You are never too old to learn
The best thing about retirement is the freedom it gives you. With that freedom comes all the time in the world to do all those things you really wanted to do, but somehow never found enough hours in the day for.
When work and the demands of a growing family seem to consume every waking hour among the first things to go are your hobbies, pastimes and the chance to fill in some of the gaps in the education you always wished you’d had.
But retirement is not just an opportunity to make up for lost time; it gives you the chance to stay fit, active and healthy and to rediscover some of the real joys of life – to really start living once again.
Here are some of the areas in which you might reawaken that zest for knowing you are never too old to learn.
Learn a language
A favourite goal for those released from the daily routine of work is to travel more extensively. Indeed, the Office for National Statistics reports that Britons aged 55 and over made a total of more than 17 million visits abroad during 2016 (the latest year for which records are available).
But the next time you fancy a trip abroad, why not prepare for it well in advance by learning something of the language of the country you’ll be visiting. Not only will it help you understand more of the culture and history of the place, but it is also likely to go down especially well with those who live there and may even pave the way for a host more friends you might visit again or keep in touch with electronically or by post.
What’s more, the very process of learning a language may be thrilling and rewarding in its own right. It keeps your mind active and nimble, offers a sense of focus and purpose, and may prove an introduction to new friends at home and abroad.
Practically every local authority runs adult education classes in the common European languages (French, Italian, Spanish and German, for example) and joining one of those courses may also open the door to a wider social life amongst like-minded souls.
If you need help finding your nearest adult education centre, the National Careers Service also caters for those in search of continuing education, and you may find local services by using their website.
If you prefer to keep your own company whilst expanding your mind, there are also countless online language learning courses available. Some of the leading resources include official sites such as the BBC and the Foreign Services Institute (FSI), or private companies such as duolingo, all of which are free to use, or paid online courses from Busuu.
Although you might have cast envious eyes over the back fence to your neighbour’s garden, you may have dismissed the idea of gardening as an old man’s pastime or one for which you are either born with green fingers or not at all.
Plenty of TV gardening programmes go to show that the first is simply not true and gardening – just like any other skill or talent – must be learned and is not inborn.
Not only does gardening give you the chance to learn new skills, but it also gets you out of the house, into the fresh air and – importantly – provides some serious exercise. And plenty of exercise, as we are always told, is essential to a fit, healthy and long life in which to thoroughly enjoy your retirement.
Your local library, bookshop, and countless online resources are available on the subject of gardening, but this is an area where contact with others and learning from the example of more experienced hands is likely to pay dividends – you’ve immediately also made new friends.
Gardening clubs tend to be highly local affairs, so look out for addresses and calendars of events likely to be posted on cards in your newsagents, hung on hedges or fences or in the library. Your local garden centre may also be a great place to get started by looking at the vast array of plants, shrubs and trees available as well as picking up invitations to joining the local gardening circle.
If you are still stuck for a local contact, consider getting in touch with one of the national clubs, such as:
- the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG) – dedicated to the conservation of native British flora, with some 40 local groups dotted about the country;
- the National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners – whose name is self-explanatory and brings together individuals, landowners, local authorities, local associations, and schools; or
- the Hardy Plant Society – which has a membership of around 10,000, scattered across some 40 or so local groups throughout England, Wales and Scotland.
Rambling, cycling and sports
You are never too old to take up a new physical activity or sport either.
Exercise – especially that taken in the company of like-minded participants of a similar age and ability – is the best way of keeping body and mind fit, flexible and healthy.
Founded in 1935, the Ramblers Association (now known simply as The Ramblers) is probably the best known of national walking clubs, with a membership of some 150,000 and local branches in every corner of the country.
As far as other sports and activities are concerned, of course, that is entirely a matter of personal preference, taste and – possibly – ability. Scour your local press, newsagent, community centre and supermarket for notices about the whichever sport might take your fancy.
This data is correct as at the time of writing.