Retirement is an appealing prospect for most working people. The idea of pulling back from the pressures of employment, the allure of leisure time and the chance to receive back from life-long investments in Social Security and a retirement account provide real anticipation.
Granted that these years aren’t always “golden” for some, they still present possibilities not feasible in our younger years. There are beloved leisure sports like golf or sailing. Or the chance finally to renovate a classic car. From simple pleasures like increased time with grandchildren to ambitions like travel to lands never visited, the bucket list of prospects is full of possibilities.
These prospects have one thing in common: making the most of the years remaining to us. But for some, there’s a different way to define “making the most” – one whose focus is a bit more radical, but whose gratification is no less real. For an increasing number of retirees, spending their later years in the service of others is providing more meaning than the traditional pursuit of leisurely pastimes.
For example, RSVP is a national organization of senior volunteers who participate in environmental projects, mentor and tutor children, and respond to natural disasters. Next matches, then places, the talents and passions of retirees with overseas mission opportunities. Foster Grandparents is a program dedicated to helping children’s organizations by shepherding youth with disadvantages or special needs.
There are other stories of seniors who ventured out on their own to make a difference. For example, retired executive Gloria Dickerson started the We Together Create Change organization, fighting the effects of poverty on children in Mississippi. She was later awarded a fellowship with Purpose Prize, exemplifying those who in retirement have followed a calling to aid others and serve a community.
Whether done privately or as part of a larger body, these are just a few examples of people dedicated to the idea that the best way to spend the retirement years is by giving one’s self away. They are evidence that while the traditional approach to retirement is certainly sensible, there’s more than one way to “finish well.”