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Self-Isolating? Now What?

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

The COVID-19 virus has dramatically changed all our lives in ways that most of us could never have anticipated…. with the result that many of us—whether retired or not—are now confined to our homes, with restricted access to public spaces (e.g., parks) and people.

The last retirement fact-YOU-al I wrote was about the how having a sense of purpose is most important to our well-being in retirement. Many people derive their sense of purpose from helping friends or family. What does this mean though, when we can’t leave our homes?

From my perspective a key way to have a sense of purpose, even when confined to our homes, is through committing ourselves to continuing to learn. A researcher in Australia (see reference below) looked at the experience of learning in retirement. She suggests that retirement poses a unique opportunity for continued learning.

“People in retirement have a choice to learn or not to learn and also a choice in the topics they learn…. Learning that occurs after leaving full-time paid employment is unique. It is a time when learning is not related directly to paid work.”

She added that the more the retirees in her study enjoyed their learning the more they enjoyed life in general.

So, back to our current situation, what does this mean for us? With access to the internet (and Youtube and other virtual learning platforms), learning is possible from our homes. Are you interested in learning a new language (something you might have said you want to do for decades but never got around to it)? How about actually making a complicated recipe that has been in your recipe folder for years? Learning to mediate, do yoga, play an instrument and various forms of crafts or card games (or even card tricks) are all possible to learn from home.

As I’ve already shared, my guy John and I have been largely self-confined to our RV, but are doing so in beautiful state or national parks in the US. This scenery has inspired John to start researching geology and how these amazing natural wonders were originally formed. While this has been a life long interest, he’s never previously had the time to dedicate to it. Now’s the time.

I was also in recent contact with my friend Mary, who just retired two months ago, and asked her if she’s been frustrated with how the pandemic has impacted her retirement so far. She wrote back:

“You asked if this is a frustrating start to retirement? No way… it’s like a ‘stay-cation.’ We eat well, drink amazing wines, pass the time on our hobbies… (me: Italian language study, learning new recipes, crocheting, reading, working on my photos from Spain, trying to teach myself to draw… LOL…and a plethora of others). We haven’t even come close to running out of things to do yet.”

Now’s your chance to find ways to make your time confined to home meaningful too!

Where/how to begin? My suggestions are to:

  • Find something that you really love that’s purely for personal interest. Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t previously made the time for?

  • Create a structure or schedule for yourself (e.g., plan to devote 1 hour every morning to your project).

  • If the project seems too big, then break it down into even smaller steps (e.g., learning one word if learning a new language is your goal). Share and celebrate these small steps. Instead of focusing on what’s still to be done, focus on what you have accomplished!

Still struggling to find skills or interests you might want to explore? Check out the Need to Know page for resources and activities to help you reflect on and explore your hobbies!


Russell, H. (2008). Later life: A time to learn. Educational Gerontology, 34, 206-224.

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