A packed scheduleon your terms
When we're young we take piano lessons, play sports, and create works of art. Then we get a job, and our varied interests get lost in the shuffle of commuting, paying bills, and caring for loved ones. But retirement can be the perfect time to rediscover the pleasures of pursuits abandoned earlier in life. "During their later years, people often rekindle interest in activities that gave them pleasure in their youth," says Judith Salerno, deputy director of the National Institute on Aging.
Just as investors develop a portfolio of investments, many retirees now develop a portfolio of personal activities, says David DeLong, a research fellow at the MIT AgeLab. In a series of interviews conducted for MetLife's 2006 retirement study, active retirees described their lives to DeLong as a mix of part-time work for pay, volunteer work, hobbies, travel, and family. One 60-year-old woman who retired from a telecom company is now a licensed massage therapist who also volunteers one day a week at a local hospital, travels overseas with her husband, and teaches English as a second language. "Some of them are like kids in a candy store," says DeLong. "When older people decide that work for pay no longer needs to be a full-time focus, suddenly a whole new world of opportunities opens up for them." This portfolio approach to activities, he adds, helps people satisfy a lot of desires and feel like they're making a meaningful contribution to the world around them.
Ron Bevilacqua aims to juggle a variety of pursuits when he retires in June from 32 years as a brick mason and a teacher for the Philadelphia public schools. Bevilacqua, 61, plans to sculpt with clay, woods, alabaster, marble, and Pennsylvania red cedar in his studio in Bucks County, Pa. He will also construct large tree and ornamental lawn and garden sculptures, pursue commission work, sell his creations at shows and galleries, host a summer sculpting workshop on his property, and teach evening classes at Bucks County Community College. Between selling his sculptures and teaching, he hopes to subsidize the healthcare premiums he'll begin paying in June.
That busy schedule may just help Bevilacqua lower his healthcare costs. Research shows that people who stay engaged live longer, says DeLong. Staying active also makes retirees feel more useful and less lonely. In retirement you inherit the luxury of time, and with it comes the ability to use all your life experiences in interesting and productive ways. "It's important that seniors build on their lifelong creative achievements," says Richard Florida, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, "and not just keep themselves individually fulfilled. Our society as a whole needs their energies."