ideas for a retiree
January 26, 2009 8:33 PM   Subscribe

My mum has just retired at 61. She has four kids who all live in different cities, each over 5 hours away. My dad still works full time, and I don't think my mum knows what to do with herself. Ideas and suggestions for fulfilling ways to pass the time, plans to make, etc from other retirees greatly appreciated!

My mum raised 4 kids and worked as a speech therapist for many years. She loves her children and is sad that we all moved away (we know it is hard for her and make sure to be in regular contact with phone calls and emails and chats etc, visits when possible). There are no grand children yet. I think she's a bit lost. I feel bad for her and want to suggest some ideas...

She likes being around people but is quite shy and reserved. Not at all outgoing, though very loving.

She does a lot of stuff on weekends and evenings with my dad, like play bridge and dance classes and things.

She is interested in volunteering but not sure where to go...

She has dabbled in crafts in the past but seems to have lost interest in all of those - knitting, sewing, quilting. I think she needs to do things with other people.

I'm wondering if you, or anyone you know, is a fairly reserved older retired woman who's children have all moved away and you have found fun, satisfying, even challenging ways to fill your days involving other people.

posted by beccyjoe to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Being a bit shy (though still liking to be around people), she might enjoy volunteering with an animal rescue group -- walking dogs, playing with the kitties, or even just helping out with paperwork. She gets to be around other like-minded folks, yet the animals will be the center of attention, so there won't necessarily be a lot of pressure on her to socialize with other people.

Is there a museum where she lives? Many museums have volunteer programs with a variety of jobs -- everything from working the membership desk to leading tours (might be too outgoing for her, but you never know!) to helping out with office work for various departments.
posted by scody at 8:51 PM on January 26, 2009

Is she computer literate? Nothing has brought more joy to my recently retired mother-in-law than following her children through Facebook. We all post stuff regularly and she comments on it, happy to know what's going on. If she's into it give her a $100 scanner and get her to scan stuff from photo albums and post it online, good fun.
posted by furtive at 9:02 PM on January 26, 2009

Going to water aerobics (aquacise) is wonderful for older women - easy on the joints but good exercise. My mother-in-law always goes for coffee with the other ladies after her morning water-aerobics workout, and she's gone the whole morning. The local YMCA/YWCA would be a good place to start, but I'm sure there'll be something available in her city if there's a public pool.
posted by lizbunny at 9:03 PM on January 26, 2009

if she isn't sure where to start with volunteering, suggest she volunteer in an area that interests her. my parents moved to a rural-ish area 3 years ago and one of the ways my mom adjusted to life outside of the suburbs was through volunteering. though she had never volunteered before, she loves babies/toddlers, so she volunteers with families who have 2 or more children under the age of 5. she enjoys it, it's helpful - win win.

if your mom loves to knit, why not teach someone to knit? or knit for local retirement homes?
if your mom loves to cook, maybe she can help out at a local soup kitchen.
if your mom loves animals, she can help at an animal shelter.
posted by gursky at 9:08 PM on January 26, 2009

Response by poster: thanks for good suggestions friends!

@gursky- i think my mum would love working with toddlers or babies. how did your mum hook up with these families?

@furtive- she is reasonably computer literate but more tech phobic. she follows my blog which she likes. (I'm not too excited about the idea of her following me on facebook - I'm of the facebook-is-for-peers-only persuasion!)

aqua aerobics and museums good suggestions too. (alas she's not really an animal person.)
posted by beccyjoe at 9:18 PM on January 26, 2009

With all due respect, and even though I'm sure you love her, is this really your problem to solve? She's a grown woman, isn't she? Shouldn't you let her figure it out for herself?

I suspect that your meddling will cause more harm than good.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:09 PM on January 26, 2009

Depending on where you live, your mother might find a volunteer opportunity that interests her at

If there is a senior center nearby, they probably have classes and other opportunties that might interest her.
posted by metahawk at 10:59 PM on January 26, 2009

Does she have Skype installed in her computer? Video chatting really does add that extra something. It also makes it easier to communicate and interact with younger kids who might not have the whole talking-into-the-phone thing down just yet.

