’s with that in mind that so many WW-II vets are finally getting together to tell the painful stories of their war experience in The Veterans History Project.
As my friend Jon Lebkowski wrote in his book, Extreme Democracy, the world of Politics is changing, thanks largely to the Internet and social media giving more power to the masses. Groups like MoveOn.org on the left and Grassfire.org on the right have pioneered issues-based activism where you and your friends can get involved and have a big impact. I’ve see the effects first hand as a volunteer lobbyist and have had several prideful successes.
After retiring from IBM and establishing a digital home consulting firm, I took up several causes, including working as a volunteer lobbyist with Lebkowsky to protect Texas municipalities from a bill that would have prohibited public Wi-Fi networks. In another project, I partnered with a friend to establish a nonprofit homeowner advocacy and got an abusive state agency abolished (see celebration video below).
I also held a volunteer position on the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee, because I was interested in promoting wider deployment of high-speed Internet service.
If your life’s purpose drives you, start a new career, or a new business. A few years ago I founded Modern Health Talk, where I now write these articles about health reform, the future of healthcare, and tech solutions for independent living, but I’m also helping to launch a startup called Intelligent Sleep. Our objective is to fill a large need and help people sleep better, because 40% if adults sleep less than the recommended 7-9 hours/night, and it can seriously affect their health, safety and performance. That’s why the CDC has labeled sleep deprivation “a public health epidemic,” and it’s why I see working in this space as a purposeful endeavor.
Whether it’s for pride, comfort, aging-in-place, or just to improve the resale value of your home for yourself or your children eventually, home improvement can involve dozens of small projects that each give a sense of accomplishment once completed. Many of the articles on this site are about remodeling, universal design, and the elusive smart home. There are also over 500 project photos on our Universal Design board on Pinterest.
You can think of gardening as part of feather nesting, or growing your own organic produce, or a form of exercise and stress relief, or just working in the dirt because you love it, but there’s something about working outside that just feels right. Working outside in the yard is also good for your health. You don’t even need a big backyard or a green thumb to benefit. Start with some houseplants, or a small container garden.
You know exercise is good for you, but how good? The folks at Mayo Clinic put together a list of benefits that range from controlling weight to combating disease, improving mood and energy, promoting better sleep, putting the spark back in your sex life, and providing a fun activity that makes you happy.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean pushups, jumping jacks, or workouts in the gym if that’s not your thing. I prefer the competition of sports, even light duty sports like tennis or golf, or just being outside in the sun and enjoying nature. But I admit to spending way too much time at my computer, so that’s one thing for me to change in this new year.
New experiences and learning new things is a great way to stay mentally fit, and you can’t do much better than to travel to a distant land where they speak a different language. Yvonne and I have never been to Europe but plan to go this summer, even if it slightly drains our savings. We’re using up our frequent flyer miles plus some, a lot actually, but we’re looking forward to it. Because we don’t really know what to see, we’re taking a tour that will allow us to make new friends while seeing the sights, and since I won’t have to drive, I’ll actually SEE them.
A recent study from Carnegie Mellon University showed evidence of volunteerism’s physical effects. Adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. A 2012 study in the journal Health Psychology found that participants who regularly volunteered lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. In other words, they had to be volunteering to help others — not to make themselves feel better. But those who did truly volunteer got more out if it than they gave, meaning that serving others might also be the essence of good health.
If you’ve avoided learning how to knit or crochet for fear of turning into an “old person,” you should know that those popular hobbies are no longer viewed as a pastime for the elderly. They’re now popular among all age groups, including Hollywood stars like Julia Roberts, Hilary Swank and Cameron Diaz. Enthusiasts make everything from hats and scarves to blankets, shawls and sweaters. Crafting is not only a great creative outlet, but it’s also said to be a natural antidepressant. A 2013 study even discovered a strong link between knitting frequency and feeling calm and happy, according to The British Journal of Occupational Therapy.
If you needed a good excuse to buy tickets to one of your favorite New York City musicals, this just might be it. A 2011 study known as the “Mappiness” project, conducted by the London School of Economics, revealed that going to the theater was one of the top pastimes that made people happy when they surveyed over 45,000 iPhone users. The study showed that theater goers tended to average six points happier compared to someone who didn’t.
While you may think playing video games is something only your kids or grandkids can do, researchers have found that older adults who play video games are generally happier than those who don’t. The study, conducted out of North Carolina State University, found that seniors who play video games report better emotional health, and those who never play display more negative feelings and higher levels of depression.
Many studies also have found that playing video games positively impacts your cognitive and memory skills, reports EurekAlert. When measuring brain waves of senior gamers, researchers found boosts in your neurological network, with brain activity even resembling that of younger individuals. All generations can use the Xbox One with Kinect, because it gives them some easier ways to be entertained and brings everyone together for family fun.