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BINTEL BRIEF I’m retired and I don’t drive. How do I fill and face the days ahead?

Bintel has 18 great ideas for creating new routines and putting yourself out there

The Forward has been solving reader dilemmas since 1906 in A Bintel Brief, Yiddish for a bundle of letters. Send us your quandaries about Jewish life, love, family, friends or work via email, Twitter or this form.

Dear Bintel, 

Retirement isn’t for the faint of heart, so how do I handle it? I don’t drive anymore. 

Signed,
Unmoored

Dear Unmoored, 

I respect your decision to relinquish the car keys and I sympathize with your feelings about retirement. You’re right: Now that you’re no longer tethered to a job, facing and filling your days will require some courage — dare I say chutzpah?

So here’s a list of 18 ideas (mostly sourced from friends and relatives of mine who love being retired) for creating new routines and putting yourself out there — along with some big projects for getting your house and your life in order. That magic Jewish number — 18, or chai — means life, and yours isn’t over just because you’re done working.

Of course, some of these ideas require transport. Figuring that out is one of your new tasks. Uber and Lyft make it easy to get from here to there these days, and some agencies that serve senior citizens offer van service. You can also hire a driver through TaskRabbit or by asking your hairdresser or handyman if they know anyone who’d like to make a few extra bucks giving you an occasional lift. Or try GoGoGrandparent, which vets drivers and lets users call to order rides and deliveries. Oh, and here’s another way to pass the time: Calculate how much you’re saving on insurance, registration, maintenance, gas and tolls by giving up your car, and consider that your taxi fund! 

May this list bring you good vibes, good luck and inspiration.

1. Join a book club — or start one.

My book club, with friends from high school now living around the country, meets monthly via Zoom. Other clubs I know of meet in cafes or members’ homes; my local synagogue has a Jewish-themed book club, and the Forward has one online with the next meeting planned for Sept. 13, 3 p.m. ET. The book is Johanna Kaplan’s Loss of Memory Is Only Temporary; email [email protected] to register. 

2. Look for connections from your past.

These days most high schools and colleges have alumni groups on Facebook by decade or year. Even towns and neighborhoods have groups — like this one: Growing Up in Flatbush Brooklyn 1960-1979.” It’s fun to find old friends and make new ones based on shared memories and formative experiences. 

3. Take a class.

There are endless options for free and low-cost courses both online and in person. Many community colleges have free tracks for seniors. Check out offerings from entities like Coursera, CourseHorse, JASA and even public libraries. Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y offers beginner classes in collage-making, still-life drawing, piano and a zillion other things. I wrote a play thanks to an online playwriting course from Primary Stages, and I know folks who’ve published books after taking classes from Gotham Writers. Study Russian, Chinese or any other language with DuoLingo, and grow your garden with help from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Re-learn the instrument you studied as a child. And of course, check out all things Yiddish — lectures, concerts, workshops — in the Forward’s Yiddish community calendar.

4. Go daytripping.

Visit a museum, see a play or just go explore a nearby city. You could hire a driver or, better yet, enlist a friend who drives and offer to pay gas, tolls and parking. Hit a deli for a bagels-and-lox breakfast,  then take in a historic site, sign up for a walking tour or go shopping. Find an interesting neighborhood for dinner, and maybe catch a concert afterward. You could even splurge on a hotel and make it a real getaway.  

5. Volunteer.

Contact your local library, museum, school, synagogue, animal shelter, food bank or political activist group to see how you can help. Some 1-800 crisis lines train volunteers to answer calls from home. And AmeriCorps, which is like a domestic Peace Corps, has a program specifically for seniors that matches 140,000 people each year with service opportunities around the country.

6. Host a monthly dinner party, brunch or potluck supper.

Invite a different group of four to six people each time. You’ll never have to drive, and if you get an invite back, ask the host if another guest can give you a ride. If you’re not up for serious meal prep, do dogs and burgers on the grill, order an appetizing spread and prepared salads from a deli, or get the nearest Asian restaurant or barbecue joint to deliver.  

7. Declutter.

Go through every piece of paper, every photo, piece of clothing, book, kitchen implement, closet, shelf and tchotchke in your house. Throw away, recycle, donate or sell everything you don’t need. Join your local BuyNothing group on Facebook; you’ll be amazed at how many people want your chipped pottery and that half-can of silver polish. Need inspiration? Read The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. (Your descendants will be grateful.) 

