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We often focus on retirement as a goal in itself: we’ve worked hard for decades and we’ve earned a rest. But often the reality is that we end up feeling like we’re no longer contributing to society.

The sense that your life has meaning and direction and that you are achieving the goals you set for yourself is vital for maintaining your self-esteem and satisfaction with your life even though your life may be changing in profound ways. One such life change is retirement—especially if you’re retiring from a rewarding job from which you derived a sense of great achievement.

If retirement has you feeling that your life is slowing down and not offering you the opportunities it used to, it might help you to see your free time as time to fill with new goals, projects, and pursuits that take advantage of the experience, wisdom, and skill you have accumulated.

Throw yourself into a hobby you’ve never had enough time to really try, such as drawing, painting, photography, knitting. Something else you might want to think about is semi-retiring: using the time you’ve gained from giving up your main job to try out a second, part-time career. Another option is to make a difference in your community by volunteering—it’s a great way to gain purpose and have a positive impact on the lives of others. Visit for opportunities in your area.

Consider taking some courses—research has suggested that older adults who take college courses may lower their risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Many U.S. states provide tuition waivers and/or discounts for older adults at public colleges and universities (find out if your state does at Alternatively, contact your local community college to ask about attending as an “audit student,” which means that you take the class purely for academic enrichment, without getting a grade or credit. If it’s difficult for you to attend college in person, most offer online courses.

Above all, figure out what you can do that will give you a sense of meaning and purpose. After all, some of us will spend over 25 years or more in retirement!

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