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Retired. Hobbies. Being More Than Useful.

A long time ago on this blog, 2006 to be precise, I wrote about the difficulty I'd had in those days with the word “retired.” Here is part of what I wrote:

”I choke on the word 'retired.' On the rare occasions I have used this term to describe myself, I’ve seen the same kind of veil come over the eyes of people who ask what I do as I saw on the faces of young interviewers (before I gave up looking for full-time work)...

“Now, when I use the word, it is amusing (or would be if it weren’t so infuriating) to watch the other person searching for a way to politely extricate him- or herself from our conversation.”

The problem with the word is that to be retired in the United States is to be perceived as irrelevant, uninteresting and quite possibly stupid. Even the late, eminent geriatrician, Robert N. Butler, had personal experience with the word being synonymous to others with “over the hill” which at age 80, he definitely was not.

Retirednotexpired3

Recently I had cause to choke on another word that in most situations should not provoke that response: hobbies. Actually, it took more than the word alone; it was the lead-in sentence to a list of hobbies that left me feeling gloomy about attitudes toward old people.

”Here are 11 healthy hobbies your aging loved one might want to consider.”

First, there is the tone of condescension, as though an old person doesn't already have his/her own interests. Then there is the dismissive word itself, hobbies, which sounds a lot like the idea is to just fill time until the “aging loved one” kicks the bucket.

Here are the 11 items.

  1. Creating Art / Doing Crafts
  2. Volunteering
  3. Swimming
  4. Walking
  5. Playing Games / Cards
  6. Dancing
  7. Gardening
  8. Practicing Yoga
  9. Golfing
  10. Caring for a Pet
  11. Family and Friends

There is nothing wrong with anything on that list except that elders already know about them and each one is much more than a mere pastime. Tens of millions of people, old and young, participate in numbers 3, 4, 8 and 9 for enjoyment and to help keep themselves fit.

Numbers 5 and 6 are among the many ways we have to socialize with others. And I would file 2, 7, 10 and 11 under the category not of hobbies, but of living.

In fact, the only one that could possibly be labeled a hobby is number one. Maybe. In some circumstance. But usually not, I think.

Using the word hobby for any of these is dismissive. But such an attitude is a pattern in regard to elders. Many people, apparently including the writer of this article, think that because you are retired, whatever you do with your time is not valuable or useful.

Really? Tell that to volunteers. To caregivers. To docents. To people who knit, crochet and quilt for the homeless and other charities. And tell that to others who spend their time learning, keeping fit, reading, relaxing, catching up with what they had no time for during their working years - and one more - an important one: "just" being.

Speaking of hobbies, too many people who believe they know a lot about old people and write about them make it their own hobby to exhort old people to do, do, do. God forbid any elder should spend some quiet time with themselves.

LivingForYourself

Which brings me to an important idea about which TGB reader, Rosemary Woodel, emailed.

She included a link to an essay by Parker J. Palmer, one of the contributors to Krista Tippet's On Being website. It is titled Being More Than Being Useful.

”I work hard at what I do, and I bet you do too. So maybe you need the same reminder I do: while my work is important, it is not a measure of my value or worth,” writes Palmer.

“Who we 'be' is far more important than what we do or how well we do it. That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings!

“We pay a terrible price if we value our doing over our being. When we have to stop 'doing' — e.g., because of job loss, illness, accident, or the diminishments that can come with age — we lose our sense of worthiness.”

Okay, he's more flip than I would be about his idea but that doesn't make him wrong. He's talking about being centered, accepting of your own self, understanding your intrinsic worth.

The people who who make lists of hobbies for old folks, advise us to walk faster, find new friends and pick something from a list to do have forgotten - or perhaps, because they are usually much younger - have not realized yet that growing old is also an important time to, in addition to everything else, do less - to be.

Growing old is a perfect time to learn or re-learn that we are, each one of us, worthy just by the fact of being here. Being old and retired from the workforce does not diminish that worthiness even if some others think so. We should not allow them to disregard us by assuming we aren't busy enough and need help to figure out how to use our time.

Comments

Well said as always Ronnie.

I am an artist and have always felt it was a passion not a hobby. Plus I'm a full time caregiver of many, many years. Not much time for art but it is still on my mind all the time. Every day.

Jan

My mom says that most of her community led senior "activities" involves sitting, watching, eating bland food and or being a grateful audience at daytime kindergarten ish events.

There is no "doing" at these events.

I suggested the city should put a pinball machine in the recreation center.

Mom has fast moves. Goalie stops.

Some believe seniors are topped to the brim glasses of water meaning we should not be seeking new knowledge.

Our brains might explode. (Sarcasm)

One size does not fit all in our world.

We choose to do or not do activities based on our strengths, personalities, background, wherever we can make a difference.

We drive the bus.



Not retired just yet however LOVING the anticipation of having the opportunity to change my 5-2 into more a 2-5 or even a 0-7 working week. 😃
Spending more time (while I can - physically *and* financially) doing the things I enjoy and being with the people I love is what it's all about here!!
BRING IT ON!!!

