Do you have an activity that brings you joy within a community of like-minded individuals and is part of your weekly routine? If so, you are on the right track to an enjoyable retirement. Many people put off their passions and think they’ll start up the habit when they don’t have so many responsibilities. I’d like to challenge you to consider taking them up sooner rather than later.
The reason I feel this is so important stems from a talk that I had with an acquaintance about her parents who live on Oahu. Their mom is experiencing some memory loss, but still shows up for her tee times every Wednesday and Saturday because that’s what she’s done throughout her life. Biweekly golf not only keeps her physically active, it also gets her out of the house and into a social environment.
This is why I believe it’s valuable to get habits ingrained early. Her muscle memory for the sport is so strong she can keep it up with ease, and the habit is so deeply ingrained in her that she kept the routine to maintain her hobby. For those who develop memory loss, the things they learned more recently are the things forgotten first.
If you’ve been close to someone with dementia, you may have noticed that they forgot newer friends and in-laws before they forgot siblings. They also tend to forget their current history and primarily share stories from decades prior. Often they get to a point, especially with Alzheimer’s, in which the only person that seems familiar in their mind’s eye is their parent.
I suggest that you take time to contemplate hobbies that will be rewarding in older age. Be sure to think realistically about the resources you are likely to have in order to maintain these activities, what you would do if you are no longer ambulatory, the type of people you will be surrounded by in these activities and whether or not you can continue to enjoy it if you become forgetful.
Some suggestions that I’ve come up with based on active seniors I know are: weekly tennis games, church choirs, art clubs, hula halaus, qi gong, golf, water aerobics, hiking clubs, Blue Zones events and seated yoga classes. Our community is very active, so we have endless opportunities here. Tutu’s House and Anna Ranch are only a couple of organizations that offer numerous opportunities to participate in and make some new friends who share common interests.
Even if you already have a full plate, remind yourself that you’re the one who put the portions on your plate in the first place. Simply adjust the portion size to fit in something on there that will carry you through to add value to your later years. As a bonus, you’ll have a lot more fun in the here and now if you do so.
Karyn Clay began caring for older adults 23 years ago and earned a B.A. in Gerontology from SDSU in 1998. She founded Ho’oNani Day Center in 2002 and Ho’oNani Care Home in 2015, which are located on the same property in Kamuela. She invites readers to join her Caregiver Conversations gatherings at Tutu’s House the 1st Wednesday of every month, and on YouTube with her Karyn’s Caregiving Support series.