Help my old man enjoy his golden years...
December 23, 2011 10:02 AM   Subscribe

My dad is retired, 78, pretty on-the-ball - but he's a little depressed about his waning years. Any advice?

He's gamely pursuing various activities, but ultimately he's a bit down-in-the-dumps and finding that said activities feel like "going through the motions" or killing time until... well, you know.

To me it's understandable - I draw a fair amount of day-to-day strength from the fact I have a large amount of my life still ahead of me, so it must be a challenge to lose that. He used to be a self-employed consultant until he retired, so ambition and hustle were important to him, and I don't think he's found a way to satisfy those needs with 'for the pleasure of them' hobbies. I think he finds other older people a drag sometimes - he'd probably rather be around younger, sharper intellects. He's not religious at all.

I'd really appreciate any suggestions on what might help him feel better: whether it's new kinds of activities he might want to try, thoughts he should bear in mind, books that might give him a fresh perspective on matters, and so on. Perhaps there's a way he can indulge his go-getting Type A tendencies? He's open-minded about psychological therapies and so on.

posted by so_necessary to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I would think working for a cause would be satisfying to a type A person. Something where there are short term and long term goals to be working toward, whether they are political, environmental, or philanthropical.
posted by gt2 at 10:09 AM on December 23, 2011

When my dad retired, and he was very much a likes to be doing something person, what he did was train our dogs to be therapy dogs and take them to visit local retirement homes/hospitals. It made him so happy.

He also volunteered at the Red Cross and some other stuff like ran the scoreboard for my old HS wrestling team, etc.

Do you know of things he used to like to do for fun when he was younger? I think it was very much a 50's thing to "put away childish things" so maybe he could rediscover what he used to love. There might be groups in those areas.

Maybe he could mentor kids too.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:09 AM on December 23, 2011

I think when you get to this point, you need to think "legacy." Teaching others to set up businesses for themselves, or Ikiru-style charity building projects. Playing golf will only get you so far, you know? But if you could start a golf-instruction school for, say, disabled veterans, well, then you're really building something that will outlive you, and you're not just marking time.

And it doesn't have to be big. I mean, I think I'd get a hoot out of just being a volunteer crossing guard out in front of an elementary school. Then, my legacy would be that I was the nice old man that the kids might remember when they're older and remember to look both ways, dammit!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:13 AM on December 23, 2011

Traditionally, older folks were valued, and derived value from, their roles as mentors to the next generation. If he was in business there's SCORE; if he likes kids, there's all sorts of outlets (Big Brothers Big Sisters, or even just younger family own father gets the biggest kick out of questions/problems he can offer advice on based on decades of experience)--look for something with meaning and permanence.
posted by availablelight at 10:16 AM on December 23, 2011

Seems like being a volunteer consultant is the obvious choice. availablelight pointed to SCORE, and a quick search found MicroMentor, but it might make more sense to contact his local volunteer clearinghouse.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:46 AM on December 23, 2011

My father always says that if you're 30 and you die at 32 then 30 is old. If you're 80 and you die at 100 then 80 is pretty young. He changes the numbers to fit the situation, but anyway, it's good to remember that age is relative...

Your father could have many, many years ahead of him, and living them as if they are his "golden years" might not be the best way for him and might not suit his personality. You say that ambition and hustle are important to him, so maybe forget the whole "retired" part and think of it as "he's onto a new, exciting chapter of his life". Emphasize the "moving onto" and not so much the "moving on from".

Are there variations on your father's old job that he might like to try? Maybe he could do what he did but take all the liberties he couldn't before, or use his skills for a good cause, as some have mentioned above. What were his favorite aspects of what he used to do? Start there!
posted by seriousmoonlight at 10:59 AM on December 23, 2011

Response by poster: (P.S: we're in the UK. Great responses so far though, thanks!)
posted by so_necessary at 11:08 AM on December 23, 2011

i'm afraid that age isn't really relative, it is actual - when you're old (i am) some things absolutely change - many things. But - life can be excellent. Best way i know, and others have pointed this out, is to be a teacher - not a 'formal' school teacher; a teacher of what is important that you have learned from life. At 78 he could be a very good tantric sex teacher, for example (which does not mean having sex or getting an erection - but he surely has an understanding of the spiritual nature of physical love that he could teach - or if not, then anything else, a teacher of acceptance, or . . . . well, he knows what he's learned, now he can pass it on. Setting up a small business the easy way (and it can be very easy, I've done it). Teach it semi-formally and that way meet a lot of new people. Advertise. Get a class together - there are so may things 'out of the box' that can be done - 'touch' - it's amazing to touch people in a semi-structured way with nice lighting and music - just hands can be enough. There's no limit. So much to do.
posted by nickji at 11:17 AM on December 23, 2011

How about getting him a dog? Not just any dog. A Golden Retriever. Harry (my pup) virtually saved my life by forcing me to get out of the house after a disastrous marriage break-up.

Also... In Canada we have an organization that is famous for making use of the skills of retired professionals. The UK should have something like it.
posted by HarrysDad at 11:40 AM on December 23, 2011

Nthing seriousmoonlight; any reason why he can't go back to what he was doing?
posted by brujita at 6:50 PM on December 23, 2011

The AARP also keep a database of volunteer opportunities in the USA, but anyone in any country can offer their services to charities (both in real life and virtually) through - I highly recommend it. It's easily searchable for opportunities and there are many deserving groups looking for help there. You would be amazed what you can do from your own living room that makes a huge difference in the world.

And if he's really a hardy guy, he could look into opportunities to travel and do a long-term volunteer opportunity in a developing country related to his interests. Not only would this allow him to use his lifetime of knowledge and skills and his excess of free time in a positive way, there is nothing like living with/working with people who are incredibly happy in the most impoverished circumstances to make you appreciate how good your life truly is.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:49 PM on December 23, 2011

Projects. My father is involved with societies and has started various web projects - discussion boards, uploading and captioning old photographs. Or the skills that a consultant had would be very attractive to charities I'd have thought. UK volunteering links here and here.
posted by paduasoy at 5:43 AM on December 24, 2011

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