My husband is a wonderful artist who never had enough time to devote to his passion. He has won awards since he retired and several friends have literally pulled his work off the wall to take home. He doesn't take payment because he does the work for himself and shares when he wants to.

I always try to figure out the age of the person writing about retirement before I start to read. Otherwise it is like trying to learn to ski from someone who has never seen snow.

As always great blog

This got me thinking on all I have done over the years and I think each one of us has done a lot more than we realize. Wow, after working, raising children, being a caregiver, and volunteering all through the years as a den mother, campfire group leader, SIDS chairman, volunteering for Lions and Kiwanis, volunteering so many hours for arts and their grants councils, organizing and facilitating grief and bereavement groups....I am volunteered out. Retirement, even if it is sans funds, is the best thing I have ever done just for me!!! For the first time I am alone and reveling in it. Other than my art projects and cooking, which are for my benefit, I am done with trying to please "everyone"!!!! Time to just be and do nothing!!!

Several years ago I was introduced to one of my daughter-in-law's friends. Exchanging the usual pleasantries, she asked, "And what do you do?" In the context, I was embarrassed that I couldn't cite a place of employment. I mumbled something about retirement and blogging. I felt so inadequate, and yet doing very little and having no commitments is exactly what I want to do after years and years of unrelenting deadlines, pressure, and stress.

Call them sports or hobbies, here are the ones I have done for decades and continue now that I am retired.

Flying GA airplanes
Fly Fishing
Painting
Photography ( I am a professional photographer but I still like it as a 'hobby")
Building and flying model airplanes and rotor craft
Sailing
Kayaking
Gardening and landscaping
Skiing
Model RailRoading
Woodworking

I now have more time for these sports/hobbies since I don't have to earn as much money. And I help others learn these activities, often young students learning to fly model planes, but also quite a few just retired persons finally finding time to do something they always wanted to do.

So I see hobbies and sports as life long activities not just for retirement. But certainly enjoyed after "retirement".

I once heard an older women say that "I am enough" and that resonated with me right away. I am still working through the change from "doing" to "being" as I am a couple years past the working stage of my life. My whole attitude is shifting about what this last phase of my life is going to be so that it works for me, not the society that tries to define it. Great article and I am glad you chose to share it again.

As usual, I like almost all that you have said, and share your irritation with youth's condescension to we aged ones. There is one of Parker Palmer's observations that I don't like so much: the distinction between doing and being, in which he elevates being. I understand the desire to honor some essential self, but much of that self is only known, only articulated through action. We are, in good part, what we do.

Number 1 is my currant passion. I got my degree in fine art/painting, and today I make art quilts. King size.

Could be that I don't move as fast as I used to, or maybe it just takes me longer to collect my thoughts, but I am BUSY, and have been since the first day I retired 17 years ago. I consider myself an emotional support for some members of my family, I spend a great deal of effort keeping my affairs in order, I cook and care for my husband, who like me, is getting on in age, and I maintain a blog. I savor the moments each day that I can relax and just 'stare into space'—I think this can be called meditating! I don't have time for hobbies, I'm afraid...

I am pleased to see several people have already posted their choice of the word "passion" instead of hobby. I now have more time for the passions that I have had most of my life: music, writing, photography, family and friends.

If it weren't for us retired folks, our community would fall apart. We're the ones who have time to do the many acts of mercy needed each day.

My favorite response to sales people who say, "Have a good day," is "They're all good; I'm retired." Most people say they look forward to that freedom one day.

Hobby defined: An activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure
(archaic) a small horse or pony.

Well, I've had a hobby (quite a few, actually) all my life, and upon occasion have climbed onto my hobby horse.

As others have said, I used to try to fit these "hobbies" into spare time, now I can do them just about all the day if I wish.

It may be that the folks who use the word dismissively just don't have the experience to understand.

Right on!

I completely agree about hobbies. Walking as a hobby, huh? I walk every day on a nearby nature trail, if it's not raining too hard here in Seattle. I walk for my health and the enjoyment of being out in nature, checking out the local birds.

My husband and I have a cat, but how much time or attention does it take to feed her and let her outside and back inside and then back out and so on?

My husband says he's "failed retirement five times," and that's just fine for him.

Ronnie, before I retired my colleagues would say to me, "but what are you going to do with yourself"? I would respond," I'm going to be. I'm taking a break from doing" . Sadly, they didn't get it. I can now say that something new has come from my just being for a while. I discovered I could draw. I have sketched pencil portraits of my children and grandchildren. By just being for a while I found a small talent I never knew I had. Just being is one of the gifts of retirement. We should all do more of it whether we are retired or not.

Someone asked me once what I do all day and I whipped out my pocket calendar with just about every page filled in with appointments and events that keep me busy. That shut her up. This may be off topic but in my life the most irritating assumption about our peer age group is the assumption that we're all busy fawning over grandchildren. Maybe if I had some to fawn over it wouldn't bother me but to me, it's a stereotype that goes along with our peer age group and it's a default mode that younger people use when they are trying to make conversation.

I love being retired! I can now teach Wellness, Jin Shin Jyutsu Self Help, get back to my art, digital as well as paper, read, read, read (Tibetan Buddhism, quantum physics (simple), and death/dying/reincarnation), and ponder the big stuff without the distraction of a job and having to educate managers!

