01/09/2015 09:44 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Take Time for Passionate Pursuits

Time to add serious fun to your life with a passionate pursuit. Whether you are retired or just thinking about it, don't be caught unexpectedly asking, "Now What?" In my new book, Energize Your Retirement: Stories of Passionate Pursuits, I interviewed retirees ages 59 to 84 across the United States about the hobbies, interests or pastimes that make their lives meaningful. The eclectic mix includes six activities in each of these five themes: Animals and Nature, Arts and Letters, Civic and Social Participation, Mechanics and Technology, and Physical Activity and Sports.


Harriet is a mushroom hunter. After many vacations traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest, Harriet and her husband left Illinois and retired to Eugene, Oregon. "Since we didn't know many people in our new town," says Harriet, "I joined the local hiking club and the Cascade Mycological Society to make new friends and enjoy the outdoors. In the past, I never paid much attention to mushrooms other than to eat them, but now I'm an avid mycophile. I enjoy being in the woods, the hunt for mushrooms and studying all of the intricacies of each variety, and of course, the gourmet treat."

Be afraid is a well-used phrase in mycological clubs and an important part of mushroom hunting. For every perfectly safe-to-eat mushroom in this world, there is another that looks very similar that can make you sick, or worse. Harriet advises, "Never, ever eat a mushroom if you're not 110 percent certain it is safe. Joining a local club, attending a class or meeting up with local residents are good ideas to prevent misidentification when mushroom hunting."

Energize Your Retirement: Stories of Passionate Pursuits is chock-full of fabulous alternatives to watching TV or Netflix bingeing. Among the six passionate pursuits in the Arts and Letters section are stone sculpting, historical fiction writing and crossword puzzle construction. Examples of volunteer services are ombudsman for elder care and youth mentoring. Softball, dancing, target shooting, backpacking and triathlons comprise the Physical Activity and Sports section. Blogging and vlogging (video blogging), craft beer brewing and motorcycle touring are three of the topics in Mechanics and Technology.


Baby boomers are having a belated romance with motorcycles and the number of "graying riders" is increasing. The trike, or three-wheeler, has grown in popularity in recent years. Because of the stability, riders aren't required to lean into curves or hold them steady at stoplights, activities which can challenge weak knees and muscles. Harley Davidson's new lineup includes the Freewheeler, which caters to the growing segment of riders turning 65, and appeals to shorter riders, those under 5' 7" that includes many women.

Voni and Paul call Big Bend, Texas, their home for eight months out of the year, then hit the road from mid-May until mid-September touring on their motorcycles. They have been riding motorcycles for many years. Voni says, "Paul had been riding a motorcycle since he was fourteen, so I decided to learn to ride so we could take the kids on vacations. This way the children didn't fight in the backseat of the car. One rode with me, the other rode with Paul."

Voni now belongs to the elite group of motorcyclists in the BMW Million Miler Club, and Paul has covered 825,000 miles and is still counting. "We both like semi-competitive endurance rides and we like to participate in the Iron Butt Rally," says Paul. "It's a long-distance race, like a scavenger hunt, and held in the United States every two years. In the Iron Butt Rally, riders have to ride 11,000 miles in eleven days." Voni, a retired teacher, adds, "I taught high school kids and I would tell them, there are no drugs that come anywhere close to what you feel when you do something you love, whether it's running or hiking or motorcycling."