Pursuing Education and Hobbies in Retirement
 
 

While deciding on new purposes and hobbies, consider the art of learning. For many of us, graduating from high school or college was a necessity more than a desired activity. School was one stop on the way to a job and a career. We took basic courses and what we needed with the goal of obtaining a decent job with a decent wage. We stuck to practical degrees and courses. We learned what we needed and moved on.

But wait – are you one of those people that majored in Philosophy or Sociology, even though you knew it wouldn't lead to a "real" job? Then you already know the value of education for education's sake. You studied something because it was interesting to you. So you don't need to be sold on the joy of learning. For many people, however, the idea of learning something new that isn't designed to further their career may not have ever crossed their mind.

Learning never ends; at least, it shouldn't. Rather than focusing on education as the pathway to financial success, imagine if you were free to learn about virtually anything you want. What would you want to understand better? What skills have you wanted to develop or try but haven't had the chance? What has piqued your interest that you haven't learned enough about? Learning is a lifelong journey and you are now freer to learn than you ever have before.

Some people simply don't think that education, in and of itself, is a worthy pursuit. But there are many aspects of learning that indicate it is definitely worth considering:

  • Anyone can learn something new
  • There are educational programs for people of any level of mental and/or physical disability
  • You can have a sense of accomplishment and purpose
  • There are unlimited things to learn
  • You can learn for free (like borrowing books from the library)
  • You can learn with a spouse (such as taking a class together)
  • You can make new friends while learning (try a non-academic life skills course)
  • You no longer have any reason not to learn things that may interest you but aren't "profitable" to learn
  • You may learn things that can empower you to help people, the environment, or other worthy cause

If you haven't obtained a high school diploma or college degree, retirement is truly a great time to do it. Chances are you simply didn't have the time, money, or energy to do it when you were younger but if you have prepared for retirement, you should now have all three in abundance. Many individuals who go back to get their GED or finish a degree in their later years have declared it to be the fulfillment of a lifelong goal. You'll be in good company, so there's absolutely no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Instead, imagine the pride you will have that you have gone back and finished what you started.

If you're worried that you might not fit in on a college campus, think again! More than 500,000 seniors are regularly enrolled in colleges and universities across the country. These seniors are those who actually are taking courses towards earning a degree. Far more seniors enroll in programs that provide non-degree courses; these are usually not academic in nature, but teach various life skills and may include some academic studies that simply aren't meant to be part of a larger degreed program. There are over 200 Lifelong Learning Institutes throughout North America which includes Learning in Retirement programs – you certainly won't be in the minority in these courses. You can also consider classes offered by your local city government or junior colleges that are designed to teach a skill or an interest – these classes tend to be very affordable and varied, so you're sure to find something new to interest you. Some individuals simply swap out their full-time job for full-time learning and are extraordinarily happy and satisfied in their retirement. Others simply enjoy the occasional class to keep them challenged and engaged.

If you'd like to consider combining education with travel, look into Elderhostel. A non-profit organization, Elderhostel offers Road Scholar, a program that plans and administers educational trips throughout the world. Seniors (and in many cases, multiple generations) are given the opportunity to travel and learn about a tremendous variety of subjects. From the Texas hill country to the architecture of Venice, Elderhostel plans the details of each trip, including lodging, and does it all at a great discount compared with traveling independently. These trips are favorites among many individuals because of their relatively low cost, high educational value, and the fun and camaraderie of traveling with new friends. If you suffer from disability or limited mobility, don't rule out Elderhostel – many of their programs are specifically designed for those people who aren't always as capable of physically-demanding activities. In fact, if you do have some physical limitations, education is an excellent pursuit and a great way to stay active and involved.

Alternatively, if you want to learn but need something completely free, try the internet! Between YouTube and millions of other sites, you can learn a lot online. If you don't have internet access from your home, you may want to look into setting up your system – you can also send and receive email, stay up-to-date with friends and family, and do other things that can help support you mentally and emotionally. While you're at it, consider checking out Meetup.com, a clearinghouse of groups that meet in person throughout the world in their local area. There is an abundance of book clubs, crafting groups and more, many of which you can attend and learn something new! And if you don't have internet at home (and don't want it or can't afford it), your local library should have computers you can use to access the internet for free. The library is also a great place to get books that will help you learn about anything and those are all free to you, too!

