By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: I'm a caregiver for my 75 year-old father who retired five years ago. He's in relatively good health, and he just won't slow down as much as I'd like him to. He says, "Retirement isn't what it used to be!" What should I do? Carol in Texas

ANSWER: Good for him! I often tell my clients, "Life's an adventure and you only go around once, so you better make the most of it." And the great news is that more and more of them are taking my advice. It used to be that most people who retired instantly became less mentally, physically, and socially active. If someone retired at 65, there usually wasn't much more than a decade left before life was over. But nowadays, many retirees have two or three decades ahead of them to enjoy life.

Retirement used to focus on a life of leisure. Few retirees went on to learn more, to grow. But now I highly recommend this be a goal in retirement. Retirement is now about living life to the fullest and enjoying a rich experience. If your father is wise, he'll take up a new hobby. Traveling is very exciting at first, but after awhile it gets physically hard and it's even possible to run out of places to visit. Many elderly become less physically able to do some activities, but there are always new skills and crafts to learn that are less taxing. It's also good for the elderly to make new friends since many of their old friends pass away over time.

Your father could consider learning the computer or volunteering his time in the hospital or as a docent in a museum. He could also teach a child about any expertise such as business, reading, cooking, drawing, math, or writing. He could buy a telescope and learn about the stars and the universe, or collect stamps and/or coins. The key is to learn and expand the horizons. Encourage your father to share his life with other people. He could give more time to family and friends now that his work pursuits are over. He could join a club where members have common interests, or join a club that's totally foreign to him so it sparks his intellect and imagination.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.