For volunteering there's nothing like local theater. You get all different ages interacting, from kids in their teens to the oldest of the old. Ushering is easy and generally means free tickets to the show. Fine for shy people since you basically are handing out brochures and showing people to their seats; you don't have to initiate a lot of conversation.

Has she communicated that she is bored and doesn't know what to do with herself, or is this just a feeling? If she is projecting loneliness and listlessness, along with dropping her former hobbies, maybe, just maybe she is depressed (although this is very armchairy of me, and a far removed armchair at that). It does sound like you think she needs to be doing things, rather than her explicitly asking you for suggestions. It might be worthwhile to raise this issue with your mother or, if that's uncomfortable, get in touch with a friend of hers (or perhaps your dad) and ask them what they think.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:46 PM on January 26, 2009

A computer, internet connection, and make MetaFilter her home page.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:40 AM on January 27, 2009

Is there a senior center in her area? My mom joined a local senior center and it seems like she is constantly involved in some fun activity, whether is playing cards, having potlucks, going to shows, taking day trips or even going on cruises. I think they are traveling to NYC later this year. She has also met a lot of new people this way.
posted by thejanna at 5:44 AM on January 27, 2009

My father (he's not a woman, but he's retired, so its half-relevant) retired a few years ago. After a few months of being bored out of his mind, he started volunteering at a local food bank. I had both moved out of the area at the time, my brother had the proverbial one foot out the door, and my mum was (and is) still working (and working on a doctoral degree, as well), so he had a lot of alone time on his hands. The rest of the family couldn't believe how involved he got with the food bank... we think just having something to focus on made all the difference for him. He loves it. Loves going there, helping out, everything about it. After a year or so of working there, they asked him to join the board, which he did. Its been a great experience for him, and for the rest of the family, who experience the benefit of having our father/husband engaged and excited about something he's doing, and not moping about the house in boredom. (I'm not saying that's what your mum is doing, but my dad was, to a limited extent, and even that limited extent was driving the rest of us bonkers.)

I suppose my advice, as a son who observed (from afar) his father get involved with volunteering upon retirement is to encourage your mum to find some sort of similar outfit: a food bank, soup kitchen, or other nonprofit social assistance center. These types of places are experienced with handling volunteers, especially older volunteers or retirees. Your mum's (and my dad's) almost existential crisis immediately post-retirement is something that I think everyone who retires goes through. She'll get through it, and she'll have a great time, too. Kudos to you for supporting and trying to help her out through this big transition phase in her life.
posted by diggerroo at 7:53 AM on January 27, 2009

Response by poster: @chocolate pickle - I appreciate your perspective, I guess I feel a bit guilty because I think she feels a bit abandoned by her 4 kids who've moved away. I'd love for her to work it out herself, but I just thought I'd throw some suggestions at her... without being forceful at all.

@Jamaro- I'm pretty sure she's not delighted about having not much to do, she has said as much to me. I know it makes her feel useful if she is busy/ doing stuff with or for other people. I know she is a little bored and lonely.

THanks all for the suggestions.
posted by beccyjoe at 9:20 AM on January 27, 2009

"couldn't believe how involved he got with the food bank... He loves it. Loves going there, helping out, everything about it. After a year or so of working there, they asked him to join the board, which he did."

I was going to suggest volunteering somewhere until she can join the board as well. Or with her interest in kids, could she join / run for the school board? (Sorry, I don't know if that's an election or what.) She might also start going to city council meetings and see if anything interests her. If she lives in a small town, she could easily find a place on a committee or something.
posted by salvia at 10:52 AM on January 27, 2009

Google "volunteer" and there are a bunch of sites with volunteer positions available. I looked once and found ads looking for older parental types who could help young single parents with kids who needed a little help a day a week or so. They're out there.

Despite retiring recently she can still do a bit of part time work in childcare if she was up for it?
posted by mooza at 12:12 PM on January 27, 2009

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