What to do in Retirement: 107 Life-Changing Ideas

Dreams of what to do in retirement need plans to make them concrete

That dreadful nagging thought again: what are you going to do in retirement?  You’ve successfully ignored it for so long.  But now, retirement is creeping up on you. 

Or, perhaps you’re already retired and you’re living through achingly long days of being at home with not enough to do, bored out of your skull.  (Is retirement one long lockdown or is lockdown a taste of retirement?)

It doesn’t have to be like that.  What if you put your retirement to good use, having loads of fun?  Or could you make a difference to the world?  How about if you just started to think about it differently? But how?  How do you set about finding a new kind of life, when the world is telling you to slow down because you’re old?

Here’s what you do 

First, you read the next paragraph and do what it says.  (it’s like eating your greens:  you don’t want to but you know it’s good for you, so just get on with it.)

Then, you’re free to dream and dally through the rest of the sections, sampling ideas.  As you try on the ideas for size, you’re limbering up your mind to plan a future far more exciting than you’d ever imagined.  A future limited only by your own imagination.   If you really want to jump straight to the fun section – just click here!

The Next Thing to Do: Get Organised

Here are the two big questions to figure out first:

Question 1

What to do in retirement?

What do you want to spend the rest of your life doing?

So you’re off, getting organised and figuring out what you want to do in retirement.  Here are your first five actions to turn life into the dream of retirement you’ve always had.

1       Get a lovely clean journal and write down all your dreams of what you want to do. (You can pick from the list of ideas below but add in your own too.)

2       Now write down your values. What’s important for you: eg family, friends, helping others, feeling financially secure, being involved in community, improving the environment, climate change?

3       Compare your list of dreams with your list of values. The dreams that are the most consistent with your values are the ones most likely to make you feel happy in retirement.

4      Pull out and list the consistent dreams and values and you have your blueprint for what to do in your retirement! Refine your ideas and your plans.

5      Turn the ideas into a practical plan. (No use aiming for pie in the sky like winning the lottery.) Visualise and plan a clear way to achieve your hopes and dreams.

Question 2

where are you going to live in retirement. Illustrative sign post

Where are you going to have all the fun that you’re planning?

Now you’ve got a handle on what you might want to be doing in your retirement, where are you going to be doing it?

6     Will you stay or go? 

  • If you stay where you live now – is it suitable, do you need to reorganise and remodel your house for retirement?
  • If you go, will you downsize and where will you go?
    • Countryside
    • Near family
    • Somewhere warmer
    • Somewhere colder

Whether you stay or go:

7        You’ll need to declutter. Get rid of the junk you haven’t looked at or used for years.  Donate all the clothes you no longer use.

8      Organise your papers. Throw out the old ones and put the ones you need into order.  (And then don’t let them get out of order again!)

9     Make or revise your will.

Much more lighthearted and fun

10      Revamp your wardrobe for your new life. Chuck out the old and treat yourself to a new outfit for your new life!

What to Do About Finances After You Retire:  Money and Careers

Boring, mundane and best done in advance of the last commute home from work. But it’s never too late to wrestle your finances under control.  And don’t forget, it’s also the door to an adventurously different life, that permits you to indulge all those dreams you’ve been catching into your journal.

We need to be practical about financing our dreams for retirement

Putting the financial ducks in a row

11      Sort out your finances and a budget.

12      Consult a financial adviser to make the most of your savings.

13      Learn how to maintain your financial retirement portfolio yourself. Set about learning to be a financial guru yourself.

14      Live within your means – give yourself time to adjust to a lower (fixed) income.  (And how does it make you feel about your identity?)

15      Feel as though you’re in retirement with no money? Find new ways to have fun that aren’t expensive. 

    • Look for age related discounts
    • Free events such as art exhibitions, carnivals or classic car events 

Carry on Working

Now, are you going to carry on working?  Do you want to try something different? It’s all possible if you put your mind to it (although the pandemic is ruining lots of people’s plans).  Some people never want to ‘retire’ and others don’t have enough in the financial pot to be able to give up working. 

16      Work on a complete change of career

17      Start a business. Become an entrepreneur.

18      Turn your hobby into a career or business.

19      Set up on your own as a freelancer, 

20      Get a rewarding part-time job. Become a consultant, a tour guide, a car park attendant.

21      Explore suitable jobs for retirees that give you a change of pace or are flexible or part-time and more. Here’s a great place to start.

22      Become a teacher or help in a school. Alternatively, teach on-line.

23      Take a refreshing sabbatical instead of retiring and then carry on working.

Working as you approach retirement age can be very difficult to manage

Does organising your finances change your ideas – especially if your budgeting exercise or experience so far shows you can’t support the retired lifestyle you want?  Go back and review your plans and refine them further to make your dreams come true.

