There never seemed to be time to check off items on your bucket list – or even make a list – when you were younger and engaged in a tug-of-war with work and family life. Who says you can’t create a “Senior Bucket List” that is tailor-made for the golden, post-65 retirement years when you have the time and the freedom to tackle it?
If you don’t have a Senior Bucket List, the time is now to start making one. If you have a bucket list that is hidden somewhere on the top shelf of your closet or in a hidden file on your computer, dust it off and make a few changes that fit your current lifestyle.
WHAT IS A SENIOR BUCKET LIST?
A bucket list is a lifelong “To Do” list of foods you want to try, places you want to visit, goals you want to achieve, life lessons you want to learn, skills you want to master – and more! A Senior Bucket List is the same, but with a few tweaks based on life lessons learned. Likely candidates to cross off your original bucket list include eating “delicacies” that are still moving, jumping off of a bridge over a rushing river, and traveling to a foreign locale that requires several modes of transportation plus a five-mile hike to get there.
This doesn’t mean that a Senior Bucket List is tame and boring, it just means that the bucket list items are less flash and more soul. The goal is less about ticking items off the list for the sake of ticking items off the list, and more about enjoying the journey and reveling in new experiences!
BUILD YOUR SENIOR BUCKET LIST
Start your Senior Bucket List with one short-term goal – something that is fairly easy to achieve but that you’ve never been able to do because life always seemed to get in the way. Write it down in a gorgeous journal you’ve had tucked away in your bedside table for years or just jot it in a plain tablet of lined paper. If you are a computer aficionado, there are bucket list-themed websites where you can create a free account and type in your list while drawing inspiration from fellow bucket listers. Sample sites include Bucket List and BucketListly.
Once you launch your list, make a point to add to it regularly, whether it be once a day, once a week or once a month. Draw inspiration from your surroundings – from your friends and family – from your dreams and imagination. Here are a few suggestions to get your list started!
SENIOR BUCKET LIST GOAL #1: FLEX YOUR MIND MUSCLE
Lifelong learning reaps more than its share of benefits. In addition to adding intellectual spice to your life, new knowledge keeps boredom from taking over and has been proven to improve brain health. A collaborative study conducted by Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Florida and the University of Washington published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that mental training exercises, ie. learning something new, had a direct impact on mental function later in life.
- Learn how to play chess. Take a class at a community center or online.
- Learn how to create a website. You can start with simple free website builders like wix.com or weebly.com.
- Watch a TED Talk on video. The non-profit TED stands for Technology, Entertainment,
andDesign and is dedicated to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). This TED talk by Jane Fonda is inspirational.
- Learn to speak another language. Ask a friend to tutor you, sign up for classes at your local community college or check out free language-learning tools online.
- Join a book club. If you can’t find one that appeals to you, start one and put yourself in charge of book choices!
SENIOR BUCKET LIST GOAL #2: GET OUT(DOORS)
A change of scenery almost always does a body good, particularly if you’ve been cooped up inside due to weather or illness. Add to that a breath of fresh air and a dash of exercise and you’ll be rewarded with a burst of energy that can last for days.
- Go on a picnic. Grab that cute picnic basket that hasn’t seen the light of day in years and pack it with your favorite sandwiches, snacks, and sodas! Head toward the nearest park or, if you’d rather stay close to home, locate a shady spot in your backyard.
- Take an early morning walk in the forest. Grab some friends and leave the television and technology behind while you explore a well-worn path through the trees. The quiet will soothe your soul while you reap the healthy rewards of walking.
- Go puddle-jumping during a summer rain. Remember that feeling you had as a child splashing through puddles and dancing in the rain? Recapture those memories the next time a summer sprinkle falls from the sky!
- Paddleboat across a lake. The greatest thing about a paddleboat? You can go as fast or as slow as you want! Pick a day when the sky is bright blue and the water as smooth as glass. Double down on your bucket list by bringing your basket on the boat and finding a gorgeous lakeside spot to park your picnic!
SENIOR BUCKET LIST GOAL #3: CATCH THE TRAVEL BUG
If you like to travel – or want to travel more – you are not alone. Baby Boomers are roaming the globe, with close to 50 percent saying they travel to “relax and rejuvenate,” according to an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) travel survey. The split on domestic and international travel is about 50/50. It doesn’t matter where you go as long as it is somewhere that piques your curiosity. Sometimes you unlock mysteries in the most average of locales!
- Drive Route 66. Planning this trip is more than half the fun! Dozens of websites recommend Route 66 attractions state by state, as well as authentic hotels and diners along the way.
