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Things to do in retirement – 25 ideas to inspire you

10 mins read
by Nick Green
Last updated Thursday, February 22, 2024

The thought of retiring and not having to go to work anymore might be tempting, but freedom can be a double-edged sword.

Boredom can often follow close behind, so you should aim to see retirement not as the end of something, but as the start of something new.

The question is, what? That’s what this article is here to help you find out.

It's a good idea to take a proactive approach and make new experiences part of your retirement planning.

The Age UK Index of Wellbeing in Later Life revealed that engaging with the world around us through social, creative, physical or community activities can contribute more than 20% to our wellbeing in later life.

What’s more, choosing the right goals and activities helps people make friends, provide structure and routine, and bring a sense of achievement.

Here are 25 ideas to get you started as you begin the next fulfilling chapter of your life.

#1 Declutter your home

Go through your cupboards, wardrobes, drawers and desks – and while you’re at it, get in the attic and sort out all the things you’ve been meaning to for years.

Keep anything special (and enjoy some reminiscing) and sell or donate the rest.

You’ll have peace of mind that all your possessions are in order and you’ve got all the things that are most important to you – and what you find can be rejuvenating by reminding you of your younger self and the things you’ll enjoy rediscovering.

#2 Explore your local area

Round the world trips or luxury cruises are the big retirement cliché, but there’s also a whole world to explore around where you live.

If you’ve been working full-time for decaes, your universe has probably shrunk to your home, workplace and commuting route.

There is almost certainly somewhere that’ll wow you less than an hour’s drive from your front door – go and find it.

Search out forgotten footpaths, hidden woodlands, river walks and cross-country trails.

Whether you like to stroll sedately or hike at pace, there’s bound to be a walking group local to you. To make sure you’re not trespassing or don’t get lost, check out all the resources available at Walking for Health.

#3 Become a tour guide

If you love interesting and beautiful places and are fascinated by the past, why not find out more about volunteering as a tour guide?

There are historical and cultural gems all over the UK and organisations such as the National Trust are always looking for enthusiastic room guides, conservation assistants and storytellers.

#4 Work for wildlife

If you love nature and wildlife, there are organisations such as The Wildlife Trusts that welcome volunteers – whether that’s raking hay meadows, monitoring or recording wildlife, or taking part in citizen science projects such as bird and butterfly counts.

#5 Research your family tree

Wondering if you’re descended from royalty (or rogues), where your ancestors lived and what their occupations were?

Due to a whole host of online resources such as Find My Past, researching your family tree is easier than ever. Check out census records, military records and search for globetrotting relatives from passenger lists. Who knows what you’ll uncover?

You could also get your children and grandchildren involved as an ongoing family project. This is a great gift to offer your family – and future generations  will thank you for it.

#6 Dress the part

If you’re captivated by days gone by or just love an excuse to dress up, joining a local drama society or re-enactment group could be a great fit.

You can find out more about the nnights of Skirbeck, Regia Anglorum Vikings and Saxons, Dark Age Cornwall, Lord Hopton’s regiment of Foote Tudors and Stuarts and more at Historic UK.

#7 Get musical

Whether you’ve always wanted to learn an instrument, or used to but have neglected your talent for years, now’s your chance to find your inner maestro.

Whether you’re drawn to the piano, bass guitar, clarinet or drums, you now have the time and discipline you might have lacked when you were younger. There’s a lot of information to get you started on BBC Learning.

Alternatively, if you can hold a tune, why not join a choir? Community choirs are thriving all over the UK – your local library is a good place to find out about singing groups in your area.

#8 Learn to dance

Few things are more effective than dancing at keeping body and brain healthy. It’s also great fun – even if you think you don’t dance.

Whatever style suits you – line dancing, ballroom, salsa, tap or ballet, regular dance classes will keep you on your toes.

Organisations such as Silver Swans offer free online ballet exercise classes designed to get seniors moving to music at home.

#9 Enjoy some me-time

If you like to while away some of the hours of the day quietly in your own company, pick an absorbing hobby that’s just for you.

For example, buy an old classic car and fix it up. Learn woodworking to make your own furniture, ornaments, gifts for friends or decorations to sell. Make customised greeting cards, or write a novel.

#10 Get out and about

If you’d like to get out of the house and meet new people, pick a hobby that allows you to do just that.

Ideas to mull over include birdwatching, trainspotting, fishing, fossil hunting, buying and selling antiques, beekeeping, amateur astronomy, or metal detecting.

#11 Stay fit and flexible

The best way to keep going is to keep going.

So start a hobby that gets you gently moving, such as yoga, golf, darts, bowling, pool, walking, football, croquet, Tai Chi, archery or pilates, which aims to strengthen the body, with an emphasis on core strength to improve general fitness and wellbeing.

It doesn’t have to be sedate, either – there are plenty of senior karate students, judokas and fencers.

#12 Help out

Charities can always use a helping hand, whether that’s delivering food to homeless people, walking dogs, or caring for cats at your local animal sanctuary, or sorting donations at a charity shop.

