You’ve finally reached retirement after a long career of hard work. While most might squander the best years of their life, it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to a life of sitting in front of the TV and twiddling your thumbs.
Retirement is about living. It’s about making the most of your golden years. And one of the simplest ways you can do this is by getting involved with your community.
The benefits of engaging with your community
If you’re lucky, you’ll retire surrounded by the people you love and a solid support network of friends and family. But this isn’t always the case. We often lose loved ones throughout our lives and sometimes relationships break down with close family members. As a result, some have to try harder than others to put themselves out there and connect with people.
Social isolation isn’t good for your health and can trigger depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other health issues—particularly in your older years. There is evidence to suggest that happiness, or the lack thereof, may have a direct effect on a person’s physical health. The good news? It may be as simple as engaging with your community to help combat this.
Getting involved in your community can give you a greater sense of belonging and purpose, whether it’s buying from local businesses, joining a sports club, volunteering at a local school or charity, or looking after someone in the community. It could be something as simple as owning and caring for a pet, which offers comfort and companionship. This can be especially important in increasing interest in life and feeling valued and needed. And when you feel like you belong, you feel happier and more fulfilled.
While many of us understand the importance of community, it can still be easy to feel disconnected. According to the 2018 Modern Communities Report, 65.1% of Australian seniors feel connected and needed in their community, while 23.7% say they feel isolated and ignored. Engaging in the community allows us to support one another, build meaningful relationships, and make the most of retirement, so it’s certainly worth exploring!
Getting involved with your community can mean different things to different people, and it doesn’t always have to be at a local level. So, if you’re feeling isolated or ignored, here are some things you can do.
1. Travel and experience the world
With more time on your hands, why not travel beyond your own backyard? Travelling is a great way to experience other communities, meet new people, and improve your physical and mental health. See some of the world’s most beautiful landmarks so you have no regrets!
2. Reconnect with family and friends
They might have taken a backseat during your years of work, but you can now reconnect with the people you were once close to. Rekindling old friendships or family relationships in your retirement can help relieve feelings of isolation, as well as fears and doubts about your social abilities. Reconnecting with old friends can evoke old memories, nostalgia and give your life purpose.
3. Donate to charity
From helping others being part of something bigger, donating to charity is one way to feel connected to a community. The 2018 Modern Australian Communities Report found that 57.5% of seniors say they have donated money to charity in the past three months, with close to 73.2% saying they have donated in the past 12 months. Donating money can help you develop a sense of value and worth.
4. Volunteer in your local community
Volunteering is a great way to meet people, share your knowledge and talents, and build confidence. You could do skilled volunteering such as writing and editing, tutoring or coaching, or events volunteering at local fundraisers or festivals–it’s entirely up to you. Give back to the community and always keep yourself active!
5. Take up a creative hobby
Always wanted to try painting? What about dance classes? Maybe you’re keen to start building websites? Creative hobbies aren’t just fun, they’re excellent for refreshing the mind and body, reducing stress and potentially improving your immune system and mental faculty—who knew? With more time to play with, you owe it to yourself to do things that make you happy.
Take a chance and try something new. Retirement certainly doesn’t mean your adventures are now behind you. Embrace your community, and you’ll find there are many new experiences waiting for you.
Luke Fitzpatrick is an academic speaker at Sydney University via Glecture. He enjoys writing about tech, productivity, lifestyle, and is a contributor to Forbes.