Enjoy retirement Healthy living

Wondering what to do in retirement? Here are 50 ideas

One of the most incredible things about retirement is the time you’ll have to try different activities. But that doesn’t mean you’ll immediately be clear on how you want to fill that time. You’ve likely thought a lot about finances while planning for retirement, but it’s also important to consider your well-being and activities too.

Plan a happy retirement

Envisioning your new life – who you will be and what you will be doing – might be the most important part of your retirement plan. If you need help getting started, we’ve assembled a list of ideas of what to do in retirement, inspired by RTOERO members.

“You’ll be amazed at the new opportunities that you’ll discover that you didn’t know were out there. It’s not selfish to reserve that first year just for you. After all, that is what you worked towards.”

Lise Gravelle, RTOERO Member (District 43 Nipissing).

50 things to do when you retire

1. Adopt a pet

It’s no secret that pets can be great companions, offering faithful and unconditional love to their humans. But did you know they can also help reduce stress, improve mood and lower your blood pressure? There are many animals in need of a loving home in Canada. In 2018, 81,000 cats and 30,000 dogs were taken into shelters. Ask shelter staff for guidance as you consider which pet may be right for you.

2. Learn an instrument

Performing music is for the brain what circuit training is for the body. Playing a musical instrument engages almost every part of the brain at once. The process of practicing music strengthens brain functions. As far as instruments go, the ukulele is a relatively easy one to learn. It’s a small instrument with just four strings, and there are plenty of tutorials available online. Or you may want  to dust off a musical instrument you or your children played when younger.

3. Become a garden consultant

Have you built knowledge of gardening over the years? Your experience will be welcomed by novices wanting to create a serene but lower-maintenance space in their yards. Consider offering your services. You can start by posting an ad on a community Facebook page. Then, your consultation service could be a walk through of the client’s garden to offer guidance and answer questions.

4. Become a photographer

Photography is an excellent hobby because it gives you an excuse to explore new places (if you need one!). You can join photography clubs and meet others hobbyists. Look for courses through local photography stores or your community centre.

5. Become a tour guide

Do you live in a tourist area? Or is there a museum in town? Becoming a tour guide is a great way to share your knowledge and passion with others.

6. Bring back macrame

Macrame has been around since the 17th century, although many will remember the craze of the 1970s. Well, macrame is back. If you used to do macrame, consider taking it up again! You could sell your creations or give them as gifts. If you want to try macrame, you can probably find a workshop near you or look for videos online.

7. Cross-country ski or snowshoe

Many areas of Canada experience long, snowy winters. Taking up a winter activity is a great way to stay active and continue to get fresh air. Snowshoeing, Nordic walking and cross-country skiing are activities that can be modified for different abilities. Start by renting equipment. You can also often find used items.

8. Develop your cooking skills

Mealtimes can feel rushed during the working years. But, retirement is a chance to develop cooking skills. You can find classes through community colleges, your municipality or private schools. Or, just watch cooking shows and videos and try out different recipes.

9. Explore Canada by rail

There are many interesting places to see and explore in Canada. Remember, the journey is as important as the destination. Traveling by rail can be a lower-stress and fun option! Via Rail offers discounts if you’re 60+.

10. Explore your spirituality

Spirituality is the sense of connection with something bigger or higher than us. It helps some people find meaning and purpose. Retirement offers a chance to delve into your spiritual side if that’s something that interests you!

11. Find a cause to advocate for

Your efforts to advocate for an important cause can have far-reaching impacts. Advocacy doesn’t need to be complex. It can be as simple as sending letters to elected officials about an important issue. You can also join advocacy campaigns. RTOERO advocates for critical issues and welcomes your support.

12. Focus on healthy eating

With more time for yourself, you can make healthy eating a priority. Focus on finding a sustainable, healthy way of eating that fits with your lifestyle and includes foods you enjoy. If you need help, try to access dietician services through seniors’ centres or even grocery stores.

13. Get a personal trainer or join a group fitness class

Like with healthy eating, retirement offers a chance to refocus on physical fitness. A personal trainer can help create a plan for you. Or, you could join a group fitness class. Check the Canadian guidelines for recommendations on how frequently to exercise. But don’t fret if you’re not achieving the recommendations yet. Any exercise is beneficial.

14. Get involved in local politics

If politics interests you, consider getting involved locally. You could run for councillor or lend your support to someone else’s campaign. You could also join a municipal committee. Some municipalities have committees focused on making the community age-friendly – this can be a great option if you’re passionate about helping your community become safe and inclusive for people of all ages.

15. Get to know your neighbours

Do you know your neighbours? Now that you’re not running out to work every day, perhaps you can get to know the people who live around you. Maybe there’s another retired person nearby who would join you for daily walks.

