An article published several years ago argues the premise, It’s Time To Re-Think The Bucket List After Retirement.
The author argues that too many retired people seek adventure at the cost of deeper relationships with friends and family. It wouldn’t be note-worthy except that the author was identified as a geriatric psychiatrist with awesome credentials..
With those degrees, he should know better than to stereotype “older brains.” Some people take more risks as they get older; novelty-seeking is a personality trait. Having never been especially conscientious or maternal, I doubt that I’ll transform when I hit a magic number.
Here’s what the article says about a patient he calls “Dora:”
“She and her husband spent several months and considerable treasure each year after retirement traveling to a bucket list of exotic locales, but found themselves feeling increasingly alienated from family and friends who did not share in their adventures. Their children complained that they seemed more interested in spending time with itinerant acquaintances than with their grandchildren. Several friends became reticent to invite them on weekend outings, fearing that any such plans paled in comparison with their many adventures.”
As someone without children or grandchildren, I admit to being baffled. Are the grown children looking for free babysitters? Do they want doting grandparents who will hover over their kids and interfere with their parenting?
“Dora” should tell her children to find their own babysitters. When kids become teens, they won’t be available to spend huge amounts of time with their grandparents. I’m guessing they’d have fun with an adventurous grandparent they see infrequently. Who’d have fun with a grandparent who built her life around her grandchildren?
“Dora” speculates that her social rejections are related to her travels. There’s no basis for this assumption.
I have a friend “Caroline” who’s always traveled. When she worked full-time her employer offered generous vacation benefits. She made multiple overseas trips, some three or four weeks, every single year.
Caroline has no children. She has no interest in classes or social groups. She spends a lot of time at the gym, which is where I met her. People reached out to talk to her, even though she’d be gone periodically on her travels.
Now that she’s retired, she’s always. traveling. She’s gifted at finding deals and knows how to stretch her budget painlessly. (I suggested she turn her knowledge into a business but she said, “No way.”)
Caroline has no trouble making friends. Lots of friends follow her on Facebook, where she posts photos as she travels. When we meet for lunch, I have to book three weeks ahead. Her social calendar is full. She sees her nieces and nephews in between trips.
She’s motivated me to travel more and travel differently. She’s not in the least bit lonely.
When I was in my twenties, I traveled all the time for work. While my friends were learning how to be adults, with apartments and dates, I was flying around the country and vacationing abroad. I loved it. True, I missed out on lessons most people learn at that age. But I saved money, collected adventures, and eventually caught up. I never lacked for friends or connections.
Back to Dora. Why does she feel she’s missing out? Maybe she’s a nuisance to be around. Maybe her friends just don’t like older people. Maybe she needs new friends.
The WSJ article suggests that adventure leads to loneliness which leads to depression. I know too many people who thrive on adventure – including me! – who are not lonely or depressed.
Dora doesn’t need to give up adventure to be with the grandchildren. Her children need to realize, “At some point, there’s no such thing as deferred gratification. It’s now or never.”
Crossing off items on one’s bucket list can be a wonderful source of hope and motivation. You just need to afford the trips comfortably and not force everyone to look at all your photos when they come home.