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LIFE IS FOR LIVING
Ask anyone who has been retired for some years and they will tell you they don’t know where all the hours in the day disappear to.
But at the onset it can bring a mixture of anticipation, excitement and apprehension.
After all, 2,000 extra hours to fill each year does seem an awful lot.
You will find ways of filling these hours, but before you do, think carefully, put a value on these hours, just as you would your money. To live a full life in retirement is one thing, to live a rich and happy one is an entirely different matter. There will be practical things that you will want to do, such as gardening, decorating and even a part-time job, but what about the fun side, how much of this have you been having lately? If the answer is very little, then now is the time to put this right.
Not everyone can afford to rush off to Disneyland, but something that was said to me and my family by a man at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom a couple of years ago puts into words what I am trying to get over to you. As we approached the turnstiles, he looked at us, with a wide grin asked, ‘Have you come to have fun?” In unison, my husband, myself and my children, then 11 and 14, replied with a resounding ‘Yes’. As we turned to go into the Magic Kingdom, I thought ‘What must he have thought? ….. He was obviously talking to the children’. I then heard him say very much the same thing to the couple behind, who must have been in their eighties, but from the look of excitement on their faces they could have been eight as they also said ‘Yes’.
A lot of people see age as a barrier to many of the good things in life. They become old before their time, and staid in their ways, they seldom smile or laugh and everything is an effort for them. It is never too late to change your attitude to life and the way you enjoy yourself. We all need to feel good about ourselves and what we do, otherwise we fall in to the ‘gloom and doom’ mode. Someone once said that every time you sigh you take a day off your life. I doubt if this can be proved, but I think there could be some basis for this statement because how we feel inside will affect our physical well-being.
Whether you can take a holiday or not will very much depend on your financial position. Those that can afford to travel abroad will know the excitement of reaching a new destination with a different culture.
To be able to see the mountains, the oceans, the deserts and all the wonders of the world can’t fail to give you a feeling of contentment and happiness. If it doesn’t, then there must be other problems that you need to sort out at home and in your relationship.
For those who can’t or don’t want to travel abroad there is so much to see and do in this country and it need not cost you a lot, as you will see from Mollie and Jim and Kathy and Mike’s stories. We’ll start with Kathy’s dreams to travel all around the coast of England when they retired.
Although Mike knew of Kathy’s pipe dream, he never thought she would really want to do it, so it came as a bit of a surprise when he found her poring over advertisements in the newspapers looking for a dormobile. He still thought it was unlikely, even when she dragged him off to look at two. The first was very dilapidated but the second was in reasonable condition and the price wasn’t bad for the year and mileage. Mike had to agree that it was very compact and he hoped he wouldn’t have to spend one night in it, let alone weeks or months! Back home, Kathy didn’t give up and the following day Mike, in a rather bemused state, found himself parting with £1,100 to make Kathy’s dream come true.
They worked on the dormobile for two months, until Mike retired. Three days later they had a big send-off party when family and friends brought gifts of tinned food, wine and other items to stock up the dormobile. It was bursting at the seams by the time they left. Soon Mike was in the spirit of the adventure. They had intended to be away from April to July, but enjoyed it so much that they didn’t return until October.
Looking tanned, well and now the proud owners of two second-hand bikes they returned to their home. One of the problems they had encountered was that if they needed to go shopping they both had to leave the campsite together because they only had the dormobile to travel around in. On one occasion, in the height of the season when they were at Morecambe, they had come back to find someone else was on their spot. So the bikes meant they could go out independently or together and not have to worry. The last I heard was that they were planning to go to France. Who knows where they will go after this?
Mollie and Jim retired with nothing other than their state pension and for them holidays seemed impossible. Living in the suburbs, they would spend many days using their bus passes to visit London, but Mollie still wanted to go on holiday. One day her daughter showed her an advert from someone in Devon who wanted to do a house swap for a month so that they could have a base near London. Losing no time, Mollie phoned and six weeks later her daughter was waving goodbye to them as they left on the train. Since then they have had house swaps in seaside towns all along the south coast, in Bath and in Edinburgh. Their children buy their rail tickets as presents for birthdays and Christmas. As Jim puts it, ‘It’s a real home from home and so far we have never come back to any problems’.