Yeah... I also don't read any articles or books by anyone younger than 60. They categorically don't know what they're talking about!

Oops, articles or books about aging, retirement, etc.
I love good books by good writers of any age!

Eight of those items are parts of my life, and I call my life quite full and fulfilling.

I'm reading this late as I spent the morning volunteering in a local historical museum. I'm learning a lot about local history and I am a face of my community. I have "made art" since was a child and have an art degree. It's as much a part of me as breathing. The ageist twit that made that list and their ilk are the kind of people busily dismantling and unfunding the NEA as well as dismissing the older creative population.

I had a hard time with retirement because I took early retirement. I thought I would work until age 66. I took early retirement at age 56. I cried every Monday and Tuesday for the 1st 4 months. I wanted to work. I missed working. Now, I'm 62. People ask me how is retirement? I tell them it's a journey. Because I did plan A, B, C, D, E and so on before I retired. None of them transpired. What I'm doing now is not what I was doing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th year of retirement.

I volunteer at 2 organizations, I currently take 4 exercise classes, I am learning how to sew, I am pursuing drawing, a childhood passion, and I go to a book club that meets monthly. We read non-fiction. I also attend a film class and 2 weekly lectures, one on foreign politics and the other on general topics of interest.

I like what I do. I think I am an interesting person.

How many generations will it take to eliminate the stereotype of grandma sitting in her rocking chair knitting? I suspect that it was always true that the retired were not so different from the way they had always been. They were just older with more time.

Most of the retirees I know, or have known, continue to do the things they enjoyed when they were young unless physical or monetary restrictions prevent them. The only difference is that they now have more time to devote to their passions.

U an generalizing, of course. But my point is that we don't change that much when the years pile up. So why do the so-called experts think we have to take up new hobbies to fill our time? We have had 60+ years to decide what is fulfilling to us.

Where's 'reading' on that list? Too sedentary to consider? Could lead to an earlier death. Terrible.

Where's 'bowling' and 'needlework'? Not hip enough?

And where's 'paintball'? That's certainly active. And life affirming.

How could they leave out 'skateboarding'? That would help with our balance!


Amen!

I left the corporate world last year, and now am 'working' harder than ever, doing what I want, making the contributions that matter to me, and listening, yes listening to what I am pulled to do, what makes me feel more alive, the ultimate luxury (at least for me. Thank you for the emphasis on being, as being is the foundation of everything, and as I work with women executives who are burned out, and are now ready to get back to their bodies, hearts and passions, the main path and journey is back home. Being.

I don't have the negative connotation for the word hobby but I don't use that word for my activities. I do play bridge twice a week, thereputic drumming once a week, book group once a month, writing group every two weeks, chorus practice once a week, Friday night video watching with friends, going out for brunch on Sunday, giving people rides several days a week, recreational outing once a month, plus potlucks and one activity that is the most popular outdoor activity in the world birding.
I still spend many hours at home alone. I have to be careful to not overextend myself or I can be too busy. I just started a singles group for the community where I live as several widowed people complained about feeling left out of things after their spouses died. I didn't want to run a grief support group.
I observed my aunts and uncles and friends in retirement and the ones who did the best kept up their interest in the world and were active.

I no longer tell people I'm retired. I tell them I'm a PIM (Person of Independent Means). If I'm feeling snarky for some reason I just say I'm "independently wealthy". I figure if I have enough to live on and enjoy life I'm as wealthy as I need to be.

It's kind of funny but this does not seem to raise the same questions as I got when I used to say I was "retired". I guess they figure I'm busy at something.

Since retiring I haven't been "counting flowers on the wall") (Statler Brothers)

Thinking back on my activities..

Gardened for seniors

Took three years of Conversational French to beef up my second language.

Wrote and self-published three books.

Line dancing, Pilates, Zumba weekly.

Travelled to Brazil, Ireland, China, Scandinavia, Gulf of Florida, Jamaica, St. Marten, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Hawaii, Thailand.

Volunteer at an ILR, made friends with a bunch of sweethearts.

Volunteer teaching ESL to adults a morning a week

Help my senior mom with her garden, and anything else she needs.

Landscaped the perimeter of my home with shrubs, rocks I found everywhere and brought home in the trunk of my car or on the seat of my bike.

Belong to a cycling club with retired teachers and Air Canada retirees.

Refinished furniture, dressers, kitchen table, other small pieces.

Walked with my DH and sister.

Accompanied my friend to her chemo treatments.

Painted the entire inside of my home, two coats.

Check in with my ILR senior friend, take out her trash and recycling, talk about US politics, and the state of the world.

Read books

Walked the million lovely streets of Montreal with my DH.

Ate at a million tiny ethnic restaurants downtown.

Watched a movie a week downtown.

Rode famous public bus 211 to and from the city.

Present inspirational talks at adult education schools no senior homes, about sticking to your goal, being the driver, not the wake of your boat.

Take part time classes, latest one- "The History of Rock & Roll."

Walk or ride my bike around the neighbourhood and meditate.l

Walked my neighbour's dog.

So far, so good.

No finish line.


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