Remaining active after retirement is important to well-being

Seniors are encouraged to stay involved in community, exercise
SUBMITTED Greta Kelsey, 86, of Topeka, walks every day and in August took on the challenge of walking a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Experts say it's important to stay active after retirement.

You’ve worked hard for more than 40 years, scrimping and saving for your golden years. You have plans to see the world, spend time with family and relax.


Sometimes, however, life after retirement doesn’t go the way people plan.

“It is not what it used to be,” said Maren Turner, state director of AARP. “Retirement means different things to different people.”

Some people phase into retirement by cutting back on work hours. Others stop working completely and enjoy leisure time, while others take on a part-time job.

“It really depends on how you view retirement,” Turner said.

RELATED: Read more retirement stories in our special section here.

One thing rings true for everyone, though. Staying active is important. Without staying active or getting involved in their communities, retirees may become depressed or feel as if they aren’t contributing to society.

“There are a number of things you can do,” Turner said.

Retirees can take free or low-cost classes at a local university, volunteer, become an advocate for change or perform community service.

AARP offers numerous volunteer opportunities, such as becoming a tax aide or teaching driver’s safety classes to people 50 and older, Turner said. Retirees also can volunteer at sporting or cultural events, which can allow someone on a budget to enjoy the event without having to buy a ticket. There are numerous clubs, too, such as quilting groups or bird-watching organizations. Then there are day-to-day activities, such as visiting the local zoo or museum.

Related: See the digital copy of the 2016 Retirement Special Section here.

Turner encourages seniors to check their local newspaper to find out what events are taking place. Seniors can become advocates for change by talking to delegates or legislators about important senior issues.

“You have to figure out what you really like to do,” she said. “What are you good at? What will you enjoy?”

Studies show that being isolated and lonely can be just as detrimental to a person’s health as obesity, Turner said.

Greta Kelsey, 86, of Topeka, found herself sitting in front of her computer or spending large amounts of time in her apartment after the death of her husband in 2000. But she discovered a love for walking and now spends time walking and hiking.

In August, Kelsey and some of her family members walked a small portion of the Appalachian Trail. To celebrate Kelsey’s 85th birthday in May 2015, she and some of her family members walked more than 7 miles around Lake Shawnee.

“After the first walk, my daughter, Jeline, asked me what my next goal was going to be,” Kelsey said. “I had no idea, but said, ‘the Appalachian Trail,’ just to be funny.”

Kelsey and her family members walked about 1 ½ hours on the trail.

“Jeline posted pictures on Facebook and said they were glad they could get the trail off my bucket list,” she said.

Getting out and being with people is also important to a senior’s health, Turner said.

“Walking can help stave off the cognitive decline,” she said.

The AARP website,, offers an abundance of information for seniors and retirees, Turner said. For example, the Life Reimagined program can help seniors — or anyone — know what steps to take to lead a healthier, happier life. Some people may retire and decide they want to take a different path, such as a person who has spent his or her entire life as an attorney but upon retirement realizes that teaching may be an avenue to explore.

“It’s a way of saying no matter what your age is, you can change your life,” Turner said.


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Prime Time, a special section in Sunday, Oct. 10, 2016's issue of The Topeka Capital-Journal, explores the issues facing individuals as they approach retirement age, including downsizing and housing options, financial planning, questions to ask when transitioning into an independent living or assisted living facility and caregiving considerations.

The special section also features a directory of amenities at independent living and assisted living facilities in northeast Kansas, as well as a list of community resources that senior citizens and their families may find helpful. Additional stories and photos can be viewed at