Adjusting to his new life in New York City wasn’t easy for eight-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewumi, a homeless refugee from Nigeria. Kids teased him because he lived in a homeless shelter. Tani’s outlook changed when he joined his school’s chess club, where he grew to love the game. After only a year of playing, Tani was crowned New York State’s chess champion in the K-3 age group, defeating players from prestigious schools with private chess tutors. When he discovered chess he found more than just a game he enjoyed—he discovered his purpose.
Likewise, you need to have a purpose in retirement. Many find that adjusting to their new lifestyle in retirement isn’t easy. They envision retirement as a fun-filled life of leisure, but it just doesn’t bring the satisfaction they’d hoped for. Day after day of endless free time can become monotonous. However, many retirees have found that helping young people gave them a renewed sense of purpose in retirement. Find out if it can work for you, too.
Beware, Isolation may come with retirement
Source: Senior Isolation: America’s Quietest Health Risk, MedicareAdvantage.com, 2017. Most recent data available.
What Are Intergenerational Interactions?
Intergenerational interactions are about developing meaningful relationships with younger people. Rather than short-term or infrequent volunteering, the goal of intergenerational interactions is to develop sustained relationships with young people for three-to-six months or longer.
Being a pillar in a young person’s life passes a baton of wisdom to the next generation
Many aging adults enjoy sharing their experiences, skills, and wisdom, with young people in need of guidance and direction. Whether they are 8 or 28 years old, there is something valuable that you can pass on to them.
For example, Ray Navarro, a participant in the US Government’s Foster Grandparents program, had deteriorating eyesight, he was unemployed, and feeling depressed. Then he began tutoring kids at his local elementary school. He enjoyed it and found that it provided a new purpose in his life. Plus, the kids loved learning from Ray.
Why working with young people can reenergize your retirement
Isolation is a serious health risk as we grow older. Forty-three percent of seniors experience loneliness,1 which can increases the chance of heart attacks, strokes, depression, anxiety and early death.2
When we retire, we leave behind the built-in social network that our coworkers provided. Eventually, friends will pass away. Health challenges may affect our mobility, making it difficult to leave home. Intergenerational interactions can help fight isolation since it typically results in a consistent, meaningful engagement that is planned in advance. This can motivate you to get out of the house and can help stave off loneliness.
Intergenerational interactions can help fight isolation since it typically results in a consistent, meaningful engagement that is planned in advance. This can motivate you to get out of the house and can help stave off loneliness.
Lacking a purpose is also a retirement risk
During your career, work provides a purpose. You’re productive and you’re needed. When you stop working, you may miss that sense of purpose that work provided.
Working with younger people can reinvigorate that sense of purpose. It’s rewarding to share the skills and lessons you’ve learned throughout life to help a young person overcome challenges in his or her life. From a childhood English teacher that motivated an author to pursue a writing career to a football coach that helped an athlete hone their natural abilities, people often attribute their success to people that encouraged them throughout their formative years. Many retirees find that working with young people can transform both their and their mentee’s life for the better.
How You Can Find Opportunities to Help Young People
Regardless of your background, there are a variety of ways to get involved. Here are some organizations to consider:
- AARP’s Experience Corps – The Experience Corps program matches you with children at high-need elementary schools for tutoring.
- Foster Grandparents – A program that allows volunteers age 55+ to care for ailing children, mentor troubled teenagers and young mothers, and help students learn to read.
- Little League – Don’t retire your baseball bat yet! There are little league teams that need help. Try becoming a little league coach or coach’s assistant. Help out with field maintenance or become an umpire.
- Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts – Being a scout leader or assisting with troop meetings provides a way to help prepare young children for a lifetime of leading.
- Peace Corp – Explore the world while helping to improve the health and education of young people in a foreign country.
- Get2Gen – Just enter your location in this search web page to find a variety of volunteer opportunities to help young people.
When To Get Started
Don’t wait until you’re in a rut to find your new purpose. If you get bored with a life of leisure, you’ll be scrambling to find something interesting to do. Find your new purpose before you retire. You can try out different opportunities to engage with young people and find out if working with them, and in what capacity, is a good fit for you.
“Wait a Sec, I’m Not Sure I Have the Skills to Work With Young People”
Trying something new can be daunting. Perhaps you’re not sure how to interact with kids or even if kids will gravitate toward you. These are valid concerns. However, be assured, you don’t need a master’s degree in teaching to be able to relate to young people. A sheer willingness to help is crucial to a successful experience.
Enthusiasm translates well when working with the young. Being excited about the opportunity makes the younger individuals excited to be in your company. Also, you may find that the skills that made you successful in the workplace may serve you well when working with kids, but the most important trait will be your enthusiasm to get involved.
Remember These Things About Helping Young People in Retirement
First, intergenerational interactions are all about volunteering to develop sustained relationships with young people who could use some help in life. Second, working with young people can help you avoid the big retirement risks of isolation and lacking purpose. Third, there are many organizations to choose from. Finally, try volunteering to help young people before your retire.
Retirement Satisfaction Starts With Having a Purpose
Many people can’t wait to retire after decades of work. When it finally happens, they enjoy a spike in happiness while they enjoy some well-earned rest and relaxation. But that honeymoon phase of retirement is often followed by a sharp decline in happiness a few years later.3 Don’t let that happen in your retirement. Like Tani, the young chess champ, find your purpose and make a difference.
- Visit the Gen2Gen website and watch some of these videos. You may get inspired about the possibilities to work with young people.
- Find an organization that can get you connected with young people. Consider volunteering for 3-6 months to see if you like it.
- Visit hartfordfunds.com/story to explore additional ways to create a fulfilling retirement story
1Senior Isolation: America’s Quietest Health Risk, MedicareAdvantage.com, 2017. Most recent data available.
2One in Three Seniors Is Lonely. Here’s How It’s Hurting Their Health, Time, 3/4/19
3Retiring minds want to know, American Psychological Association, 1/14. Most recent data available.
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