Thursday, November 21, 2013

Finding the Balance in Retirement

My last six posts have all been about the great day we had when we decided NOT to go on a second geology hike 3 weeks ago, and instead wandered our way home stopping at various interesting places – including 3 waterfalls.  After the hike the day before we had realized we aren’t really ‘hikers’, for a variety of reasons.

This set me to reflecting on retirement and how it has changed in the 3 short years since we finished at work, moved to a new location, and set up our new life.  It’s an ongoing challenge to find the balance between ‘me time’, ‘us time’, social time, and activities (with apologies to those of you still working who probably don’t have time to think about such things)!

I think there are several givens in building an interesting and healthy retirement.  We take for granted the need to stay active, to build a social life, to make a contribution to your community, and to keep busy with whatever you choose to do.  

I also find it very useful to build some structure and routine in my life, so that I do get up and out every day, even if I don’t really ‘need’ to.  A daily walk with the dog helps that.  It’s also really important to simply put yourself out there; take the initiative and join in.

Beyond this though, you have a lot of choice.

When we retired I looked forward most to joining in on the many hikes our local Bruce Trail Club sponsors, probably over 100 per year, year-round.  But I’ve discovered that this really doesn’t work for me for several reasons – first my health (I just walk slower) and secondly my preference to go slowly, look around, identify things, stop and listen, and take pictures.  It’s taken me 3 years to accept my limitations, but I think I have.

This isn’t to say I gave up.  Instead I invented ‘Slowpoke Nature Walks’ which I volunteered to lead, and they’ve proven quite popular.  Something I’d never thought of before, but it suits me.  I also volunteer to help lead their stewardship efforts, a time-consuming commitment, but a useful one.  I have the knowledge to contribute, I can manage my own timing, and it’s mostly outdoors – the perfect volunteer job for me.

After moving to a new community there was a lot to do initially to get things settled, but after a few months we connected with several local groups besides the Bruce Trail Club.  My wife volunteers with the local Quilting Guild, and we attend a local church which provides not only a spiritual home but a rich and meaningful connection to the local community.

We also joined the Probus Club and its many activity groups.  So we enthusiastically signed up for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, potlucks, nature walks, canoeing and photography (which I lead myself).  Here’s where the need to find a balance comes in!

Suddenly we were very busy with scheduled activities, meeting all kinds of new people, and developing a few core friendships.  In fact it was all a little overwhelming.  And in contrast to this, as we got more involved in our own hobbies, (photography and quilting respectively), we wanted more time to ourselves.  Both photography and quilting are hobbies that demand a lot of ‘alone time’.

So we shifted gears again and backed away from some of the scheduled activities to do our own thing, but then there’s less social life.  Sometimes I think I enjoy life as a hermit, but most of the time I need better balance.

So it’s a continuing matter of finding that balance, not being afraid to try new things, and accepting the changes that come along, choosing to do more of one thing and less of another, setting priorities. 

At the moment our ‘me time’ and ‘us time’ is working really well, but I’ll be joining a few of those activity groups this winter a little more often as I keep trying to find the right balance.  And we’ll be going on a few more of those expeditions like our drive home 3 weeks ago instead of joining the second geology hike, a day we really enjoyed.

This post was totally different for me, and it was a challenge to write.  Comments appreciated.


  1. I enjoyed reading this post. It gave me pause for thought. My husband is not a people person, and neither of us are "joiners". When we go photo-opping, it's just the two of us. We get along great and enjoy each other's company. We've never really settled on a church home, which we really should do. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. You and Maria seem to have achieved a very good balance. You do not seem to be people who find retirement difficult, on the contrary. I am glad for you!

  3. Hi There, There are alot of parallels in your retirement life when compared to ours.. Hubby and I find that we are busier now than we ever were when working fulltime. I used to be a work-a-holic --and none of my family/friends who knew me could imagine me enjoying retirement. But --I LOVE it.

    We do our own hiking also since we also are slow --and stop alot to enjoy nature and take lots of photos... There are Hiking Clubs in the area --but they just don't hike the way we enjoy.

    We both have lots of hobbies (probably too many) --so there's never boredom. We love yardwork and gardening (flowers) --so that keeps us busy and helps with the exercise. Hubby is a stamp collector and I love my Genealogy work. Both of us love computering (Blogging and Facebook and Emails, etc.)... That obviously takes up alot of our time also.

    We have friends but few in this area. We could 'join' all kinds of things in our community ---and may SOMEDAY. Right now, neither of us feels the need to "JOIN" things... I was with people constantly when I worked --so it's wonderful not to be part of the volunteering community right now... Hubby and I just love being together 24/7 ---so right now, our life is great as it is... Someday though we might have the need for 'community' more. We shall just wait and see.

    Glad retirement is working out so well for you two also.

    1. thanks for your kind comments. We also feel busier than ever, and less bored too. Sounds like we're similar in many ways. We also have a garden, and we also enjoy those little expeditions here and there. Take care.

  4. Sounds like you are doing fine with finding that balance.
    As you probably know Ken just retired at the beginning of the year and we have moved and have started a new life.
    It has been easy for me because I was a stay at home mom and didn't go out to work (I never wanted to) and have always been home and have learned to manage my time all along.
    Ken is doing fine because he has Happy Trails to play on : ) and he is into model railroading and can spend hours down in the basement with that.
    Finding and joining a church is a good idea too and we also have done that. Right away you have many friends!
    I think it is important to have routine in your day too. As you know I start my day with a walk.
    We are loving retirement so far!!

    1. Thanks for the comments. I've followed with interest your move and have been intrigued with Happy Trails since you first mentioned it. And I find your regular walking routine really helpful - a good reminder to keep up those steps!

  5. Wow I am not even retired, but with a new business beginning less then 2 years ago, I have really been feeling overwhelmed on trying to find "balance". I think I miss the routine I used to have, but hope to adjust sooner then later. We do all need a certain amount of routine, and no matter what I never miss a day (I think maybe 3 to date) to blog a daily post. I love following your blog posts as they are always enjoyable and concrete to me.

    1. I can tell you're not retired reading your blog! You always sound so terribly busy, but also very community oriented. Take care.

  6. Love the idea of Slowpoke Nature Walks! Years ago I went on some hiking club outings but found they went really fast. I like to stop and take pictures too.

  7. Congratulations on finding a workable balance for your retirement life. Isn't it great to have so many options? I particularly related to your "hiking" experience. I once joined a mountain hiking club and it took only one hike to convince me it wasn't for me. The group was so totally focused on reaching "the top," that nobody wanted to stop and listen to birdsong or to ponder the name of a plant or to hear the music of a tumbling stream. I now go out with a "Slow Hikers' Group" that often takes an hour to walk a hundred yards because we find so much of interest along the way.

  8. It is great, though sometimes the options are overwhelming! How could anyone be bored? I sometimes wish I had a slow walkers group of naturalists to go with here, and I really enjoy reading about your own expeditions. Wish I knew as much botany!

  9. You shouldn't stop doing the things that can make you happy when you're already retired. Aging bodies can affect physical activities, but you should be prepared for some alternatives that won't harm you. As you walk slowly but surely, it's nice to focus on every photograph that you can take. I know you can think of many things to do for you to enjoy your retirement. :)

    Hershel Duffey @

  10. It's great that you still do amazing and productive things in your retirement years. If you want to stay at a place where you can do what you want and get the facilities that you need, new york retirement community is a community that is great for you. All they want is for the retiree ro do what he or she likes.