What To Do In Retirement: Over 100 Inspiring Ideas

Updated

Here are 100+ things for you to do in retirement. These activities target all six aspects of wellness that lead to an inspired and fulfilled life.

I gathered great tips from individuals in early and late stages of retirement. I also drew inspiration from the International Council on Active Aging, the National Institutes of Health, the Mayo Clinic, and more. 

To live your best retirement life, focus on strengthening all aspects of your wellbeing. These include mental, physical, social, environmental, spiritual, and emotional wellness. 

The following comprehensive list of things to do in retirement, tackling every area of wellness, will help you optimize your retirement years.

Now, check out our list of more than 100 things to do in retirement to get your creative juices flowing.

Mental Wellness

Learn to Paint
Learn to Paint

Engaging in creative and mentally stimulating activities will keep your mind active and interested. Nurture your creativity and challenge yourself to learn new things!

Make art

Develop your current abilities or learn one of these new skills. Local colleges, artist associations, and online teachers offer art instruction. Search your area for the perfect fit.

  • Draw cartoons like Calvin and Hobbes
  • Paint with acrylics, oils, or watercolor 
  • Take amazing photographs
  • Sculpt your own pottery

Learn new cooking techniques

Your friends and family will love you for it.  Cooking schools, grocery stores, and restaurants offer recreational classes in many cities. 

  • Bake your own bread or desserts
  • Decorate cakes and pastries 
  • Brew beer or make wine
  • Cook a different type of cuisine

Develop your inner crafter

Designing and making crafts can be an enjoyable hobby and a way to make a little extra money. You can sell what you make on sites like Etsy, or give them away as gifts.

  • Crochet or knit beautiful blankets, shawls, or stuffed animals
  • Design and assemble beautiful jewelry
  • Sew amazing handmade gifts for friends
  • Build stunning woodworking projects
  • Learn how to collage or create origami

Tackle a few brain games

Improve your memory, attention, and problem solving with popular games and puzzles. Research reported by the American Psychological Association reveals that brain games can help keep your mind young.1

  • Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to pass a lazy afternoon
  • Play crosswords and Sudoku anywhere
  • Online games like those by Lumosity have personalized games based on your goals

Grow your own food or decorative plants

Gardening can be relaxing and invigorating. Spending time with nature may relieve anxiety. And gardening can even be considered light exercise. Two for one!

  • Grow vegetables and herbs in raised beds or containers
  • Propagate indoor plants or outdoor bulbs to give away
  • Discover the art of Bonsai or sculpting topiary
  • Start or join a community garden

Become a performer

Playing music, acting on stage, or uncovering your inner dancer may improve your mood and even reduce stress. Share this fun with loved ones or just enjoy alone.

  • Take guitar or piano lessons 
  • Study singing and become the next Pavarotti
  • Discover how to dance the waltz, square dance, or cha-cha

Get out and enjoy nature

Hobbies you can do in nature can provide new sensory stimulation. They can even stimulate the imagination while improving calm.

  • Explore the night sky with astronomy
  • Discover the most unusual birds, plants, and flowers in your area
  • Gather your own dinner by fishing, hunting, or foraging

Get an education

Learning new skills can help keep you sharp. And you may just find a new passion or second career.

  • Study sign language or a foreign language you began in high school
  • Take a course about wine or beer and impress your friends
  • Get your pilot’s license (for model airplanes or the real ones)
  • Improve your technology chops

Discover a new hobby, or rediscover an old one

Beloved hobbies can be stimulating or relaxing, individual or group, and intensely satisfying. Choose what brings you joy.

  • Read all the fiction Pulitzer Prize winners
  • Write a journal, a children’s book, or a blog
  • Build models
  • Collect unique records, stamps, figurines, or dolls

Physical Wellness

Group Strength Training
Group Strength Training

Physical wellness promotes the proper care of your body to maintain and improve fitness and health. You do this by engaging in physical activity, eating nutritious foods, getting adequate sleep, breaking bad habits, and getting routine check-ups.

Enjoy a group fitness class

Find motivation and inspiration by joining an exercise group. Coaches provide expert instruction, and fellow participants provide built-in cheerleading.

  • Yoga can relax you, promote arthritis pain relief, and help you sleep
  • Tai Chi helps improve strength, balance and flexibility
  • Water aerobics can benefit heart health with low impact
  • Enhance balance with Pilates 
  • Classes like Crossfit, Orange Theory, or other High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) will help improve overall fitness

Tailor individual training to your exact skill level

Being physically active improves your ability to do everyday tasks, manage weight, and more easily enjoy life. Activities can range from beginner to high skill, the choice is yours.

  • Kayak, row, or stand-up paddle board to enjoy the water while you work out
  • Walking and hiking let you explore new areas
  • Do strength training at home with your bodyweight or at a gym motivated by others
  • Swimming is considered to be one of the best aerobic exercises out there

Play a sport with others for physical activity

Playing with others will keep you motivated and make “exercise” into a game. These can be as competitive or friendly as you want them to be.

  • Paddle with a dragon boat club
  • Pick up a racquet with tennis, racquetball, or badminton
  • Cross-country ski or snowshoe if you live where there’s snow
  • Walk the greens with a round of golf
  • Explore the backroads by cycling 
  • Join a community softball league

Relax to reduce tension and stress

According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing relaxation techniques can have many benefits.2 Some include lower blood pressure, reducing chronic pain, and lowering stress.

  • Check out your local spa for massage or hydrotherapy
  • Explore aromatherapy with essential oils
  • Practice deep breathing

Social Wellbeing

Dinner with Friends
Dinner with Friends

Personal interaction with others is beneficial to remaining connected and engaged with the world around us. These relationships are often valuable to everyone involved.

