Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.


Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.



The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.



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stage, as the potential retiree hasn’t experienced such a change in life since they began adulthood. This is when individuals begin to plan more aggressively. Survey results show 72 percent of those polled say they are putting money aside in a 401(k) and 81 percent are putting money in a separate savings account for retirement. Sixty-two (62) percent have determined the income they need in retirement, and 40 percent have actually written a retirement financial plan.

Next there is the liberation stage, which marks the official beginning of retirement. This stage is short-lived and lasts anywhere from one day to one year. Survey respondents indicated on retirement day, they felt excited, relieved and liberated from the worries and responsibilities of their career and day-to-day life. Individuals in this stage are fully engaged in the novel opportunities of retirement, such as reconnecting with friends and families, taking up hobbies, traveling or even starting new careers. Those in this phase find themselves very busy; 89 percent of those polled said they believe they will have enough to keep them busy throughout their retirement.

Following this liberating stage is a phase of reorientation, which may be the toughest stage of retirement. Many retirees will make a list of things they want to do, such as fix things around the house, work on their golf game and travel. If things do not crystallize for them, some retirees find themselves sagging into the comfort zone. Survey results showed if reorientation fails, retirees may find themselves retiring in front of the television: The average retiree spends approximately 43.5 hours a week watching movies or television, essentially replacing their former work week.

There are three main issues for each person, regardless of age, to address in the transition to retirement: (1) their psychological identity; (2) the practical use of one’s time; and (3) their finances that assure some degree of security. The psychological and practical education should begin within the decade before retirement. For many, their home life changes as does the relationship with one’s spouse or partner. One begins to realize there is no more work routine, office, work site, business card or job title, which can result in loss of purpose. Take the time to find your emerging retirement identity that best fits today’s world.

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AgeWave, along with market researcher Harris Interactive and Ameriprise Financial, conducted a survey in 2005 on the emotional aspects of retirement. Like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ 1997 research on the death and dying process, which outlines the stages some terminally ill patients experience, this study identified and characterized distinct stages individuals likely experience with retirement.

AgeWave’s research found imagination is the initial stage of retirement. It often begins well before people reach their retirement day. At this point, retirement isn’t high on their list; they are most likely concentrating more on pursuing careers, paying bills or putting kids through college. As retirement day gets closer, however, people in this stage begin turning their attention to their retirement goals and needs. But they still feel they’re behind, as only 44 percent of those polled reported they were on track in terms of preparing overall for retirement.

Anticipation is the second stage. The study found this stage is a time of great excitement and hope. Financial resources should be in place. People begin to spend additional time planning for recreation, new hobbies, family gatherings and perhaps postretirement careers. There may also be some doubt and worry at this


Thomas W. Miller, Ph.D., ABPP, is a professor emeritus and senior research scientist, Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention, University of Connecticut; retired service chief from the VA Medical Center; and tenured professor in the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky.

As the weeks, months and now years go by during the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably wonder what will become of that cherished period in many of our lives often referred to as retirement. Some of us are well into our retirement years while others await that new period of life and ponder what it will actually bring them.

What often takes precedence in one’s retirement thoughts is a “bucket list” for this next phase in life. For you, does this bucket list conjure up enjoyment of free time, potential travel, visiting the grandkids or spending more time with friends and relatives? Are you imagining enjoying morning walks on the sunny beaches of vacation destinations and eliminating the need for an alarm clock every morning? Our working lives have shaped our concept of retirement.

For starters, few people of traditional retirement age really want to stop working. They want to gradually reduce their formal work schedule and ease into selected work activities such as hobbies or things they like to do. AgeWave, a think tank and consultant firm focused on aging and retirement research, has discovered there are important stages to the process of retirement. Unfortunately, people put more time into planning a trip to Disneyworld than planning what they want to do with their lives in retirement.

To help retirees better acclimate to the new period in their lives,