To find fulfillment in retirement, you need a plan. Make the most of your 'golden years'

Years ago, people used to call Palm Springs “God’s waiting room.” This was supposed to be a funny comment about all the retired people who come to live in the desert.

Today we realize that Palm Springs and the other desert cities are full of vibrant retirees who are living life to the fullest. Retirement does not mean sitting in the house all day but reinventing yourself and taking on new adventures.

I taught a class on retirement in 2019 for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the Cal State campus in Palm Desert. One of the ideas that I really emphasized was making new goals when you retire. It is so important to find new interests and new activities. Malcolm Forbes once said, “Retirement kills more people than hard work ever did.” He is right. Men especially can find retirement a challenge. When they were working, they had friends they saw every day and a purpose for living. When males retire, they often feel lost about what to do with the rest of their lives. So, it is imperative to make plans when you retire.

When I was putting my class together, I thought about asking people for ideas. I decided to write Dear Abby as she has been giving advice to people for decades. Well, on May 20, 2019, around 6 p.m. I got a phone call. I picked up the phone and it was Dear Abby on the line! I was shocked to say the least. We talked for about 10 minutes. She was wonderful.

The first thing Abby said was, “Have a plan when you retire. Make plans or goals. “This dovetailed with what I was saying. Having no goals leaves you wandering around the house doing nothing. One of my favorite quotes is, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” You must have a reason to get out of bed in the morning even when you are retired. Everyone still needs purpose when they are retired.

The second thought Abby talked about was exercise. She spoke about it being good for your heart, but also a way to fight depression. I agree. I have said in previous columns that we have a neighborhood walking group. It has been in existence for about two decades. After doing a walk you feel invigorated, and it is hard to be depressed. Let’s face it, the world is a scary place right now so anything we can do to help our mental health is great. Of course, there are plenty of gyms out there, tennis courts and pickleball courts. The important thing is to keep moving.

Abby stated it was important to keep your social contacts. I agree with this idea. Many studies have been written about getting older and longevity. People who stayed active socially lived longer. Having a support group of friends and neighbors is critical to healthy living. Again, pick up the phone and invite someone over for a drink or a cup of coffee. People love to be invited and don’t care what you serve. We are social animals, and we need each other. 

Volunteering can be very rewarding. However, only volunteer in an organization for which you feel a passion. There are so many places to volunteer here in the desert. 

The last thing Abby suggested was adopting a dog from a shelter as they can be wonderful companions. We adopted two rescue dogs a year ago and they are wonderful. I think they know how lucky they are to be in a loving home. 

Abby’s thoughts and ideas are excellent. She continues to give great advice about living well. 

M. K. Soni said it best: “Retire from work, but not from life.” 

Ray Matlock Smythe is a retired teacher/author. He just published “Coping With Grief – My Personal Journey of learning to Overcome Sorrow. He can be reached at Rayme49@aol.com.

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