You Never Retire from Your Family

Whatever you plan to do in retirement, there has to be a place for your family.  So here are some family ideas for you to work on.

24    Send family members postcards, letters or emails.

25      Keep in touch with them all and spend time with them.

26      Help out with your grandkids. Take them out for a treat or let their parents out by babysitting.  Take them camping in your back yard.

27      Go on family holidays.

Go on a family holiday when you retire

28      Organise video nights or zoom parties for family meetups.

29      Recontact distant members of the family.

30      Organise all your family photos and make photo books as presents and family heirlooms.

31      Write your family history or make a family tree.

32      Think about getting a pet to expand your family.

Ensuring You’re Healthy to Make the Most of What You Can Do in Retirement

You won’t have much fun if you don’t keep in shape, so review your lifestyle choices and seek to improve them to get the most out what you can do in retirement.  For best health, look at self-care, diet and exercise.

Healthy Habits

Get a medical check up

33 Get regular medical check-ups.

34      Sort out health insurance (especially if you want to travel)

35      Give up bad habits: If you need to, lose weight, stop smoking and stop being a couch potato. 

36      Work on getting your blood pressure down.

Watch What You Eat and Drink

37      Review your diet and change it to a healthier one.

38      Learn about nutrition for older people – your needs change as you age.

39      Try new foods – more fun for the taste buds and good for your brain too.

40      Learn new recipes – that also exercises the grey matter and keeps you brain fit.

41      Designate a day a week for fasting or at least eating much less.

42      Take regular rests from alcohol.

43      Make sure you drink lots of water each day.


44      Keep active – learn about building new exercise habits that you stick to. Make walking your new habit. Go for strength or flexibility. Move!!

45      Take up a new sport – good exercise and good for social connections.

46      Join a sports league, tennis club or a golf club.

47      Join a fitness group such as yoga or boxing or Zumba.  

Dancing is a great way to keep fit in retirement

Keep Your Brain Busy and You Won’t Be Bored in Retirement

We all know that exercise is super important for keeping fit and well, but your brain likes a good work out and it will last you longer if you keep on using it.

48      Push yourself outside your comfort zone: read a book about something you don’t know anything about. For example, astronomy or your digestive system.

49      Learn about or keep up with technology. Learning new skills keeps you happier and living longer.

50      Go back to school or university. What do you want to learn? Think lifelong learning. Look at the University of the Third Age or similar.

51      Head to summer camp for older people to learn something and be social. 

52      Take classes for free – check what your local schools, colleges and universities offer.

53      Try free online courses – look up MOOCs. (They’re free courses run by universities.)

54      Read a book a week or a book a month.

Read books to keep your brain active

55      Join a book club.

56      Write – a book, a journal, a gratitude journal.

57      Start a blog.

58      Learn a new language.

59      Delve deeper into your hobbies and get absorbed.

60      Make music. Learn to play an instrument. Sing or hum!

61      Spend a day without saying a word (very hard) and really an amusing thing to do!

Social Connection Keeps You Happy

We are social beings and need to make connections.  It literally makes you live longer.

62      Keep in touch with old friends however far away they are.

63      Spend time with friends – get social.

64      Make new on-line friends. E.g. play games with people on-line or take part in on-line discussions.

65      Join clubs for your hobby.

66      Attend your high school reunions.

67      Join the alumni group at your school/college/university 

68      Go on group holidays – eg walking tours/cruises, where you meet new people.


Senior adults playing bridge

Make A Difference to Your Community

You realise as you get older and maybe are beginning to need more support from the outside world, just how much support we derive from our communities.  Why not help out in your community?

Community Issues

69       Do all the good you can, in every way you can, to as many people as you can, everywhere you can, at all times you can and for as long as you can…

70       Volunteer for a worthy cause – eg for a local charity, such as a food bank or a hospice.

71       Run a coffee morning for a good cause.

72      Attend local political meetings or go into public service. Take your civic involvement seriously. Write to your political representatives about issues which affect you.

73     Take up a cause and fight for what you believe – eg climate change, recycling plastics, clean water. 

74      Work on local issues that need doing: such as organising rubbish clearing walks in your local park, or along the riverbank or beach.  Maybe help to build a children’s playground or save an historic building.

75      Work in a charity/thrift shop. (OK – not so easy during the pandemic)

Working in a charity shop in retirement helps build community

Helping Individuals

76      Get to know and help your neighbours.      

77      Be a granny or grandpa to local kids – babysit and give the parents a break.

78      Be a mentor to youngsters or to a caregiver having a hard time.

79      Help out in a school – eg with reading or helping with homework.

80      Visit lonely older people.

81      Join in the quiz nights in your local pub or bar. If there isn’t one, organise a quiz night somewhere local.

Your Soul Sings Louder in Retirement

We all have a spiritual side, even if we’re not religious.  It’s worth developing as it can make all the difference between depression and loneliness and a fount of happiness.

