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What to put on your bucket list?

Written by Kathy Lawrence

Lists of inspiring things to do in a lifetime become hugely popular. A survey asked older people what they would suggest for their younger family and friends. Here’s their top 20.

Who better to take bucket list advice from than those who are now retired and living out their aspirations or who now wish they’d seized the day more often when they were younger?

A survey of users of Anchor’s retirement and care services has unearthed plenty of advice for young and old on things to do before you can’t. The result is an eclectic bucket list for anyone at any age to follow.

Anchor says these tips and goals are from people who grab life with two hands and don’t put an age limit on fun. One resident said: “My advice is to go for it and live life. It’s not a rehearsal”, with another adding: “Believe in yourself – there’s no such word as can’t”.

So what did they suggest? Here’s the list and why we at When They Get Older think they’re a good idea (mostly).

1. Study hard

Probably one that most of us would like to tell our younger selves.

2. Take up a hobby

Whatever your age, hobbies can be entertaining, relaxing and help take you out of the day-to-day routine of work and home. They become even more important when you’ve given up work and have time to fill with your choices. For one thing they’re a great opportunity to meet people outside your usual sphere. And some people do successfully create income from their hobbies (though be aware that cupcakes and jewellery are already crowded markets).

3. Go the Arctic Circle

It’s cold and it’s dark but it’s a really interesting experience – and why not borrow some children to take along? While we failed to take our children to any of the Disneys, we did fly to Lapland to meet Santa and it’s a trip we won’t forget.

4. Take up a new sport

As time passes we may leave some sports behind but there are plenty of choices at any age. Exercise and socialising are great reasons to play sport and age. Local facilities are increasingly providing great activities for the less mobile, including tai chi, Nordic walking and walking football.

5. Try anything at least once

That means overcoming our fears. A big challenge and not an easy one. You’re never too old to have someone exhorting you to step outside your comfort zone!

6. Travel to as many countries as you can

We’d like to add travel around your own country as much as you can. Bill Bryson’s book “Notes from a Small Island” demonstrates just how much there is to learn and enjoy about your own homeland.

7. Look for opportunities to help others and involve yourself in charity work

One that many people choose as part of their retirement living or when they’re no longer under pressure to earn a living.

8. Engage with your community

You can join the local residents group, attend meetings and get involved in local activities. Maybe there’s a book club or a language group or a crochet circle. Or increasingly there are Facebook community groups where people share ideas, ask questions and recommend local services. The Streetlife website is also active locally in many areas. Online community groups are great for those with limited mobility.

9. Don’t stop learning

Learning keeps the mind active and research suggests this can help delay any onset of dementia. Learning doesn’t have to be academic. It could be learning to swim well or taking up web design for the first time.

10. Explore historic homes

Joining a group like English Heritage or the National Trust (including the Trust in Scotland) opens up opportunities to learn some social history, take a walk around what can be quite substantial estates, and enjoy a decent cup of tea. There are plenty of independently owned homes available to tour as well.

11. Fly a bird of prey

And why not?

12. Learn a new language

Or refresh a language you learned at school but has got a bit rusty. As well as the traditional German, Spanish and French, many children are learning Chinese today. How about that as a challenge?

13. Adopt an oldie

Many of us may feel having our own oldies is quite enough. But loneliness amongst the elderly is a huge issue today, so just keeping in touch with a neighbour who’s on their own is a great thing to do. There are also many voluntary groups such as Friends of the Elderly who offer visits to older people that you could join as time permits.

14. Visit Las Vegas and put down a bet

Just the one?

15. See the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam

We’ve probably all got a place that we’ve always meant to go and take in the view.

16. Go on the London Eye

Definitely. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable experience. If you don’t like heights there are seats away from the edges as well as grab rails to hang on to if you’re feeling brave enough to stand at the window.

17. Get a trade or career

Another one that we’d love to encourage our children and grandchildren to do.

18. Do a parachute jump

Scary. But you can do a jump harnessed to an instructor. And we’ve yet to hear anyone say “never again” – but we need to think about that one.

19. Learn about different cultures

Travelling, learning a language and finding out about different cultures can make the world look quite different.

20. Leave home – give your parents a break

Said with feeling by some! It’s tough for young people to find their own place, but we suspect some might actually prefer the comforts of home.

It’s not all about the knitting

Anchor’s research reveals that the associations we have with retirement change significantly over time.

People aged 18-24s are pretty traditional in their outlook. Most associate retirement with spending time with grandchildren (69%) and more than a quarter link it to knitting (26%), golf (26%) and bingo (28%).

Compare that with 55+ year olds who mostly associate retirement with travel (67%), gardening (57%) and learning something brand new (47%).

However, it looks like the older group aren’t so good at following their dreams. While nearly half talk about learning or doing something new, only a quarter said they’d actually turned that into reality in the last six months.

Are we just all talk then? Let us know what you think should be on the bucket list or what you’ve achieved that you’d recommend to others. Talk to us in the comments box below.

This article was published in July 2016.

If this article has inspired you, you may like to read some of our other stories:

Cool, calm and collected? Advice on staying sane amid life’s challenges

Retirement and Men’s sheds Practical projects get men out of the house and working together

Enjoying a garden at any age Tips for anyone wanting to get down to earth a little

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