5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Happy retirees
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Retirement often involves a dramatic shift in priorities and where we spend our time. We move from knowing where the largest part of our days will be spent — at work, as it has been for decades — to figuring out something new to do with so many suddenly free hours each day.

A recent report from financial services firm Edward Jones, involving 9,000 people and five different generations, highlights purpose as one of “The Four Pillars of the New Retirement.” The report says:

“Purpose is inextricably linked with the other pillars, especially family and health. Retirees with a strong sense of purpose are happier and healthier, more active and more socially engaged, and they live longer.

They have positive attitudes toward their own aging and life itself. They reject the ageist myth that retirement means a life in decline, instead making retirement the most meaningful and fulfilling time of their lives. They want to feel useful more than youthful.”

The report identifies the forms our sense of purpose usually takes in retirement as “giving, growing and enjoying.” Following are the most popular sources of purpose, meaning and fulfillment according to American retirees.

5. Living a faith-filled life

A woman sitting in an empty church
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The Edward Jones report found 42% cite living a faith-filled life as a source of purpose in retirement. The report says:

“Some retirees continue activities and commitments that occupied them before retiring, but now, with more time and focus, they commit themselves more intensely. Some circle back to activities they enjoyed when younger, while others develop new sources of purpose they didn’t even anticipate.”

A faith-oriented retirement could mean spending more time with a worshipping community, through services or prayer groups. It could also involve many volunteer opportunities, including community outreach, teaching or escorting residents to activities and services.

To learn more about Edward Jones’ report, check out this “Money!” podcast episode:

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4. Being generous or giving back

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Nearly half of retirees — 49% — report generosity being a source of purpose for them. This is especially true for women: “Women retirees derive more purpose from being generous or giving back (55%) than men do (41%),” Edward Jones reported.

Charitable giving is one way this happens, but many retirees have more time to give than money. Fortunately, there are many inexpensive ways to give deeply to your community. Depending on your passions, how about helping in an animal shelter, a museum or a hospital?

3. Doing interesting and enjoyable things

Couple standing on the shore.
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Americans 65 and older have an average of 7.4 free hours per day, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited in the Edward Jones report.

And 64% of retirees find meaning and fulfillment in doing interesting and enjoyable things. That’s not surprising, since we all find different things interesting and enjoyable.

For some people, this might be travel to places long imagined or forgotten.

For others, it might be delving into an old hobby with new fervor, or learning a new one you never quite had the time for. Hobbies can be a great way to supplement retirement income, too, as we wrote in “21 Hobbies You Can Turn Into a Business.”

For still others, variety is the spice of life, and retirement is simply a time to sample everything.

2. Being true to yourself

Retired woman gardening
gpointstudio / Shutterstock.com

More than two-thirds of retirees (67%) name “being true to myself” as a source of purpose, meaning and fulfillment.

That makes sense. At this age, you have far fewer people to impress and much more time to pursue the things that bring you joy.

Without a job to shore up your sense of identity, retirement can be a surprising time of self-discovery or reinvention. You may naturally come to realize things that are more important to you as your time frees up.

Some people also write something like an autobiography or memoir. Even if it’s just for family and friends and not a polished work, the process can stir old memories and life motivations.

1. Spending time with loved ones

Retired Asian couple in casual attire
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

The No. 1 way retirees find fulfillment in retirement is by spending time with loved ones.

“That holds true for women and men, and regardless of financial circumstances,” Edward Jones found, with 76% citing family and friends as a source of meaning in their golden years. The study report adds:

“Forty-five percent of retirees give themselves a grade of ‘A’ when it comes to their relationships with family and friends, and 87% say they make it a priority to stay in touch with family and friends who don’t live with them.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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