Lengthen your life and brighten a dayIf you’re happy about your decision to retire, but finding yourself doing a few two many Sudoku or crossword puzzles or feeling restless in spite of a daily exercise routine, maybe it’s time to be more proactive. Numerous studies have shown that volunteering is associated with substantial reductions in mortality rates, but you don’t have to become a full-time volunteer to make a difference in the lives of others and yourself. Experts agree that while smaller daily actions may seem insignificant, the effects are cumulative.
- Notice someone! One of the hazards of aging is starting to feel invisible. Compliment a stranger on some aspect of her or his appearance, whether it’s a lovely color of clothing or beautiful eyes. If you work on a volunteer team with someone you’ve enjoyed or you think is doing a good job, make a point of mentioning it. We all appreciate being acknowledged, and words have power.
- A little kindness goes a long way. If someone races up behind you in the grocery store with just a few items, let the person go in front of you. If you drive and someone seems really eager to pass you, pull over and give your own blood pressure a break. If you still drive, there’s great pleasure to be had in paying the toll of the person in line behind you. Just be sure to do it where there is a human toll collector or it might not work.
- Reach out to a friend. When was the last time you called your old friend in another state or country? In this era of emails it makes such a difference to hear a voice. Or write a letter. Remember how much fun it used to be when something came in the mail besides advertising circulars and bills? If you don’t have much news to share, recommend a good book or send a copy of an old photo. Or tear out a column from a magazine that the person might find interesting.
- Be generous with the funds you have. To anyone who is working for tips, a couple dollars more can make a real difference. Or give money to the needy person outside the post office, even if you think it might be used for something besides food for a family; you really don’t know. If you have more retirement funds than you need, you may want to help pay off someone’s student loan, saving a bright young person years of onerous payments. One generous senior enjoys providing a modest luxury slush fund for struggling parents in her community.
- Get some exercise picking up trash. No need to haul bins, but if you’re walking for daily exercise, bring along a pair of rubber gloves and a trash bag, and beautify your own neighborhood while you’re at it.
- Give focused attention. When someone is talking to you, listen more than you talk, and really notice what the person is saying. What is the subtext? If you find yourself asking questions the person already answered—or repeating things you’ve already said yourself—you know you need to pay better attention.