← Back to Blog

How to Plan a Purposeful Life after Retirement

Casa residents crocheting

We tend to think of retirement as a time of ease and relaxation — there’s no alarm clock and plenty of time to do what you want. So it can come as a surprise to recent retirees to learn that the good life they anticipated feels a little hollow. What’s missing and what can you do about it? These tips can help you discover the path to a happy, purpose-filled retirement.

Make New Friends, Keep the Old

A long-term Harvard study finds that having close relationships is one of the keys to happiness throughout life. Unfortunately, retirement can bring an end to many of the interactions that enrich daily experience and provide a sense of connection. Even if you don’t miss the daily grind, you’ll likely miss swapping stories in the break room, or the sense of camaraderie that arises when you tackle tough projects with workmates.
The feelings of loneliness and isolation that may arise can have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of dementia, heart attack, stroke, depression, and anxiety. On the other hand, research links strong social connections with longevity and better cognitive health.
How do you cultivate social connection when it’s no longer built into your daily routine? You’ll have to take a more proactive approach. Reach out to friends to schedule lunch dates. Establish a weekly get-together for brunch or golf. Join clubs and community groups. And if you meet people you like through new endeavors, take a leap and invite them out for coffee.

Find New Purpose

You may not have loved every minute of your work life, but you knew exactly why you were getting up each morning and how you’d be spending your day. That sense of purpose, and the feeling that your contributions matter, can be hard to replace once you’ve retired. The solution is obvious — choose a new purpose. But how? Answering these questions can help you discover a purposeful life after retirement:

  • What are you good at?
  • What activities do you love?
  • What are you curious about?
  • Is there a cause you’re passionate about? If so, how can you support it?
  • Are there skills you’ve always wanted to learn?
  • Do you have a story to tell? Expertise to share?
  • What would you do if you were to get out of your comfort zone?
  • What did you enjoy doing as a kid?
  • If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you try?
  • Or borrow Elizabeth Gilbert’s reframe of the above question: What would you do even if you knew you might very well fail? If success and failure were irrelevant?
  • What arbitrary, pointless goal would you have fun pursuing? Reading every crime classic published by the British Library? Visiting oddball roadside attractions like Hole ‘n the Rock in Utah and The Museum of Everyday Life in Vermont?

Create Structure

The freedom that comes with retirement can sometimes be overwhelming. You may find that instead of feeling a sense of possibility, you feel aimless, or even bored. Creating a meaningful daily routine can give you the structure you need to feel organized and on task. Try different schedules to see what best suits you — after all, you’re retired, so this is your routine. You set the pace and choose the activities. Does a morning workout energize you for the day ahead? Do you like to keep afternoons free for reading or writing?

Craft a New Identity

For years you’ve been asked at social gatherings, “What do you do?” and had a ready answer. Now that you can’t easily identify yourself by your work, you might find yourself wondering who you are. As you pursue a new sense of purpose, you’ll discover the answer to that question. In fact, your identity has always been more than your role at work, and this is your chance to explore it. As Ernie Zelinski, author of “The Joy of Not Working and How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” says, “Your true self is based on many more profound things, such as your creativity, kindness, pursuits, generosity, love, joy, spontaneity, connection with others, sense of humor and spirituality.”

Discover a Purposeful Retirement at Casa de las Campanas

The path to a purposeful life after retirement is different for everyone, but at Casa de las Campanas you’ll find the tools that support your journey. A vibrant community life makes it easy to connect with like-minded people, while resident committees, volunteer opportunities, and a wealth of services and amenities provide opportunities to find purpose and structure. What’s more, as the only Type A not-for-profit Life Plan Community in the San Diego area, we offer the peace of mind of financial predictability as well. Contact us to learn more or to schedule a visit.