After writing my last post, many of you wrote telling me what gave you renewed purpose in life after transitioning from work life to retirement. THANK YOU! I enjoyed reading all of your stories, comments and notes. There were a couple of surprises from this informal survey but most of you found renewed purpose by finding a new activity, which struck a personal cord. There was an undeniable thread of joy, which ran through all of your stories of self-discovery. Now, I’d like to share the results with all my readers. Since many of the writers asked for anonymity, I’ve decided not to post any comments received on the previous post nor give too much detail.

Most of you retired as I did, cold turkey. No part-time work to ease into retirement like my doctor suggested as the ideal scenario. In fact, a few wrote about leaving work due to stress. For the most part, it wasn’t clear what type of stress but a couple of people wrote about age discrimination and being pushed out by a younger supervisor and/or co-workers. One writer mentioned feeling an urgent need to find new purpose in order to fully move forward in life and leave the stress behind. There was only one writer, but it’s good news we had one, who chronicled a five-year transition into retirement, working three-quarters of the month, including some telecommuting for the company that employed them for 37 years. This writer’s spouse enjoyed a similar arrangement with their employer. So, I guess we can count that as two who were able to transition into retirement the way my doctor suggested. Even after this transitional period, the employer still wanted to keep them around for special projects. Smart employer! Since this person did a lot of pre-planning and transitioning into retirement, when the moment finally came, it was more of a non-event with little transitioning left to do. Most of us, however, do not have the luxury of such an accommodating employer.

The big surprise for me is how most of you found renewed purpose in arts and crafts. While there are a few of you who fell in love with gardening, even a couple who have hobby farms, it seems most retirees are part of an arts and crafts movement. And, gardening can even be considered a type of art form for it requires a certain amount of creativity. Far from unusual, I am not the only one to discover artistic talent after a career in a vastly different environment. After life as attorneys, accountants, bankers, realtors, office managers, manufacturing jobs, medical technicians, teachers, IT administrators, nurses and more, most of you found renewed purpose in painting in all mediums…watercolor, acrylics, oil, jewelry making, sculpture in both clay and metal, glass bead making, knitting and felting, stained glass, photography, weaving, quilting, wood carving and collage art. Two of you mentioned supplementing retirement income with the sale of your art work and one is even teaching an art class. Some of you spoke of travel but it was almost always in conjunction with your ability to photograph new scenes or explore local art and culture. You also spoke of making new friends within the arts and crafts community, joining clubs and social networks centered around your chosen art or craft. I recently spotted a sign in an art shop. It said, “Artists never retire.” Perhaps that’s why we are drawn to our creative sides in retirement. We have now created a job for life.

Another surprise was how no one mentioned volunteering as an activity, which offered renewed purpose. Only a couple of you mentioned any volunteer work at all and even that was as an aside, an “I also do this” type of remark. As a volunteer for the Master Gardener Program, I fully enjoy working the booth at the local farmers market where I answer gardening questions and hand out information to all kinds of people from all walks of life. It makes for a fun morning. However, it’s not something I want to do everyday. Yesterday, at lunch with a friend, I asked for her thoughts on this as she, too, does volunteer work, but, it’s not her focus. Her not-so-surprising comment, “ I don’t want to be scheduled.” I believe, for most of us, volunteering is too much like working a job. It comes with time constraints, supervisors and work-like responsibilities. Many of us want to give back to our community in some way but in retirement, we also want to enjoy a less structured, more relaxing life. If anyone has other thoughts or ideas about this, please chime in.

To all of you, no matter where you are, no matter what your circumstance, I thank you for all of your heartfelt responses. I hope this post inspires those of you who have not yet found a renewed purpose in life to explore the possibilities, explore your wants and needs and perhaps ignite a spark within, which you didn’t know was there.


  1. Life is loaded with endless purposes & fulfilling possibilities…pick one & go forward on this new re-wired adventure. Love this post & the feedback from your readers.


  2. Hi Kathy,

    I have recently retired this past February from the world of full time work at age 63. Part of me did not want to do so, but the body was telling me and so was my 74 year old husband. We were supposed to move from NYC to Vermont and even had a house picked out, but husband has trouble walking and did not want to face a big move having been a city guy all his life. So although I’d love to try gardening, other than houseplants, it’s not happening. Would love to create more art, but already have stuff that does not seem to sell, and do not want to create more stuff that fills up a 2 bedroom city apartment of 850 sq ft. I feel this part of life should begin a zen phase and I may start up a “city girl’s retirement site” like yours, but still not sure yet. Looking for the elusive passion while taking care of hubby.

    Marylou A


  3. Thank you – this is helpful! I am still trying to “find myself” but my husband is very happy here with his hobby farm. I think my problem is more “empty nest” and “moving across the country” rather than retirement as my basic duties of menu planning, groceries, cooking, laundry, Quicken etc haven’t changed THAT MUCH – the main thing is loss of my volunteer bookstore manager job at my church. But I only spend about 4-6 hours a week on that…

    I have never been good at any type of crafts and am very left brained. I’ve closed myself off to that after trying knitting, crocheting, counted cross-stitch and sewing. Maybe there will be SOMETHNG that will come along for me to try…


  4. I am trying to retire, but as a business owner for over 30 years I find it difficult to totally release my business to my children. They continue to need training. I’m 62, and hopefully in a year I can fully retire.


  5. Hi Kathy,
    The comments on volunteering struck a cord with me. I’ve been retired for just over 4 years after a successful career directing several not-for-profit corporations. I continue to volunteer on a couple of boards but am finding less fulfillment from those roles than was the case prior to retirement. I resent having to be available for meetings on certain days and at times that conflict with my writing group or bridge lesson or book club. I’ve resolved to give up these obligations after my current term ends — if not sooner!


  6. Hi Kathy, I did not respond to your original survey. However, I am one of those people whose volunteer activities have increased by choice. To postsavvy and others, I would suggest that in my experience most retirees find the ‘doing with” rather than doing for to be more rewarding. The happiest retirees I know are those who go down and actually feed the homeless, help kids plan a school or urban garden, or go to school and read once a week. This may be partly because this kind of commitment allows for flexible schedule as long as you plan in advance, but also I think serving on boards and committees is simply too much like our working lives.


    • Barb, thinking about my own experience, I believe you have hit the nail on the head! While being on a BOD is no longer appealing to me, I thoroughly enjoy working the Master Gardener booth at the local farmers market, giving classes to community groups or helping build that schoolyard garden you mentioned. It’s very interactive and I leave with the sense that I helped someone learn how to grow their own food or create a more beautiful landscape around their home or better manage some plant pest or disease. It is the hands-on experience, which is gratifying, while sitting around a boardroom is reminiscent of work meetings. Thanks for sharing your insight.


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