After he had retired, my father went into an uneasy depression. His whole self-image and identity was tied to the work he did for the past 58 years and suddenly it was all gone. He found himself in his native hometown and he had no clue what to do with all the free time. Also, his children had flown the nest; too much solitude and not much to do. He was lucky to have a devoted wife who looked after all his needs – but he still needed to occupy those 8 hours a day – he missed work. He was too old to pick up farming and too shy to start something new. So here are some pointers to what could be done after the children have found their own work and left the comfort of their homes.
1. Come to terms with life changes
For many women their bodies indicate a clear change through the onset of menopause. Dealing with that change is in itself a huge challenge for some. Along with this the body begins to show signs of wear and tear, mood swings and loneliness hits you hard. Now that the children have left home or are otherwise engaged in starting their own families, you seem to have too much time and too little to do. Men too have to deal with age-related diseases or conditions that debilitate them. Sometimes, along with the kids sex also seems to have flown the nest.
2. Learn new skills
I have been requested to teach many retired folks how to meditate. When one calms the mind, new ideas take shape and meaningful activities come to the fore. I know several aged couples who sign up for yoga and Gita classes and hold satsang or bhajans at their homes. This brings like-minded people together and a feeling of fulfillment as a result. Not to mention the invigorating social contact that it brings with it. Others learn how to grow a small kitchen garden or learn to paint, or join a music group. The most common is the crochet, knitting or quilting groups that you can join. Of course the Internet and webcam opportunities to be able to communicate with your kids, is also a fine skill to learn.
3. Go green
With the awareness of global changes in farming and the indiscriminate use of pesticides many have opted to go green. People with even a small patch of land resort to growing fruits and vegetables using organic methods. This can also become a secondary source of income and bring about closeness in the community through sharing of the produce. Growing flowers also bring a great deal of joy and beauty into your life. Spas and Ayurveda, can help with a healthy lifestyle.
4. Work towards returning to the society
Many senior citizens work actively in the area of social work. This may be recycling of garbage, cleanliness of the locality, or even regulating unauthorised buildings and constructions in your area. If you are motivated enough, even maintaining your neighborhood parks or public toilets is a great way to give back to the society. I know of an 87 year old citizen, who constantly attends meetings with the local bodies and contributes towards ideas and policies that will benefit society. In Bangalore Jayanagar, there are scores of elderly gentlemen, who gather at a park and quietly discuss, share jokes or sing together.
5. Finding yourself – Return to the teenager you once were
Again this seems to be a woman thing. I know a lot of women who find themselves occupied suitably. working part-time to earn some pocket money and many who start their own business, making and selling soaps or spices or opening a small boutique. Whatever they feel they have missed out over the past decades, seems to beckon them, and a new energy takes over making for content and confident elders. I know of a couple of 60 year olds who joined a western dancing class, learnt to jive, waltz and do the cha-cha. They are enjoying their free time whilst keeping fit too. This has encouraged a lot of hotels to have a senior citizens ball night, when all the retro music is played and oldies have a blast dancing through the night.
6. Rekindle love or find a new one
If you have an adventurous bent of mind or are lonely and need companionship, or if you are widowed and are ready to mingle, then these forums can help you find a friend. Whether it evolves into a new found love or not, it is worth the try. Or you could work on your current relationship, dust the cobwebs, do new things together and rekindle love once again. Either way it is a win-win for all concerned. Being suitably occupied keeps you healthy, and has a decent prospect for sunset or silver years without being a miserable burden on your family.