How to Enrich Your Retirement

Try these strategies to enhance your retirement experience.

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Retired life can be whatever we make it. Your retirement could include some element of work, complete relaxation, or something in between. Each of us has the ability to create an environment best suited for our individual wants and needs.

My son works for a local zoo assisting in the care of a diverse collection of inhabitants ranging from colorful snakes to a hedgehog to numerous birds of prey. The job is not just about feeding and cleaning the cages, but also involves making the lives of animal residents as full as possible within their restricted environment. To do this, workers focus on enriching the areas to provide as much stimulation and variety as possible. For example, the contents of the cages are regularly rearranged and new items are added to liven things up a bit, such as a brightly colored ball, a new plant, changes in the lighting, or perhaps a cleverly designed food dispenser that requires the animal to get creative to access their meals. By injecting changes and variety into what would otherwise be a drab setting with the same old thing, they hope to keep the animals engaged and mentally active to avoid boredom and prevent despair.

As we age, we can find ourselves caught up in similar boring surroundings and repetitious events. Although some degree of routine may be comforting in its predictability, variety and new things help keep us stimulated. New experiences require us to adapt ourselves rather than continue the same tried and true behaviors. When we do little things to add to the quality of our retirement, we can enrich the whole experience in order to get the most out of retired life. Here are some easy ways to enhance your retirement experience:

Learn a new dance step. Challenging steps require close attention to detail as you struggle to get the hang of it. Each routine adds something new to your repertoire and broadens your ability to enjoy yourself on the dance floor. The constant learning can also help sharpen your attention and keep you more mentally agile.

Study to improve skills with a second language. Foreign language skills are often handy when traveling the world. The challenge of picking up new words also keeps your mind active and engaged. Speaking a second or third language gives you a deeper understanding of other cultures and people, and could make your travel adventures more rich and meaningful.

Make changes to your surroundings. Add something new that will catch your attention when you enter an area. Paint a wall, move some furniture, add a new plant or picture, or re-landscape a bit. Small changes can help keep things fresh and allow your creative side to express itself. Feel free to experiment and make alterations frequently. It works for zoo animals, so why not the rest of us?

Reach out to new people with similar as well as differing interests. It is nice to share thoughts with similar-minded individuals, but it can also be entertaining to discuss and debate differing points of view. New perspectives add twists and turns that require deeper thought and keep you on your toes. Remember, there are at least two sides to every story.

Volunteer. Volunteering for a worthy cause is generally a win-win proposition and can open up a whole new world.

Document your life story in words and pictures for friends and family. You are the only person who can view the world from your unique perspective. Once you are gone, so goes that piece of family history.

Disconnect a bit. There is a time and a place for connectivity via smart phones and other mobile devices. When you are sitting with a fellow human, how can you expect to share a meaningful dialogue or experience if each of you is off on his own virtual wanderings? Stay present in the moment to experience it for all it is worth.

Get a pet. Perhaps something furry with no other reason for being than to entertain you and make you smile.

Some people find themselves trapped in a retirement lacking excitement and passion. Throw in a little variety to enrich yourself and your environment and liven up your retirement years.

Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.