Above all, the most important thing to remember when it comes to learning is that the desire to learn is inherently human. As people, we are constantly drawn to ways to better understand and assess the world around us. Embrace that desire. If you worry about losing your purpose or growing bored, education can provide unlimited possibility, so seriously consider adding some educational elements to your retirement plan.
Developing New Hobbies
If you still find yourself looking for something else or something new to do or try, it's time to expand your hobbies. Whatever you did in your free time while working can now be pursued more vigorously. And if you didn't have much free time to develop hobbies prior to your retirement, you now have nothing holding you back. Many retirees fill their time pursuing new hobbies, traveling, volunteering, and starting new business ventures.

Consider the following options:

Work

If you still find that you miss work too much, explore new work possibilities. Whether it's a part-time job, consulting work, or starting your own business, there is no reason not to make work your new hobby, as long as you find it interesting and enjoyable more than demanding and stressful.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online class in Retirement Tips?

Volunteer

When it comes to volunteering, there are lots of opportunities to volunteer in a way that is meaningful for you. If cancer, sexual assault, animal rights, domestic abuse, ecology, literacy, or any other number of causes speak to you, consider getting involved. Almost every community, including very small ones, have organizations on these and other topics, so there is always somewhere to help. If you feel strongly about an issue and find that there isn't an existing organization addressing that issue, consider working with local organizations to develop new programs or even a new non-profit agency. You can volunteer by sitting on a Board of Directors, organizing events and fundraisers, or doing hands-on work such as tutoring children or helping renovate decrepit housing. Don't forget that you can also volunteer for politicians or political parties.

Join a Social Club

If you'd like a new hobby that involves a lot of social interaction, look into various community clubs and organizations. Some groups meet and play card games or tennis; others garden, discuss books, or volunteer together. Many of these kinds of groups also involve their husbands or wives through dinner clubs and the like. These groups are particularly beneficial for retirees who don't have the money or physical ability to engage in multiple kinds of activities and need their social interaction to overlap with their desire to engage in a hobby.

Exercise

In addition to keeping you healthy and happy, working out is also a great way to fill up your time! Many retirees say that they feel better physically during their retirement than they had for the twenty years leading up to it because they got into shape. While exercise helps ward off disease and obesity, it also releases feel-good endorphins in your body. Likewise, you can meet new people, get out in the sun, and do other things through working out that will create a happier retirement.

Handcrafts

More and more people are learning handcrafts to provide themselves with hours of entertainment. Especially for those individuals that have limited mobility, limited finances, or little desire to socialize, learning a handcraft can be an ideal choice. Older crafting activities such as wood carving, weaving, beading and more have enjoyed revivals as a method of escaping the digital world around us. Many seniors with arthritis and stiffness have found knitting, crocheting, embroidery, and clay sculpting to help keep their hands limber. If you go to a local hobby or arts and crafts store, walk around and consider all of the possibilities. When you find something that piques your interest, ask a salesperson what items would be appropriate for a beginner. If you hit a wall with a craft when you can't figure out the next step, ask someone at a hobby store or go online for assistance for free.

Arts

Crafts aren't the only artistic hobbies to pursue; traditional arts are a great outlet for emotion and can allow you a lot of freedom. There are visual arts such as painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography. Alternatively, there are physical arts such as dancing which is also an excellent exercise. Music and theatre are other forms of art; singing, playing an instrument, acting, and even technical theatre can all be excellent choices for retirees. Written art is also a popular hobby where from playwriting to poetry, an individual can explore the world around them and the stories from their own life they want to share. Many retirees even attempt writing a novel and say that the satisfaction of having done so is far more important than whether or not it gets published.

Traditional Hobbies

There are some traditional hobbies that a lot of individuals still enjoy. Stamp collecting, building models, even antiquing can provide a lot of stimulation and engagement. And, of course, there's always travel and spending time with family and friends.

If you aren't sure where you want to start, begin by doing some brainstorming. Consider what hobbies you've always had, what hobbies you've had but had to stop, and what hobbies you've always wanted to try. Compose each list and pick a few priorities in each section. Try to choose a good mix of activities – mental and physical ones, some within and some outside of your comfort zone, and some that are cheaper or free and some that cost a bit more, if you can afford it. Determine which ones you want to do on your own and which ones you'd like to try with a partner or in a group. If you want to try something with a friend, just ask them! If you don't know anyone who wants to try the same thing you would, go outside of your retired friends. Maybe a family member would enjoy it or you can make a new friend once you start getting involved in the activity.

Hobbies can be the lifeblood of many retirees, especially those withlimited support systems. Explore the many possibilities that are out there – it is certain you will find something new and interesting to do. There are unlimited options and you have all the freedom in the world to explore the life you've been waiting for all your adult years, so enjoy them!