Research and surveys often point to deteriorating health, running out of money, and adult children as the biggest fears among new and existing retirees. But a lot of those studies and reports miss a more personal and deep-rooted fear and one that intensifies over time when activity slacks and new stimuli are absent. It’s the retiree’s fear of losing influence, connections, and overall relevance.
Initially, retirement can feel like finally reaching the top of the hill, but cowboy legend Roy Rogers advised if you sit there, you will get run over. Retirement is not a stationary target that you can be content to simply hit. We live in a constantly deteriorating world that eats away at comfort zones and the status quo, leaving those who aren’t prepared to move forward and stay ahead of the curve feeling unfulfilled and out of sorts.
Frankly, for most people, these fears are well-founded. Take a moment to think about someone you consider irrelevant. How would you describe them? What behaviors do they model? What’s the nature of their conversations? Do they get calls, visits, or invited out? How do they typically respond to the latest news or happenings?
Now picture someone tuned in, on top of things, and ready to meet the day’s challenges. There’s a major difference, right? Staying relevant means staying connected, being affiliated, and being part of something bigger than oneself. It’s remaining aware of the big picture and being interested in experiencing it, and being eager to share it with others. Feeling relevant and connected is an innate desire part of everyone’s basic psychological make-up, and it doesn’t simply disappear the minute you hang up your career.
The need for relevance can dramatically intensify once you lose your work identity, workplace colleagues, and access to professional development. Nobody wants to become obsolete or perceived as disconnected or unproductive, especially baby boomers, who may feel irrelevance runs contrary to everything they stand for and have sought to achieve.
Attaining the status of “relevant” (and the associated lifestyle) can dictate how well you transition from work to permanent home life. Unfortunately, it can’t be bought, so saving enough won’t make you relevant. It has to be cultivated, and opportunities to achieve it must be recognized and sought after. Here are five ways new and existing retirees can stay relevant:
1. Stay in Shape
The way we look says a lot about us. Whether you opt for tennis, pickleball, or some dance aerobics, staying active and in shape will give you numerous advantages. First, you’ll have the energy to stay abreast of things and, more importantly, participate in them. Second, you’ll look and feel healthier, which puts a smile on your face and confidence in your step, both open invitations to be engaged by others.
2. Be An Optimist
Positive people are a precious commodity that is highly sought after. Pessimists and some realists are notorious for highlighting the negatives, which can leave others feeling empty instead of full. Just because you have seen a lot of life go the wrong way and learned your hard lessons doesn’t mean you have to announce or share them with others. Let someone else be Debbie Downer or buzz kill. Instead, take on the role of an optimist, encouraging others and shining a light on possibilities.
3. Stay Curious
Be a continuous and experiential learner. Embrace knowledge and information in all its dimensions. Learn by seeing, doing, reading, and interacting. Take online courses, listen to podcasts, travel, consider the local community or adult education opportunities, and program at a library or university. Learn by whatever means are available and, more importantly, share your discoveries and experiences with others.
4. Get In For Free
Retirees are often depicted as gentle helpers who volunteer at hospitals and for church committees, but there’s nothing more irrelevant than that portrayal. Yes, volunteer work can be rewarding, but so can trading time for privileges at cultural centers, sporting arenas, theaters, universities, political rallies, etc. There’s an entire underground network of people who stay relevant and in touch for the price of a little time or sweat equity. Instead of worrying about how much it costs, these folks simply ask about trading volunteer time for access. It’s just a matter of finding and networking with other retirees who have similar desires or are already connected to organizations that interest you.
5. Invest In Yourself
So much of retirement is about money, and people are generally programmed to fear for their resources, to hoard their funds lest they run out. Well, you can’t take it with you either. That doesn’t mean blowing your entire wad on a new wardrobe, car, and family vacation, but there needs to be a balance between hoarding money and using it. Remember, new clothes feel good, a good bed is crucial to overall health, and sometimes a massage or a few days away can be the refresher you need.
So, when calculating your retirement budget, earmark some portion for yourself and your overall well-being. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or the most expensive, but it should be for you, about you, and spent to refresh your body, mind, and spirit.
These steps position retirees to stay relevant and be happy, healthy, and connected. Retirees can avoid feeling stale and out-of-touch by remaining part of the bigger picture and being aware of what’s going on. The key is to evolve and stay relevant no matter what life or retirement throws at you.
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