Imagine hitting the gym floor at age 83 to do pushups, weighted squats and resistance walking twice a week. “One of my female clients is a beast,” says Mia Shanté, co-founder and owner of North Hollywood, CA-based Lift & Flow Performance. “She started working with me because she didn’t want older age to get the best of her – and it’s not!”
Shanté works with lots of retirees who’ve decided to stay active and fit into their golden years. “If you’re like most Americans, work and life has gotten in the way of your physical fitness,” she says. “Now’s your time to take it back – and add it to your bucket list.”
About 91% of retirees have made a bucket list, according to a survey of more than 3,000 people conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine.
“Creating a bucket list is a great exercise because we should always keep dreaming,”
“Creating a bucket list is a great exercise because we should always keep dreaming,” says Kevon Owen, M.S., LPC, an Oklahoma-based counselor and licensed clinical psychotherapist with a degree in gerontology. “You never stop becoming who you’re going to be. A bucket list can help you to prioritize what’s most important to you. For example, if you want to ballroom dance with your true love after you renew your vows at your 50th anniversary, the list will help keep you focused and on task.”
The Stanford University study identified six general themes on respondents’ bucket lists: 79% included travel; 78% included accomplishing a personal goal, such as running a marathon; 51% included achieving a life milestone, such as a 50th wedding anniversary; 17% included spending quality time with friends and family; 24% included achieving financial stability; and 15% included a daring activity.
There are lots of great reasons to stay socially active as you age, including reducing the risk of mental health issues like depression and Alzheimer’s disease, improving your physical health, avoiding isolation and loneliness, and creating a sense of belonging. You might even live longer when you stay active – research from the Assisted Living Federation of America indicates that seniors with stronger social networks tend to live past 90, and on average, 5.4 years longer than those who are less active.
How to Create Your Bucket List
Creating your bucket list is fun and free – and you can do it alone, or with your life partner, your sister or your best friend.
“When I have a client near or already in retirement who wants to make more of it, I coach them around the idea of purpose,” says Catherine Tingey, a Los Angeles-based life and yoga coach. “Purpose is especially important once people leave their careers, which they often conflate with their identities.”
Your purpose can be narrow or broad, Tingey says. For example: “I want to be able to jump on the trampoline with my grandkids. I want to be able to take a trip to my birth country and show it to my kids and grandkids. I want to give back to the community.”
Aligning a bucket list item to a purpose and then adding an accountability partner is the number one way people reach their goals, Tingey says. “If I can get a client to connect their personal goal with something larger than themselves – that will also benefit others – this is the ideal,” she says.
Here’s a great example: One of Tingey’s clients, a retired nurse in her 60s, wanted to get fit so she could travel the world with her husband. To get started, she initiated a walking club in her neighborhood with other women and their dogs. “By starting this group, she created built-in accountability partners, and this club was a win-win for everyone,” says Tingey, who notes that consistent walking built up the group’s overall stamina, and helped them with weight-loss goals.
To get started on your list, think about what you really want out of your life:
What do you really want to do before you leave the earth?
What would you do if money was no object?
What countries would you visit?
Who would you meet in person?
What achievements or skills do you want to have under your belt?
What special moments do you want to witness?
What experiences do you want to have with the most special people in your life?
How do you want to improve your health, spiritual life and finances?
How do you want to give back to your community?
“Begin with a notepad and pen – dream, write, repeat,” Owen says. “Give the initial go some time and consideration. Some entries will be easy, as they’ve always been there, and some will take a little longer to realize. Then I’d recommend doing the same with your spouse, best friends, siblings, whoever you live your life with. Realizing your bucket list items with someone is a sweeter experience. They’ll also become your encouragers and strategic council.”
8 Things to Put On Your Bucket List
Here are eight things you might want to add to your retirement bucket list.
