Retirement is supposed to be the best time of your life, right? No one retires and expects to be bored to death. That isn’t what you signed up for.
When retired and bored, the best way to revitalize is by trying new things and engaging with others. These can include physical activities, social events, learning new skills and giving back to others.
The ultimate guide on things to do when retired and bored takes a unique approach to breaking the cycle of monotony. Rather than an expansive list of 100 plus activities, it’s helpful to understand the root cause.
Why We Get Bored
Ever notice how quickly time passes when you’re doing something fun?
Perhaps you’re out with friends, learning something new or working on a project. The point is, when we’re involved in something interesting, time flies.
When we’re not engaged and participating, our minds tend to wander off. This can be a fleeting state of mind or harden into a more permanent state. Symptoms can include:
Thus, when boredom sets in everything begins feels the same and it’s like you’re stuck in a rut.
Retired and Bored to Death
Bored to death is an expression conveying extreme boredom, something many retirees are vulnerable to.
Let’s face it, retirement isn't always an easy transition. Going from a busy lifestyle to suddenly having an extra forty plus hours a week is a drastic change.
At first, everything seems wonderful as we can do whatever we want. Life becomes slower paced and more relaxed. After a while, the novelty begins to wear off.
The daily routine can feel set in stone. Mundane tasks such as morning coffee or making lunch expand to fill the empty hours. Every day starts to feel the same and it’s like “Ground Hog Day”, The high point of the week might be going grocery shopping.
Then comes the “make work projects”. A classic example of this was the gentleman who took it upon himself to completely reorganize his wife’s pantry. As you can imagine, her reaction wasn’t quite what he expected.
On a side note, men often struggle more than women. In many cases, their focus was work and they never developed outside interests. Our article What to do with a Retired Husband with No Hobbies expands upon this phenomenon.
To break this cycle, we need to develop outside interests.
Dealing With Boredom in Retirement
Common retiree advice is to find a hobby and keep active. In other words, start trying new things to do when retired and bored. Unfortunately, it's easier said than done.
This is largely because the majority of us don’t know what we’ll enjoy. A buddy of mine decided to join a “build a ship in a bottle” group. It was fun while it lasted, but not really his thing. Now what?
The underlying issue is finding something worthwhile that's also interesting. This will be different for each of us.
Purpose in Retired Life
Throughout most of life, it might have seemed we were on autopilot. We were busy holding down a job and perhaps raising a family. In effect, these served as a sense of purpose.
Now, what's the reason to get out of bed? Hopefully it’s more than to take your meds!
Sense of purpose can mean different things to each of us. Yet fundamentally it's what’s important and meaningful to you. Without it, we’re aimlessly drifting.
Rather than trying to express it in a grandiose statement, for myself, it’s four aspects of my life:
These guide me in how I spend my time. When your activities support the areas which are important to you, everything begins to fall in place.
Determining Your Interests
Isn’t it sad that after a lifetime of hard work, most of us are at a loss to identify anything that really excites us? We simply never made the time to develop our passions.
Without a doubt, it's easy to dismiss all those things which don’t interest us. The greater challenge is to discover (or re-discover) interests which will add zest to life.
This is where finding something which supports what's of importance to you really helps.
My wife wants to improve her health, yet she despises working out in a gym. Last year we bought bikes and love going for rides. Another example could be playing pickleball. Besides being a fun way to get active, it’s a great way meet new people.
If you can find something which intrigues you, give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, you can always move on to something else.
If you enjoy cards, there’s likely a local group looking for new members. In fact, our article The Best Card Games for Older Adults reveals the widespread popularity of Bridge and Rummy, just to name a couple.
Taking the approach of aligning your values with interests, makes it easier to find something you’ll enjoy and stick with.
Living a healthier lifestyle is something almost all of us strive for. Especially as we age, it becomes vital to remain physically active and maintain a healthy diet.
Think of it as an investment for your future to live a healthier, happy life. It's suggested that you should have a minimum of 30 minutes a day of brisk activity.
Some of the benefits of daily physical activity include:
In addition, improved mental health and social engagement are associated with a more active lifestyle. Let’s be blunt, most people dread the idea of going to a gym to workout.
The last thing you want is to do is something boring, so how about something fun?
Some of the best activities include swimming, aquacize, walking and cycling. All are low impact and often done with others in a supportive environment.
Perhaps, there’s a recreational league nearby and playing a sport is more appealing to you. Some things to do when retired and bored are:
We’ve all heard the term “people matter” and it really is true. In fact, the quality of our social connections is vital to health and longevity.
Our article, The Most Important Ingredient for Happiness in Retirement, underscores how intertwined relationships are with health and happiness.
The majority of retired couples find themselves spending far more time together than ever before. This in itself can be a big adjustment. While it provides the opportunity to strength their relationship, it can also strain it.
This calls for a balanced approach of shared and separate interests / friendships. Examples of things to do together can include:
Separate interests are necessary to prevent either partner from feeling stifled. It also allows each of them to fulfill individual social needs. These can include:
Our article, Ideas to Rekindle a Marriage in Retirement, provides further thoughts.
Mentally Stimulating Activities
First and foremost, the greatest factor for cognitive decline is lack of mental stimulation. Sitting in front of the TV can be entertaining and pass time, however, it does little to stimulate creative thinking.
Moreover, learning new things can be exciting and rewarding. Some examples could include:
Giving Back to Others
The old adage “it’s better to give than receive” has never been truer. Simply put, it feels good when we make a difference for others. Studies suggest this can increases social connection, feelings of belonging and even sense of purpose.
At this stage in life with our skills, experience, and free time there are many ways to help others. Volunteering for a worthy cause is just one way to get involved.
You might choose to join a community group or contribute to a church initiative helping at the local level. Sharing your experience by teaching or mentoring others is another option.
Volunteer opportunities can include:
Activities Often Meet Several Needs
You’ll probably notice that many activities will benefit you in several ways. For instance, an exercise class not only promotes better fitness, you’ll meet new people. This can be motivating and, also, more enjoyable.
Deciding to learn to play the guitar stimulates the mind to learn the chords and strumming. Taking a class introduces other like-minded people and make it easier to stick with it.
After gaining some proficiency, you might wow the grandchildren with your rendition of "happy birthday". This might even lead to teaching them how to play and sharing time together.
Closing Thoughts on Things to Do When Retired and Bored
Retirement can be a difficult transition, particularly when it comes to finding meaningful activities. The daily routine is uninspiring and, all too frequently, retirees report feelings of dissatisfaction and boredom.
Instead of these being the best years of life, these folks are distinctly unhappy. Nothing seems interesting or worth doing. To address this, they need to re-visit what's important to them.
Included could be health initiatives, greater social interaction, mental stimulation and giving back to others. When broken down this way, it’s easier to find activities which add value.
Even so, it often becomes a trial-and-error process in finding the things you really enjoy.