16. Go back to school

Many RTOERO members take courses in retirement, and some have even completed graduate degrees! If you enjoy learning, retirement may be a great time to dive back in. You could take formal courses through a college or university or try an online learning platform like Coursera. You could also investigate learning options through your public library.

17. Go geocaching

Geocaching is like a worldwide treasure hunt. To play, download a free app and use GPS coordinates to find hidden geocaches. There are millions around the world and probably some very close by to you. Once you gain experience, you could even hide your own geocache for others to find! Geocaching can help you explore new places. You could do it at in your hometown and while travelling. And it would be a fun activity to do with grandchildren!

18. Go to festivals

Festivals are a great excuse to visit a new town or city. Whether you enjoy music of any kind, cars, art, fishing, fitness, crafting or food, you can find a festival that will appeal to your interests!

19. Join a choir

Many RTOERO members have joined choirs in retirement. You will meet new people and have a chance to perform for others. Some choirs even enter competitions. To find a choir in your area, try searching on Google, ask friends, or ask at your library or a local music store.

20. Join a dragon boat club

Dragon boating involves a long, canoe-like boat with 20 paddlers, a drummer, and a steerperson. Races vary in length. You could join a recreational crew and, if you like it, try out for a competitive team. There are teams for all age groups. There are also teams solely for breast cancer survivors.

Read more about dragon boating in the summer 2020 issue of Renaissance magazine.

21. Join a group for retirees

There are many social groups for retirees. If you’re an RTOERO member, your local RTOERO district is one group to connect with. You can also look for a PROBUS club in your area or check for groups through a seniors’ centre or your library.

22. Join a non-profit board or committee

Non-profit organizations often look for people to share their skills, knowledge and experience on boards or other volunteer committees. In fact, RTOERO’s committees are made up of RTOERO members who volunteer for various roles. If committee work appeals to you, look for a non-profit whose mission you want to support.

23. Join or create a travel group

Travelling with other people can be a lot of fun! It’s also a great way to organize and save on excursions you may not otherwise be able to do. Ask around to see if there’s a travel group you can join. Many RTOERO districts have groups that travel together. If you don’t find an existing group to join, consider teaming up with some friends to create one! You can work with a travel agent—or, if you’re keen, do your own booking.

24. Keep a journal

Maybe journaling is one of those things you’ve thought would be nice to do, but you’ve never gotten started. Retirement is a great time to start because it’s a new chapter of life. There are different kinds of journals, but the idea is the same: Get things out of your head and onto paper—anything goes!

25. Learn a language

There are many reasons to learn a new language. Perhaps you want to be able to communicate with locals while travelling, maybe you like the brain-building benefits of it, or maybe you’ve just always wanted to speak multiple languages. Retirement is a great time to take action if this is a bucket-list goal for you. Look for courses in your community, or try an online program like Duolingo.

26. Learn stand-up paddleboarding

Stand-up paddleboarding involves standing on a large board and using a long paddle to manoeuvrer yourself through the water. It requires balance but is an activity that most people can do with some guidance. If you live near water, find out if there’s a place nearby to rent a paddleboard. Often you can join a group class too.

27. Learn to paint

Creating art can help to reduce stress and boost self-esteem. Learning to paint or taking up painting again can provide a great creative outlet in retirement.

28. Learn to play chess

It’s never too late to learn chess! Yes, it’s good for your brain health, and it’s also a fun activity to do with others.

Read more about one member’s experience learning chess in retirement in the fall 2018 issue of Renaissance Magazine.

29. Learn to bake bread

There’s a satisfaction that comes from producing the perfect loaf and from sharing it with others. If you’re curious about trying to bake sourdough, there are many tutorials online. Chances are you can get some sourdough starter from a friend or neighbour.

30. Learn woodworking

There’s a special kind of satisfaction that comes from constructing something from wood. Even if you’ve never used a power tool before, you can learn woodworking if the idea of it interests you. Check the continuing education catalogue of a local community college for courses.

31. Look after kids

Intergenerational relationships of value for young and older alike! If you like spending time with kids, consider offering to take care of your grandchildren on a regular schedule or offer up your services to a family in your neighbourhood.

32. Make your own cards

Card making is another crafty endeavor that can be very rewarding. You can make cards using scrapbooking materials, upcycling old cards or other print items, or using paint. There’s no limit to the possibilities, and your friends and family will no doubt appreciate receiving your handmade creations.

33. Map your family history

It’s never been easier to uncover your family history. If you haven’t created your family tree, retirement is a great time to take on the project. You could even team up with a sibling or other family member and work on it together. There are several websites that can help you, or check with your library for resources and support.