Join or start a club

This is a great way to make new friends and build your social support network. Clubs also help you meet people with similar interests.

  • Read and discuss in a book club
  • Explore the world with a travel group
  • Keep the area safe in a neighborhood watch group
  • Join a veteran’s group 

Explore your hidden talent

Performing together in a group strengthens feelings of togetherness and unites people to a common goal. Performances also release endorphins that help combat stress and depression.

  • Join a community theater and unleash your inner Anthony Hopkins
  • Work as an extra in a local film
  • Sing in a community choir
  • Play in the local band or orchestra

Play games

Games promote social interactions and problem-solving skills. You can find a game that caters to any skill level and any interest. There is definitely something for everyone.

  • Join a bridge club
  • Play chess in the park
  • Enjoy a brew with a darts or pool game
  • Gamble a bit with poker
  • Relish a beautiful day with lawn bowling, croquet, or bocce.

Visit with others

Conversations with friends and family can be had anywhere at any time. They create connections and deepen relationships.They are the lifeblood of friendship.

  • Enjoy a coffee with a friend
  • Have dinner with family
  • Serve afternoon tea for a neighbor

Environmental Wellness

Explore the world
Explore the World

Your relationship to the world around you has an immense impact on your overall wellness. This can include your home layout or decoration, the city you live in, or travel to explore the world.

Improve your home

Changes in your home environment can have a profound effect on your happiness and calm. Changes range from simple decluttering to larger projects that make your home more accessible.

  • Declutter your pad
  • Redecorate a room by rearranging the furniture or having it painted
  • Upgrade your bathroom to make it easier and safer to use
  • Use the latest smart technology to simplify your day to day

Relocate

Moving has many advantages. It allows you to pick where you want to live based on your current needs and wants.

Travel

Exploring the world around you broadens your horizons, often teaches you something new about nature or another culture, and helps you make new amazing memories.

  • Take a road trip to see a national park you’ve never visited
  • Explore a new city 
  • Experience a town’s restaurant scene by taking a food tour
  • Visit unique museums in your hometown
  • See a game or concert in a place you’ve never been
  • Go camping
  • Have an adventure hot air ballooning or cave exploring

Vocational Wellness

Volunteer
Volunteer

Work that utilizes your skills or interests leads to a sense of satisfaction and can be valuable to society. Both paid and volunteer activities help you improve your skills while also helping others.

Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, give back to others, and develop skills. Boost your sense of purpose while benefiting others.

  • Guide tours of your local museum, gardens, historical site, or city
  • Mentor someone with Experience Corps or Big Bothers/Sisters of America
  • Join a non-profit board or committee
  • Train a service dog for disabled veterans
  • Become a companion for a lonely elderly person or hospice patient
  • Put your know-how to work tutoring math or reading

Work part-time

According to WebMD, working in retirement can keep you mentally sharp, lead to fewer health problems, and earn you a little extra cash.3 Pick something you really enjoy. 

  • Start a small business
    • Restore and sell antiques
    • Sell arts and crafts on Etsy, eBay, or Craigslist
    • Pet sitting or walking with Rover
    • Offer homemade cakes or jams at a farmers’ market
  • Drive for delivery or rideshare with Uber, Lyft, or Grubhub
  • Rent an extra room in your house on AirBNB
  • Mystery shop

Spiritual Wellness

Explore nature
Explore Nature

Living with meaning and purpose in your life is one key to wellbeing. Group or individual activities tailored to your individual choices promote spiritual growth.

Meditate

Meditation increases self awareness, reduces negative emotions, and can increase creativity according to the Mayo Clinic.4 These positive improvements in addition to physical benefits are strong reasons to give meditation a try.

Individual and group faith-based activities

Participating in faith-based activities can lead to spiritual growth and greater community connection. For many, this provides a primary sense of meaning and value in their lives.

  • Attend church, synagogue, or mosque
  • Engage in daily prayer
  • Read and study the Bible
  • Attend a spiritual book club

Delight in nature

Spending time exploring the natural world around you produces cognitive benefits and improvements in mood.5 Nature comes in all shapes and sizes to suit your location or time available.

  • Stroll through a city park
  • Hike in the woods
  • Visit a local garden
  • Sit by a lake or stream

Emotional Wellness

Laugh with friends
Laugh with Loved Ones

Emotional wellness leads to resilience. This is the ability to have fewer negative emotions and bounce back from difficulties quickly.6

Get quality sleep

According to the CDC, good habits can improve the quality (and quantity) of your sleep.7

  • Be consistent. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
  • Don’t eat or drink too close to bedtime
  • Get some daily exercise
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool

Cope with loss

Managing grief for a family member or friend is vital. There is no one way to grieve, but support from others can help.

  • Attend a support group for your specific situation
  • Speak with a counselor or pastor
  • Talk to caring friends

Laugh

Laughter not only lightens your load, it can stimulate your heart, lungs, and muscles.8

  • Attend a comedy show with friends
  • Take part in a laughter yoga class
  • Watch a funny movie

What to do next?

Use these 100+ ideas on what to do in retirement as a jumping-off point to create your own vibrant aging plan!


Jason Gottschalk is the chief editor for Vibrant Aging Insider. He has a passion for working with older adults. He currently runs a nonprofit senior services company in metropolitan Washington, D.C. Prior to this, he was the Executive Director of a large retirement community and cofounded a technology company which developed senior support artificial intelligence, both in metro D.C.

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