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Paul Chimera: Hobbies are essential in our golden years

Here’s a bit of irony: lots of people are grousing that they’re not going to be able to afford retirement. Yet the same people openly wonder and lament: “What would I do if I retired, affordable or not? I’d be bored out of my mind!”

And why is that? The sad answer is painfully clear: Too many people cite their work as the only activity that engages them. Leaving behind what for years many derisively called the daily grind now leaves these soon-to-be retirees paralyzed in fear and doubt: “How will I spend my days? I can only watch so much TV.”

Really? It was the author and poet, Phyllis McGintey, who put it so simply: “A hobby a day keeps the doldrums away.” There you have it; there’s your answer: a hobby. It’s truly the best antidote to post-retirement boredom. So simple, yet for some, so elusive.

I’m semi-retired but still enjoy my part-time college teaching, student newspaper advising and writing career. Yet one day in the not too distant future, I expect to be fully retired. Then what? The answer: plenty.

I play drums and could sit at them all day. I paint in oils (badly), but find few things more creatively challenging and relaxing. I can strum my acoustical guitar fairly nimbly. And there’s reading and creative writing and book collecting and occasional travel. And, sure, there’s television, too. I hope my favorite show, “Parenthood,” stays on TV forever.

Now here’s more irony: as children, most of us were probably guilty of bellowing that iconic childhood refrain: “I’m bored!” Are we destined to repeat that rueful whine in our retirement years? Actually, yes. That is, if we don’t plan now to stay engaged in meaningful activities after that last paycheck clears the bank.

A recent article in U.S. News & World Report noted, “… people discover they have not put any real thought into life after the job and find themselves ill-equipped to fill their day with enough activities to occupy the hours.”

No matter where you are on either side of the gold pocket watch, it’s certainly not too late to be thinking about and acting upon this important matter. Whether it costs you nothing – a reading or walking group, say – or requires a bit of equipment (oil paints, brushes, canvases and an easel will set you back some), it can and will slay the dragon of boredom.

My mother, 95 years young, is a good example. Until only a few years ago, she volunteered at Erie County Medical Center every other week. She still plays in two card clubs – capable of one of the best poker faces around – and keeps reasonably physically active.

My friend Bob, albeit several years yet from retirement, is a basement woodworking enthusiast; there’s no question he’ll continue his impressive craft.

But another person close to me – now retired but planning to return to the workforce – won’t be doing it for the money. It’s boredom that’s got her thirsting for the office water cooler again. She has “nothing to do,” she reports – a condition so easily averted.

I know you haven’t asked for advice, but I feel the need to urge readers to find something now to which you can look forward when you retire. Something that inspires you. Something meaningful. Something fun. Something to keep the doldrums away.

Because, happily, there can be so much more to get up for in the morning, instead of rush hour.