- Go on a girls’/boys’ trip to Las Vegas. Who can resist a long weekend in America’s adult playground? You don’t have to be an avid gambler to have fun in Sin City – there are plenty of tours to take in and around the Strip and the city is a mecca for people-watching.
- Travel by train. Through trains are part of our everyday landscape, a journey by train is like taking a trip back in time. Amtrak trains make tracks across the U.S. on a fairly frequent basis, and Vacations by Rail is a one-stop-shop for train travel in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The art deco-themed Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a once-in-a-lifetime luxury that belongs at the top of every bucket list!
- Swim with dolphins. Just being near a dolphin can fill you with peace, joy, and love. Luckily, there is no shortage of amazing and beautiful vacation destinations that offer this activity so pick a bucket list travel spot and swim amongst these graceful creatures!
SENIOR BUCKET LIST GOAL #4: MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS
- Become a mentor. You have a lot of life experience to share with younger generations, and there are more than a few organizations that would welcome your mentorship with open arms! Reach out to a local school, church, chamber of commerce or entrepreneurial organization and offer your insights.
- Sign up for daily/weekly call service. Your family cares deeply about you and vice versa, but there are times when life gets in the way and you can’t touch base as often as you like. A call service provides you a cheerful connection and light conversation based on your interests, and an ear to listen when you need a pick-me-up or don’t feel so well. Companion Matters has a variety of call service packages that you can utilize based on your unique needs.
- Get your DNA tested and start your family tree. You may have a good idea of the origins of a few generations on your family tree, but there are hundreds of years – and more – of history that you can uncover with a simple DNA test and an Ancestry account. Enlist the help of family members and you could unearth long-hidden family secrets!
- Call an old friend you haven’t talked to in years. If you have trouble finding a phone number, never fear! Create a Facebook account (if you haven’t already) and start searching for friends! Once you locate long-lost friends, send them a direct message and strike up a conversation. From there you can exchange phone numbers and swap memories.
- Create a social media account (other than Facebook). With 75 percent of Baby Boomers on Facebook, there’s no doubt you’ll be in good company. Branch out beyond Facebook and try out a platform that appeals to you, like Twitter or Instagram. With short, pithy posts, Twitter speaks to the part of you that thrives on being “in the know” and on top of current events. Instagram’s visual appeal calls on you to use your creative side with photos and visual quotes.
SENIOR BUCKET LIST GOAL #5: DO GOOD DEEDS
Volunteering is a win-win situation. You lend your vitality, experience and time to a worthwhile cause (of which there are many in need) and, in turn, you reap benefits. Giving to others can help reduce stress, combat depression, and stimulate your mind. You can also form long-lasting friendships with people (and pets) that expand your mind and brighten your life!
- Volunteer at an animal shelter. If you are an animal aficionado or a born-again animal advocate, then volunteering a few hours a week at an animal shelter is right up your alley. Who knows? You may meet your next furry companion!
- Read to kids at a local elementary school. Teachers are always searching for people to read to their classrooms and eventually the parent volunteer list dries up (and the kids like to see new faces). It’s a treat to spend time with age groups that haven’t yet reached the “eye roll” stage and will probably smother you with questions and hugs!
- Adopt an elephant, rhino or giraffe orphan. Maybe you can’t exactly make a trip to the wilds of Africa, or maybe you just never had it on your bucket list. You can still make a major impact on threatened and endangered species on that magnificent continent. It may actually spur you to add “visit my adopted elephant child” to your list!
- Pay the toll for the person behind you. If you’ve ever been in line at a coffee shop and received the good news that a total stranger has paid for your cup of joe, you know the feeling of pure joy that good deed evoked in you. Do the same for the poor soul sitting in a long line of traffic behind you at the toll booth – you may just make their day – or week!
SENIOR BUCKET LIST BONUS: JUST BECAUSE
Some things you should do “just because.” Just because your grandkids recommended “Stranger Things” on Netflix. Just because you are a true crime show addict and want to act out a faux criminal scenario. Just because you have never finished a puzzle. Go for it all!
- Binge watch a Netflix series.
- Attend a Murder Mystery Dinner.
- Name a star.
- Go to a Yoga class.
- Create a family logo.
- Complete a jigsaw puzzle that has at least 1,000 pieces.
Never stop searching for ideas to add to your Senior Bucket List and it will grow to be as unique and inspirational as you are!
“Stop dreaming about your bucket list and start living it.”Annette White (Instagram: @bucketlistjourney)