You’ll get to meet new people and feel good about doing your bit.

#13 Become an expert at absolutely anything

Whether it’s learning a new language, how to bake a flawless souffle, performing mind-boggling magic tricks, identifying bird songs or gardening, you’ve got time to practice till you’re perfect.

#14 Get an allotment and grow your own

Growing your own food is one of the most rewarding experiences – and all that time spent digging and harvesting your crops in the open air will help keep you healthy. 

Gardeners’ World will be on your viewing schedule so you can learn how to care for your seedling potatoes, runner beans and carrots. Find out more at The National Allotment Society.

#15 Upcycle furniture

Dust off those tools and pick up some inspiration from The Repair Shop.

Upcycling is a great way to give your furniture and home a vibrant new look and avoid filling up landfill sites with unwanted items.

Make It Yours has some good tips for upcycling beginners. And, if you get really into it, you could even turn it into a small business.

#16 Start a small business

If you’ve got a hobby or skill that has the potential to earn you some money, why not turn it into a business?

For example, if you’re skilled in arts and crafts, you could make items to sell at marketplaces or online.

If you love animals, you could become a dog walker, dog groomer or pet sitter. If you’re an ace at baking, you could start your own cupcake business.

Get some top tips by checking out the government’s advice on starting a business.

#17 Find a part-time job

While some people are very self-motivated, others find it harder to stick to a routine when they don’t have to anymore, which is why having a part-time job can be beneficial.

As well as earning some extra income, it provides structure to your week. Rest Less has some good tips on finding a part-time paid role that suits you.

If you’d like to work from home, there are some fantastic part-time career roles for retired professionals who have spent many years in a corporate environment building up extensive knowledge and experience.

As a part-time consultant, you can exchange your knowledge for money.

It’s a great option for businesses as you give them access to specialist knowledge and advice without having to take on a full-time employee.

For freelance opportunities, check out sites such as Guru and Upwork to build up a client base.

#18 Get to grips with financial matters

If you’re not totally sure about how compound interest works, would like to understand the stock market better or be able to pinpoint exactly what your tangible assets are, now’s a good time to brush up on your financial expertise.

It can also help you feel more confident about ensuring all your financial affairs are in order when you speak to your financial adviser.

And, once you’re happy that everything is sorted, you can carry on enjoying your retirement.

#19 Take up home brewing

If you love a mug of ale or a glass of wine, why not try making it yourself?

There are kits to get you started, but once you’ve got the taste for it, you can develop your skills to craft the likes of IPA, stout or elderberry, damson or blackberry wine from fruits you can forage.

Try this winemaking guide from Almost Off Grid. You can also learn more about how to invest in wine here

#20 Become a pub regular

Local pubs often play host to skittles leagues, pub quiz teams and darts leagues, or you could meet up with friends for traditional pub games such as dominoes, backgammon or draughts.

#21 Look at life through a lens

To a lot of people, photography focuses on snapping stuff to put on social media. However, there’s a lot more to the true art of photography.

Looking at life from behind a camera can help you see the world in a whole new light and keeping an eye out for a great picture makes every trip a bit of an adventure.

Photography also gives you a way to use and develop the artistic side of your brain, which has to be a good thing.

#22 Get on your bike

Cycling is becoming ever-more popular as people look to use their cars less and step up their exercise levels.

You can find the UK’s National Cycle Network routes on the Sustrans website, along with lots of ideas for routes to pick – from artwork and art trails, routes to the best Sunday lunch destinations or even the most haunted places to bike through if you’re seeking a thrilling cycling adventure.

If you’re not quite as fit as you once were, don’t assume this is inevitable – many people can find a greater level of fitness post-retirement than they enjoyed before.

And if your joints get stiff, invest in an electric bike to help you up those hills and you can still enjoy all the benefits that cycling brings.

#23 Become an online gamer

It’s well known that any kind of puzzle activity is good for keeping your mind agile, but why not step it up a gear?

Online gaming is proving popular with people aged 50 and over. As well as playing a range of puzzles and games, it gives you the chance to connect with people from all over the world from the comfort of your armchair.

But you don’t necessarily have to settle for traditional games. There’s no reason why a pensioner can’t play the likes of World of Warcraft or Fortnite.

#24 Grow your friendship group

You’ve now got time to get to know the people around you a little better.

Rather than just sticking to friends in your own age group, making friends with people of all ages exposes you to new experiences and different points of view.

Younger friends will also benefit from your life experience. You could even sign up for a pen pal scheme.

#25 Stay social

Whether it’s catching up with your friends on Facebook, setting up a WhatsApp group, Skyping your relatives in Australia, it’s never been easier to keep in touch.

Get up to speed with social media and the latest online platforms, and you can chat with friends and family worldwide whenever you like.

With so many activities to choose from, you’ll wonder how you ever found time to work.

If you found this article interesting, you might also find our article on the best places to retire in the UK, too!

If you're still in the phase of working out how much income you'll need for retirement, try using Unbiased's pension calculator.

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Nick Green
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.