82      Review your values and apply them to each aspect of your life. Move your thinking a bit and your life will change.  Make it for the better.

83      Examine how you feel about your identity when you’re not tied to a job/career.  Work on your new identity.

84      Work on how retirement has affected your partner and think up a project to make your partner happy.

85      Cultivate a positive mindset. Look for all the good things in your life. You are lucky just by virtue of having a retirement to enjoy.

86      Do things that make you happy, such as feeding the birds, making jam or wood carving.


87       Make time for yourself – self-care is important. Give yourself a daily treat.

88       Re-engage with spiritual activities. Join a church, temple or other spiritual organisation.

89      Take up meditation. It relieves stress and keeps you healthier.

90      Try more mindfulness – for example, food tastes better if you think about the taste and the texture as you savour it.

91      Gratitude journaling really does work if you do it regularly. Give it a go.

What to do in Retirement Years for Fun


92      Make a bucket list, then work on doing each item.

93      Travel – it doesn’t have to be far. Start with your corner of the world and move on from there.

94      Relocate according to season. (I like summers on a boat and winters in the mountains if I can.)

95      Buy a motor-home and travel in it

Leisure and Hobbies

96      Grow a garden – you’ll live longer!

97      Relax and do nothing (but not all the time).

98     Start a new hobby. e.g.

Photography class in retirement


Crafts – Knitting, upholstery, quilting, sewing, carpentry,

DIY – redecorate a room or your whole house

Kayaking, camping, sledging, karate – whatever appeals.

99       Join a choir or take up drumming. Music helps you stay happy and live longer.

Join In

100     Become an expert on something you know nothing about: g. orchids, paleontology, wine tasting, cake making

101     Look for local events that you can join in that don’t cost anything – we’ve enjoyed old rituals like beating the bounds of a parish (you don’t have to be religious).

102     Go to theatre events or the cinema.  

    • matinees are often cheaper for older people
    • Local amateur dramatics or school performances are cheap and it supports the community too.
    • Do some amateur dramatics (my mum loved it!).

103     Try a local comedy club.  Even do some stand-up yourself!  Or try training as a toastmaster.

Treating Yourself and Going Crazy 

104     Treat yourself to something you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t – eg pony trekking, hot air ballooning, stay in a 5 star hotel, go glamping.

105     Do something crazy like sleep out under the stars (in your garden or under a bridge, in a forest, on the beach, on your balcony).

106     Do something you’re scared of, eg have a flying lesson, go gliding, go paragliding, go abseiling, go bungee jumping, go climbing, train to be a coach.

107     Every now and then, check on how many of those dreams you’ve actually done and how you could fit in a few more.

Choosing the Best Things for You to do in Retirement

That’s a pretty long list up there.  And yet there are loads more things that you can find to do which aren’t mentioned.  So what are you going to do in retirement?  Or if you’ve already retired, are you doing enough to feel as though you’re living the dream?

Imagine your retired lifestyle.  Maybe you’ve walked into a new career as a consultant or you’ve organised that long trip you promised yourself. (Well, maybe next year after the pandemic is over.)  Maybe you’re happy to stay in the new home you’ve made nearer the grandchildren.  Such fun seeing them more often.

Imagine treating your partner to a new experience together that you’ll know she or he will love.  Think of yourself living out long happy days, enjoying your community, your family and your environment, and feeling good about your contributions to them all.

All you have to do is make a little bit of a plan, making sure that you’re looking after yourself as well as others.  Maybe work on it gradually as you shape the underlying dream into a retired life that really works for you. So take some ideas and try a couple. Have a lot of fun whilst you’re doing it.  Here’s to your long, happy retirement.

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8 thoughts on “What to do in Retirement: 107 Life-Changing Ideas”

  1. Avatar for Cathy Hutchison

    Your connection between dreams and values is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. The whole idea that they are linked is just smart. But we rarely take time to clarify them. (Of course, I love it that you recommended pulling out a journal! ;)

  2. Avatar for Subhajit Banerjee

    “You are lucky just by virtue of having a retirement to enjoy.”
    Such a positive outlook Rosemary!

    I’ve always thought about retirement as a one-way journey that I will be forced to take someday. This article made me look forward to it.


  3. Avatar for Susan Hutchison

    Super article Rosemary. As a retired person I heartily agree, imagination aligned with our values is key and staying well to enjoy it is paramount.

  4. Avatar for Rebecca Bennett

    Yep, I think I’m looking forward to retirement! If I do even half of what you suggest here then I’ll be flying :-) I have some prep work to do I think, but more sifting of ideas and approaches rather than wondering how to occupy myself. Great article, thanks!

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