Nancy lives opposite me, and at the age of 80 she absolutely oozes fun. It is hard to catch her in as she is always out enjoying herself. She plays bridge, enjoys crafts and is out most evenings doing sequence or country and western dancing at a nearby holiday camp. Her sense of humour and fun is so sharp that everyone, even youngsters, enjoys having her around. Nancy was widowed when she was 73 and although she still misses her husband Cliff it is a tribute to the good times they shared that she has carried on doing the things they enjoyed together.
It is so important to have a social life. This is something you have to carve out for yourself and whether it is through clubs, friends, sport or courses it pays to make the most of your leisure time. Remember, you can always try something and give it up if you don’t like it and then move on to something else. The important factor is to enjoy it.
This will give you a sense of lightness within yourself, which in turn makes life worth living. If you have a partner, then you will need to talk about your leisure time and how it is to be divided up. There will be things your partner wants to do that you won’t want to do, and vice versa. There is nothing wrong with pursuing your own interests as well as things together.
Religion may seem far removed from fun, but is it? Find an inner peace with God and you may well be more open to the opportunities and good things around you. There are many paths to God and each of us finds our own way. Some may want the regular visits to church, others may prefer to sit quietly alone and talk to God by themselves. Do whatever feels right for you. Those that belong to a church often find great satisfaction in the pastoral and social side of the church. Getting together for harvest suppers, fetes, barn dances, discos and other events organised by the church can be very enjoyable.
If you are the kind of person who gets easily het up, it would pay to take up a hobby at home that helps you relax. The list is endless, but here are just a few to be going on with:
Embroidery, tatting, crochet, model-making, oil painting, sculpture, candle-making, water-colours, collage, soft furnishings, wireless ham, flower-arranging, etching, writing poetry or a book, fly-tying, pewter and copper work.
Friends are very important in retirement, to share both time and confidences with. Don’t limit yourself just to friends of the same age group as you are. You will keep a much broader outlook on life if you have friends of all ages. Although it may seem harder to make new friends as you get older, it isn’t if you set your mind to it. Don’t wait for people to befriend you, keep a warm open attitude to the people you meet and you will become very popular.
The way you look, stand, smile and dress influences the way people are attracted to you. Don’t wear drab clothes in black, grey and brown all the time. Even if you can’t afford new things, the charity shops now offer good quality clothes at reasonable prices. Make sure you have something in your wardrobe in warm colours such as red, wine, burgundy, rust or orange.
These are all positive colours and you will be surprised how much better you will be if on days when you feel depressed or miserable you wear these colours. Lilac, mauve, lavender and all kinds of blue (not turquoise) are all good colours to wear if you are feeling unwell. Green and turquoise will be restful, and on days when you need a bit of sunshine or sparkle in your life wear yellow, gold or silver.
The colours you wear also affect the people you meet. I visited a friend who was very ill and wore a warm orange dress with a long rust coat over it. My friend was too restless to talk to me at the time, but later she told her husband that the colour of what I was wearing made her feel calm and more positive.
If you are married or living with someone, you will probably have joint friends as well as ones of your own. Retirement is no reason to give up on personal friends, in fact it is even more reason to hang on to them. Being together 24 hours a day can put a strain on both of you. If you can spend time with a friend occasionally, then you will both be better for it. Some people would be horrified if anyone suggested to them that they went to the pub, but the fact is more and more people drink non-alcoholic drinks because they drive, and pubs are gearing themselves to serving good food and hot drinks as well as alcoholic ones. Your local could be the place to meet new people and gain friends. Many organise darts, snooker and pool competitions, as well as quiz and karaoke nights. The British Legion and many other social and community clubs arrange a wide range of social events as well as having a bar. It may not sound as if it is for you, but walk past any pub, club or Legion and you will hear the laughter of people enjoying themselves. Can you say the same if anyone walked past your house?
Laughter is something that many relationships lack. It is as if the light has been switched off and no one can find the switch. Do you sit in silence watching the television every evening? Do you and your partner seldom speak? Ask yourself how long ago you laughed and when the last time was that you had any fun. Whatever your age, you deserve to enjoy yourself. Many people don’t because they can’t be bothered to make the effort, yet some take each day against all the odds and live it to the full.
This extract was taken from How to Enjoy Your Retirement by Vicky Maud, by kind permission of Sheldon Press