8. Fix your place up.

Once the decluttering is done, take a look around the house, garage and yard. It’s time to tackle all those home maintenance projects you put off because you were too busy working. 

9. Go for long, long walks.

Do you use the step-counter on your phone? I know lots of folks in their 60s and 70s who do 10,000 steps or more a day — that’s 5 miles — in all weather. Sounds like a lot, but if you start with 1,000 steps (a half-mile), and add another 1,000 every few days, you’ll hit 10K in no time. Find a local walking club or start one by asking if anyone on your block or in your synagogue would be up for a stroll a few times a week. Many schools allow the public to use their outdoor running tracks, and you’ll meet others there working on their step counts, too. Find out if there’s a “rail trail” near you — many localities have converted abandoned train tracks into gloriously scenic paths for walking and biking.

10. Get fit. 

Start by lifting a 5-pound weight, watching yoga for beginners on YouTube or taking an intro tai chi, Zumba or Pilates class. Ask the nearest gym or Y if you can try a session or two for free; find out if your local parks department hosts any programs outdoors this summer. Some Medicare options cover fees for gym memberships or fitness classes through the Silver Sneakers program. If you can afford it, hire a trainer to come to the house. And of course, there’s always pickleball.

11. Travel.

Take a themed cruise, check out tour companies like Road Scholar, join a Facebook group like Frommer’s Travel Guides for inspiration and tips, or plan a trip with a partner, cousin or old friend. Choose a destination with great local transportation. It’s so easy to get around London by taxi, bus and tube (with escalators in many stations), you’ll never want to come home. Or challenge yourself with a whitewater rafting trip, a guided mountain-climbing expedition or a visit to a place where almost nobody speaks English.

12. Go birding.

There are plenty of birding clubs out there — or fly solo by installing the free Merlin app on your cellphone, which makes it easy to identify birds you see or hear from your window or backyard. I typically ID a half-dozen songbirds using the app while walking my dog on leafy streets in Brooklyn.

13. Play games.

Learn bridge, canasta or chess and ask around the neighborhood for partners to play. Or attend a game night in a cafe, bar or community center. Your baby-boomer knowledge could prove valuable for a millennial or GenZ team in a trivia contest.

14. Explore your roots.

Every family needs an amateur genealogist. Start building out that family tree. You’ll be amazed at how much information you can find online at sites like JewishGen, Ancestry and FindAGrave. Getting in touch with those second cousins twice removed to check birthdates and married names might rekindle family ties or lead to an in-person, multi-generation reunion. It could also give you some new folks to go daytripping with or invite for brunch. 

15. Engage with Judaism.

Join an online study group, get involved with a synagogue or Jewish organization (Manhattan’s Marlene Meyerson JCC has lots of programs for ages 60 and over), or consider preparing for an adult b’nai mitzvah. Many women of your generation were denied the opportunity to have a bat mitzvah, but it’s never too late. For those who went through the ceremony at age 13, a second one is sometimes held at age 83

16. Play the stock market.

Start reading business and finance news, read a book about investing or take a course. See if you can beat average returns with a hypothetical portfolio on paper — or if you can afford it, set aside a small amount of real money and try your luck. I know one retiree who made a small fortune as an amateur day trader.

17. Research possibilities for relocating.

If you can afford to move, or if you’re thinking of downsizing, make sure you end up in a community where you can walk to what you need. Maybe you’d want a synagogue, library, park, JCC or YMCA nearby, along with a store or strip mall where you can pick up essentials on foot. Some senior developments have onsite amenities and transportation; some don’t. Talk to a real estate broker, ask friends and relatives for ideas; visit places that sound appealing. You might be surprised by the options once you start looking. 

18. Get your affairs in order — legal, financial and medical.

It’s time to make all those doctor and dental appointments you’ve been putting off, review the will, set up the trust, and sit down with a financial adviser to figure out the best way to manage your money now that you’re not getting a paycheck. 

Signed, 
Bintel 

Do you have an opinion about this Bintel, or a question of your own? We’d love to hear from you. Email [email protected].

Correction: This story has been updated to remove an erroneous reference to Lauren Bacall.

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