Some people view retirement as an event…an office party followed by rest and relaxation. But many people struggle with feeling relevant. In their jobs, they had a purpose and people they were accountable for and to.

Sometimes success can be measured by charts and graphs. Being in charge of a task, project or department can give us meaning and relevance. I know from personal, first-hand, experience that a “win” at work can feel pretty good. Missing out on that might leave a hole in your new-found life.

In one study, “Accruing evidence suggests that finding a purpose for your life may add years to it. Indeed, studies have found that purposeful older adults experience a diminished mortality risk…”

So, what happens when work is done, and we look for ways to feel relevant in retirement?

Before we get into ways to feel relevant, there is one thing you probably shouldn’t do. Those of us with leadership positions need to be mindful of how leadership translates (or doesn’t translate) to a spouse or family at home.

If you retire, you no longer have subordinates, coworkers or colleagues. Bringing that mindset home to family probably won’t work. In fact, it will likely bring resentment and unhappiness to those long-awaited golden years.

“I want to feel like a coworker when my spouse retires.”
…said no one ever!


But abandoning leadership altogether can be a huge leap or might even be impossible to manage once you retire. So, here are 5 ways you can still feel relevant and absolutely improve your life.


There are millions of ways to volunteer. There are volunteer needs that include everything from manual labor, specific skills, leadership positions, plain ol’ compassion and more. It’s possible to find a way to volunteer that was related to your past employment field, a passion you have, or even finding something totally new to do.

Here are a few national resources that might list local opportunities. And there are probably many small opportunities where you live. Check with the Chamber of Commerce or area churches.

Small Businesses:

If you were a business owner or have some specific skills that you could share with a small business, SCORE might be the thing for you. Regardless of your area of expertise (marketing, sales, accounting, business plans, web design, budgeting etc), they would welcome your contributions.

Join a group:

There are so many groups out there that you can surely find one that fits your needs. If you don’t know where to start, check out groups like Rotary, Kiwanis, or Lions Club. You might even be able to connect at For me, some of the groups and people I hang out with from my church are a huge part of my life, too.

Go to School:

Some local colleges offer free or reduced rate classes. Taking a class will help keep your mind sharp and get you involved with other age groups. If taking a class is not your thing…go to class. Many elementary schools would love to have someone help a child read or do homework. It’s valuable one-on-one interaction for you and the child.


I know, I know…there are millions of articles on why exercise is good, healthy and saves money. Why the heck would we want any of THAT in retirement? So, find a way to do it! Maybe with a group or friends (ooh, that could double up with #3 above!). It doesn’t have to mean becoming a gym rat. Find fun ways to stay moving.

Bonus tip:

Determine the best place to live. There are so many factors that can come into play for the “best” place to live. But it’s personal. It might involve family, weather, housing, cost of living, accessibility to resources or just plain “I like it here.” Factor your location into the equation and all the other points above will be easier to accommodate.

According to one article in Psychology Today“Socializing can provide a number of benefits to your physical and mental health. Did you know that connecting with friends may also boost your brain health and lower your risk of dementia?”

Bottom Line:
You don’t have to wait till retirement. Start today on at least some of the ideas here. It will make the transition to retirement that much easier.
Especially since it will be a big change in itself.

Action Item:
Enjoy retirement, stay relevant and prepare now.