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Creative aging: Recreating the benefits of working without work

Have you ever made a vision board? What do you enjoy doing? Letting your imagination run free can reveal how to enjoy work without working.
Images cut from a magazine or posted online can reveal what gives us meaning and pleasure. Follow that. Photo: Wesdyne A. Otto.

To work or not to work, is a question retirees and people on fixed incomes ask themselves.  Will the wage be enough to cover the loss of subsidized housing, medical insurance, recreation fees, etc.?  Finding high-paying work that accommodates physical, family, education, and energy limitations can be tricky. That dream job may not exist for some people. 

If you are struggling in that situation, now is the time to ask: Aside from money, what do I enjoy about working? A collage made from old magazines or a Pinterest board can are great ways to explore this question. As you look at the magazines or browse online pictures think about your wildest dreams as a kid, people you admire, things you enjoy doing--anything that attracts you.  After about 30 min. stop collecting pictures and arranging them on a sheet of paper or e-board.  Find five to seven words that describe the collage.  Weave those words into a story that begins with “I like working because it makes me feel…”, or ‘Working gives my life …”.  

This simple exercise provides direction to do things in your life, community, and family that suit you and are as fulfilling as work.  I suggest doing this a few times over the months. Do a completely silly one – astronauts, cowgirls, circus performers--your wildest dreams--to spark your imagination and passion.  Rather than instigate a new career path this exercise’s purpose is to discover how to recreate the good things about work in your life without actually working. You might say, “I enjoy being outdoors, sharing ideas with co-workers, quiet, and things being orderly," and decide to try lawn bowling or bird watching.  

With a little imagination, the non-financial rewards of working are available to all of us.   

This is my collage reflection:  I like working because I feel happier laughing at life’s silly situations with someone.  Working gives my life connection to people and situations where I can practice being a respectful cousin and ally to Indigenous people. 

Wesdyne A. Otto holds a graduate certificate in art therapy, and is the owner of Positive Shift Creative Art Telehealth Services.