34. Mentor others

You have skills and experience to share with the world. If you like coaching and mentoring others, look to see if there are opportunities to share your expertise at your previous workplace. Or, create an informal mentoring relationship with a younger worker you know. You could also volunteer through a local charity to provide support for people transitioning into the workplace.

35. Open an Etsy shop

If you make items or collect antiques that people may want to purchase, and you want to make some extra money, consider opening an Etsy shop. Etsy is an online marketplace for makers.

36. Practise meditation

Meditation is one of those things that we hear has benefits but may seem tough to fit into life. But, in retirement, you may find it easier to set aside 10 to 30 minutes a day to try to create a meditation practice. There are many apps available to help. Check out 10 Percent Happier or the Calm app.

37. Propagate indoor plants

If you grow indoor plants, why not look into propagating them? Then, you can share your little buds with friends and family.

38. Start a blog

A blog is a great way to document your ideas and experience while building your writing and technical skills. For example, you could blog about a specific topic you’re interested in or create a lifestyle blog covering many areas.

39. Start a business

We’ve already shared a few business ideas, like a garden consultant and having an Etsy shop. If you have an idea or skill that others would value and the idea of running a small business interests you, go for it!

40. Start a community garden

Many communities create community gardens – spaces where families from around the area can grow food to eat. If gardening, sustainable agriculture and food security interest you and a garden doesn’t exist in your community yet, why not create one? You could also volunteer for an existing project.

41. Start a podcast

Like blogging, podcasting is another way to share your ideas and interests. Podcasts are like online radio programs. If you aren’t already listening to podcasts, check them out using Apple Podcast, Google Podcasts, Spotify or another streaming service. You can browse different topics – you may find some programs you really enjoy. In addition, Spotify has a program called Anchor that will help you make your own podcast.

42. Support reconciliation with Indigenous peoples

If you’re a descendant from settlers or immigrants to Canada, consider investing time during retirement to further reconciliation with Indigenous people. Your journey could include learning about the true history of Canada and unlearning any biases you may have developed over the years. You could read the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and find Indigenous organizations to support that are working to address the impacts of intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities. Consider writing letters to elected officials to urge them to implement the TRC calls to action.

43. Take a dream vacation

Exploring North America in an RV? A luxurious riverboat cruise? A trip to Canada’s north to see the northern lights? Finally getting to Burning Man? Retirement is a chance to take the trip of a lifetime. Consider setting up a special savings account to help you get to your goal!

44. Take up cycling

Cycling is a great way to explore different areas. But if the idea of cycling on a road intimidates you, don’t fret. Instead, look up hybrid bikes—they’re like a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. They have slightly thicker tires and more of an upright seating position. And they’re perfect for exploring the many rail trails around Canada. Rail trails are flat stretches of trail where railways used to be.

45. Try pickleball

Pickleball continues to gain popularity. It’s played with wooden paddles and a ball with holes in it on a badminton-sized court. It’s popular among older adults. If joining a fun and social activity is on your retirement to-do list, Google pickleball to learn about the game and look for a club near you.

46. Try yoga

Yoga has many benefits! It can help improve balance, flexibility and strength, reduce stress, improve sleep and even improve mental health. In addition, if you join a class through a community centre or gym, you may also form new social connections. So, why not give yoga a try!

47. Visit family and friends

Our meaningful relationships are critical to our happiness and well-being. Many RTOERO members have shared how much they value being able to prioritize relationships in retirement. You can make plans to regularly see grandchildren and children, and to connect with friends and other family. Relationships can take effort and will bring many rewards.

48. Volunteer

Probably not surprisingly, in Canada, older adults are more likely than other age groups to be top volunteers, meaning they spend more time per year volunteering. Volunteering can help provide a sense of purpose, is a great way to meet new people and enables you to share your unique gifts, skills and knowledge. It’s good for you and others!

49. Work part-time

Where have you always wanted to work? Retirement is a chance to try a part-time job that aligns with something you’re interested in. Barista? Courtesy driver for a car dealership? Working at a golf course? Teaching sewing classes? You may welcome the interaction, chance to use your skills, and the extra pocket money can’t hurt!

50. Write a book

The saying goes that everyone has a novel in them. We love this story from RTOERO member Karen Grose who followed her passion for writing.


Trying new activities can help push you out of your comfort zone, helping you learn new skills, meet people and build confidence. When you’re trying something new, there may be a period when you feel like you want to quit! Try not to give in to that right away. It could just be some discomfort.

When you walk through a new door, you never know where it’ll lead. A year from now, your life could be much different than it is now! Enjoy a happy retirement.