For some, retirement may mean that it's time to slow down. But that's not true for everyone.
Recent surveys reveal that retirees are pitching their business cards and silencing their alarm clocks to volunteer, pursue hobbies and go back to school. They are traveling to places they didn't have time to visit when they were working. For some, retirement is a growth opportunity, a time to pick up where they left off before work got in the way of living.
In fact, many retirees are picking up the pace and having a good time of it. "They have high expectations of something special happening in this next chapter in their lives," says Ron Manheimer, Ph.D., executive director of the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. "They know to expect and plan for two or three decades of a life that is probably less centrally focused on work -- but may involve work -- a period when they are looking to achieve more balance."
Manheimer says retirement consists of several phases. "There is going to be an active phase that will be similar to the life they are already leading, being very involved in many activities that require physical and mental capabilities."
Retirement gives you the time to fulfill lifetime dreams. It's like reverting back to a childhood of play, joy and discovery.
Shedding the old identity
Remaining active can do wonders for a retiree's identity, which can be a real issue for those leaving the full-time workforce. "So much of our identity is caught up in our job title, the company that we work for, and our business card," says Joan Carter, a certified retirement coach and co-founder of Life Options Institute and www.whatsnextinyourlife.com, an online lifestyle resource for people over 50. "When people ask you what you do, they ask 'who are you?' After you retire, you have to create a new identity."
Many people begin to pursue lifetime dreams in retirement and this becomes their new identity. These dreams can be simple -- take up gourmet cooking, join a book club, learn a new language.
Or they can be complex. For instance, Bruce and Sandie Tanner left Greenville, Ohio, 16 years ago and founded the Tanner Romania Mission in Nicoresti, Romania, which is now home to more than 33 disabled orphaned children. "The more we give to these handicapped children, the more we get back. We have never regretted our move," says Sandie Tanner. "We love our life and are so happy that we made this decision. It brings fulfillment and reason to our retirement."
Giving the gift of time
A recent AARP survey of 60-year-olds reports that 47 percent of respondents want to devote more of their time to volunteering. Donating time can help retirees connect with people who share their interests while helping others.
Sonny Sumampow from Freehold, N.J., was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army before working for Consolidated Edison for 28 years. He now volunteers as chairman of the 82nd Airborne Division Association in Central New Jersey. The group acts as the Color guard at parades, visits hospitalized soldiers, sends packages overseas and sponsors an annual barbecue for families who reside at Fort Dix military reservation.