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Make a Difference in Retirement

Dave Bernard
Lasell Village There are retirement communities on college campuses—and then there is Lasell Village. Here, you are not merely encouraged to take classes, you are required to—to the tune of 450 hours of classes a year at Lasell College, ranging from French cinema to social psychology to current events to fitness and volunteer work. (You can take classes with your peers or with students at the college.) “Each of our 16 buildings has a classroom,” says Paula Panchuck, the vice president of the village. “The architecture here literally supports our mission.” Of course, the 200 residents at the Newton, Mass. community also enjoy other activities, from swimming in the heated pool to Pilates in the community room. Lasell Village is a continuing care retirement community, which means it offers independent and assisted living, as well as nursing care. Entrance fees start at $300,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and monthly fees start at $3,100.

At the end of the day, when you look back on what you have done, do you get the feeling you accomplished something meaningful? Somewhere in those 12 to 14 hours of free time that you are blessed with each day as a retired person, did you do something that mattered that you are proud of?

Many times we come to the end of the day and cannot remember exactly what it was that we did to occupy our time. Sure, we may remember a lunch date with a friend or that we mowed the backyard lawn. But beyond those little activities that serve to keep us busy, is there something more?

In retirement we have the freedom of choice and availability of time to entertain ourselves as we see fit. There is nothing wrong with sitting back and watching the world go by. We have earned the right to do what we want to do, even if that means doing nothing at all. A successful retirement is typically made up of a mixture of activities and down time. Not every minute needs to be spent in the pursuit of lofty goals. But will you be satisfied if the 20 or more years of your retirement are filled with only busy activities and distractions?

Each day can offer new opportunities to make a difference in some way. Not only can this be our chance to make a difference in our own lives, but also in the lives of those around us. Here's how I make sure I am spending my time wisely:

Was yesterday well spent? Before heading off to bed, I like to look back on the past day and contemplate exactly what I did with the allotted hours. While reviewing the moments, I try to list anything I may have done that I consider worthwhile, not just killing time. Perhaps I took the time to do something nice for a neighbor or friend. It could be something as simple as a smile and a wave to a passerby, or perhaps volunteering some small portion of my time for a worthy cause. You may find inspiration and make a difference in some other way. But when you look back at yesterday, are you able to say there were at least a few moments in your busy day that were well spent?

Will today be worth remembering? Although I cannot change the past, I still have today in front of me. If I did not do something I consider worthwhile yesterday, I have a brand new opportunity right now. I will try to do something today that will give me the satisfaction of spending my time on something worthy. My action does not have to be something monumental. I don't need to change the world. Instead, I can try to focus on making my individual piece of the world a little bit better. Baby steps in the right direction are all I need when it comes to pursuing meaningful activities.

What will tomorrow hold? If I did little to redeem myself as today comes to an end, there is always tomorrow. Many of us have grand dreams of pursuing our passions in retirement. That famous bucket list we have been compiling over the years is just itching to be attacked. All of the good deeds we might have accomplished if we only had the time while mired in the working world can finally have their moment in the sun. Now that we are retired, we have the time to do what we want. Passions and good deeds each have their place, and could make your retirement feel more meaningful.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

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