1. Get ready to travel.
Travel bucket lists are common among Baby Boomers, according to AARP, with 38% of Boomers making them and already completing 25% of their desired trips. “What’s the place that you’ve always idealized seeing for yourself?” Owen says. “That’s the place that carries mystique for you. It could be Greece, Ecuador and the Galapagos, Hawaii, Washington, DC, or even Gettysburg, PA. You know what that place is for you – if you’ve got your health and the means, the time is now.”
2. Stay fit.
Whether you want to exercise daily as the sun rises or four afternoons a week, this is an essential item to keep on your bucket list – indefinitely. “When you create that steady fitness routine, especially with friends, not only do you get the inherent physical benefits such as stronger muscles, denser bones and elevated energy, but you gain a fun, and sometimes competitive, environment,” says Shanté, a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist.
Shanté recommends working with a coach or personal trainer to decide exactly what you want to accomplish. “Is it a push up, a 5K or marathon, a triathlon or do you just want a steady routine where you get to lift some weights and feel crazy strong?” she says. “You want to build an environment and routine you can rely on week in and week out, while also extending years of your life.”
Whether you work out at home, form a walking club with friends, hit some gym classes or book
private training sessions with a trainer, develop a doable, sustainable routine that will get you the results you want. Remember to stay motivated. Remember, you can be fit after 55.
3. Train for a marathon.
“If you enjoy running, I say, do it, absolutely,” Shanté says. “Get a coach, start slow and be consistent. You’ll meet cool people along the way, including future fit friends.” She points her “I can’t run a marathon” retiree clients to Madonna Buder – also known as the Iron Nun because she’s been a Roman Catholic sister for 65 years – who started training for a marathon at age 48. Buder completed her first triathlon at 52 and her first Ironman race at 55.
“What’s amazing is that the Iron Nun has continued to open new age divisions for the Ironman, including 80+ when she competed at age 82,” Shanté says. “Consider that the Ironman includes a 2.5-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a full 26.2-mile marathon at the end. If this woman can compete in more than 340 triathlons and 45 full Ironmans, you can definitely work toward your own goal.”
4. Put your dancing shoes on.
Take a ballroom dancing, line dancing or salsa class. “Have you spent most of your life wondering if you can dance?” Owen says. “Look at it from the perspective that you’ll have fun learning something you’ve always wanted to learn, even if learning total new physical moves seems scary at first. Fun should always win out.”
5. Connect with places and people from your past.
“If you remember your childhood fondly, revisit the places you experienced as a child – old schools, towns, parks and mountains,” Owen says. “See how you became who you are, what used to matter to you and how far you’ve come.” Meet up with people from your past – and then share those experiences with your family.
6. Be of service to others.
Tingey points out that when you give back to the community, help out with a cause, or even come to the rescue of a family member or friend in need, it contributes deeply to your sense of purpose post-retirement. Identify a list of organizations or causes you could support in some volunteer-based way.
7. Start a meditation or yoga practice.
In addition to your working out, you also need to “work in,’” Shanté says, whether it’s in the form of meditation, yoga or Tai Chi – any practice that asks you to focus on your body and breath. “Plan this out daily, say 7 a.m. each day,” she says. “Sometimes I simply include a mindful walk where I focus on my breathing and the natural sights and sounds, headphones free. While this doesn’t take the place of strength training, it’s a much-needed supplement, which complements your active lifestyle. Yoga has many unexpected benefits. Yoga may even improve hearing.”
8. Renew your wedding vows.
“Renewing or celebrating a legacy marriage in a time where people treat marriage as disposable is certainly worthwhile,” Owen says. “It’s also a very cool chance to celebrate your marriage with your kids and grandkids, people who weren’t at your wedding.” Plus, you can even plan a second honeymoon of your dreams.
Other say-yes-now ideas? Go deep sea diving. Throw a big bash. Visit New York City and go for a walk in Central Park. Play golf at the country’s top 50 courses (or maybe the top 10). Play in a bowling tournament. Visit Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone.
Whatever your dreams and pleasures in life, now’s the ideal time to make the perfect bucket list for you – and start accomplishing every single item on your list.
For more information:
Assisted Living Federation of America
Kevon Owen, M.S., LPC
Stanford University School of Medicine