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Contributed by Karen Weeks of Elder Wellness

 

Golden Activities for Your Golden Years

 

For many seniors, approaching retirement is both exciting and worrisome. You’ve worked hard all your life and are eagerly counting down the days when your life isn’t dictated by spending 9-5 on the job. On the other hand, you look at this approaching 40 hours of free time and wonder: How am I going to fill it?

 

You’re right to be a little nervous about how to fill your time with quality, interesting activities in retirement. Studies show that while retirement does, in fact, lower stress, it can also increase depression and worsen physical health. How can something that we all look forward to– something we earn as a reward for a hardworking life–be harmful? The answer isn’t about retirement itself; it’s what you do during retirement that matters. If you want to stay happy and healthy after your final day on the job, you’ll want to focus on two things: staying social and learning new skills. Here are a few tips on how you can accomplish both in your golden years.

 

Playing a Musical Instrument

Many people think learning to play an instrument is a skill reserved for childhood, but older adults are seeing the benefit of picking up an instrument. For some, learning to play an instrument is fun and challenging–they are motivated by seeing (and hearing) their progress. For others, the one-on-one contact with a teacher or the excitement of learning in a group setting helps them make new friends.

 

Regardless of your reason, music enriches lives– especially seniors. Physically, music helps you concentrate better, keeps the pain of arthritis at bay and improves dexterity. Mentally, music has been shown to lower stress, calm bouts of anxiety and improve mood.

 

If learning a new instrument seems like a great way to elevate your retirement, be sure to consider a few factors before plunging ahead. Do you want to take online or in-person classes? What kind of instrument do you want to learn? Do you want to play and practice solo or in a group? Many adults enjoy learning the saxophone, clarinet or trumpet for their versatility. They can practice at home, play in groups, take classes in-person and supplement their learning online. Before purchasing any of these instruments, be sure to review buying guides for your desire instrument, for example, review this clarinet buying guide to find out which clarinet is best for a beginner.

 

Understanding Computers and the Internet

The world is connected by global technology, a kind of technology that some seniors find intimidating. However, if you want to see pictures of your grandkids at Disneyland, you know you’re going to have to figure out how to check email. And if you want to video chat with your daughter so you can see her smiling face, you need to get comfortable with a smartphone. Even some doctors do online video visits, instead of going into the office for simple checkups.

 

Taking a class that helps build basic computer skills and teaches you to navigate the Internet can make technology more fun and less menacing. Even better– sign up for a class with a few of your friends. That way you can help and support each other when you apply your new skills at home.

 

Building a Community Garden

To make the most of retirement you’ll want to focus on activities that get you active, challenge your mind and enrich your social life. That’s why music is such a powerful tool–it can enhance all three. Being part of a community garden is another hobby that touches on all three.

 

Community gardens are gardens that you work on as a group. You may have your own plot to tend to or have a role to play in the garden overall. The benefits of a community garden are both individual and communal. You can have fresh produce on your table, while also sharing skills, recipes and responsibilities with people of all ages and backgrounds. Community gardens beautify neighborhoods and get people involved with each other. Plus, since the workload is shared, you don’t have to worry about the laborious task of tending to a garden all by yourself.

 

Whatever path you choose to explore in retirement, just make sure it’s fun, exciting and interesting. You don’t want to start something only to feel burdened by the obligation. How you enjoy your golden years is up to you–just make sure you actually enjoy them!

 

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