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Things to do in retirement – 25 ideas to inspire you

Updated 22 March 2021

9min read

Nick Green
Financial Journalist

Things to do in retirement

The thought of not having to go to work anymore might be tempting – but as anyone who’s come through lockdown will know, 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.

Tip number one is to take a proactive approach to retirement. Act the age you feel, not the age the world might expect you to be. Make new experiences part of your retirement planning, and you’ll stay younger for longer.

The Age UK Index of Wellbeing in Later Life concluded 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 of all ages to make more 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 and free your mind

Go through cupboards, wardrobes, drawers and desks – and while you’re at it, get up in the attic and sort out all those 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 that 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 9 to 5 or beyond, 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, secluded 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 and 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 on the look-out 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 with open arms – whether that’s raking hay meadows, monitoring or recording wildlife, helping with a toad patrol 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? Now, thanks 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 to the family – and generations to come 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 for you. You can find out more about The Knights of Skirbeck, Regia Anglorum Vikings & Saxons, Dark Age Cornwall, Lord Hopton’s Regiment of Foote Tudors & Stuarts and lots 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 called to the piano, bass guitar, clarinet, drums, theramin or serpent (Google it), you now have the time and discipline that you might have lacked in your younger years. There’s 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 and rock choirs in your area.

#8 Learn to dance

There are few things more effective than dancing at keeping both body and brain healthy and delaying the effects of ageing. It’s also great fun – yes it is, 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. 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 customized greetings cards. Write a novel (or start one, then just keep going). The list is endless. Indulge yourself – you’ve earned it.

#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, searching for extraterrestrial intelligence (it’s a thing), or metal-detecting.

#11 Stay fit and flexible

The best way to keep going is to keep going – 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 in an even way, with particular 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 a whole bunch of new people and feel good about doing your bit.

#13 Become an expert at absolutely anything

Whether it’s learning conversational Chinese, how to bake a flawless souffle, performing mind-boggling magic tricks or amazing feats of juggling, identifying bird song or learning all the Latin names of your garden plants, you’ve got time to practice till you’re perfect. According to Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado, practising anything for 10,000 hours can make anyone an expert at it.

#14 Get an allotment and grow your own

Growing your own food has to be one of the most rewarding experiences – and all that time spent digging and harvesting your crop in the open air will keep you hale and hearty. Gardeners’ World will be top of your viewing schedule as you hang on Monty Don’s every word about 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 your home) a vibrant new look and avoids 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 (see below).

#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 expert 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 just don’t have to anymore, which is why having a part-time job can be really 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 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 an expensive 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 workings of the stock market better or be able to pinpoint exactly what your tangible assets are, now’s an opportune 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 Galena IPA and Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout (Craft Metropolis is a good place to start) or elderberry, damson or blackberry wine from fruits you’ve foraged for. Try this winemaking guide from Almost Off Grid.

#20 Become a pub regular

And not just for the pints! Local pubs often play host to skittles leagues, pub quiz teams and darts leagues – or you could set up your own arrangements to meet up with friends for traditional pub games such as dominoes, backgammon or draughts.

#21 Look at life through a lens

For people below a certain age, photography seems to be just about 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 out 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 to the most romantic rides, 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 the 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. Free websites to investigate include: Chess.comTheJigsawPuzzles.comLexulous.com (Scrabble) and Facebook.com/Games. But you don’t necessarily have to settle for the traditional ones. There’s no reason why a pensioner can’t kick ass in World of Warcraft or Fortnite and teach the young ’uns a few lessons.

#24 Grow your friendship group

You’ve now got time to get to know the people around you (that you like) 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, which will help you stay young at heart. Younger friends will also benefit from your life experience. You could even sign up for a pen pal scheme such as Postpals, which links you up with seriously ill children so you can send them letters, cards and gifts to make them smile during a difficult time.

#25 Stay social

Whether it’s catching up with your friends on Facebook, setting up a WhatsApp group for ‘ladies who lunch’ or ‘chaps who like to chew the fat over a pint’, Skyping your relatives in Australia or zooming with an old friend in New Zealand, it’s never been easier to keep in touch. Get up to speed with social media and all the latest online communication platforms and you can chat with friends and family all over the world whenever you like.

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

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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, 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.