Mental Wellness: Navigating New Adventures: Embracing Change and Challenge in Retirement

by Denise O’Donoghue, Biblical Counselor

What now? This is a question I’ve been asking myself recently as I have come to the end of a lifetime of fulfilling work. I had a wonderful example in my father as I watched him complete a college degree and become an ordained minister in his later years of life. As I reflect on that, I realize those were some of the best years of his life. As a counselor, I know that staying active after retirement will give a much greater chance of maintaining physical, social, and emotional health and help stave off memory decline. Volunteering is a natural outlet and there are innumerable opportunities for using our gifts and talents on a volunteer basis. But, what else? I decided to explore what other types of unique and perhaps unknown opportunities were out there. Here’s what I found…

Go workamping. This was a new word for me and I’m guessing it is for you as well. Here is the official definition: 

A Workamper combines part-time or full-time paid or volunteer work with RV or tent camping. Workampers generally receive compensation in the form of a free campsite, usually with free utilities (electricity, water, and sewer hookups) and additional wages. Workamping positions can include working at campgrounds, RV resorts, mobile home communities, Christmas tree or pumpkin sales lots, amusement parks, motels/hotels, national parks, state parks, … and more.

If this sounds appealing to you, decide where you’d like to go, gas up the RV and head over to to see all the available opportunities.

Take a class. Did you know that in North Carolina seniors can take a class at any community college for free? Just a few of the offerings at nearby Sandhills Community College include Baking Artisan & Specialty Breads, 3D Printing, Drone Technology, Photography Bootcamp, Bartending, and for the those who enjoy living on the edge, High Adventure Ropes Course. Also, for a nominal fee, you can usually audit a class at any of the NC universities as well. Taking a class will not only keep you mentally stimulated but also provide great opportunities for social engagement with classmates.  

Be a missionary. According to Paul Akin of the International Mission Board, retirement is an excellent time to consider how you can share your faith with those who live overseas. Akin states, “Christians who are retired or will be retiring soon have a unique opportunity to re-engage in the mission of God in the world in new and purposeful ways. As baby-boomers and others step into the retirement stage of life, may they embark on some of the most fruitful and productive work of their lives.” One concern with this might be funding. But Akin reminds us, “Uncle Sam, 401ks, and Roth IRAs can support a retired couple in Malaysia or Madagascar just as well as it could in Mississippi or Michigan.” I would add, in many places around the world, your money might actually go a whole lot further.

Teach ESL. Maybe you like the idea of foreign cultures and peoples but would prefer to stay put. You can sign up to teach English as a second language to immigrants and refugees right where you live. Don’t worry if you don’t remember what a dangling participle is or how to conjugate a verb. You can certainly teach the ABCs, days of the week, and how to fill out basic information on a form. Start by checking with local churches. They will often offer ESL classes for free as a ministry of the church. You could start simply by volunteering and if it is something that you become passionate about, you could seek ESL certification through your local community college. 

Work when you want. Perhaps you still like the idea of working, but would rather do so on your own terms doing something you really enjoy. Consider signing up on a service board such as where you can identify the type(s) of work you would like to do and your fees. Potential clients will describe the job they want done and you decide if you want to take the job, or not. Examples of services people offer through this site include things such as handyman, furniture assembly, organizing, personal assistant, etc.

Be a seasonal employee. Want to tap into your sense of adventure? How about working on a dude ranch or a fishing boat? Or perhaps you’ve always dreamed of spending time in Alaska during the summer. You could be a covered wagon driver earning $9.89 hour plus tips and your housing would only be $15 per day. Not feeling the wagon? How about a front desk clerk? is a great resource for finding exciting jobs you would do for a season of the year.

Cruise for free. That’s right. Work on a cruise ship and pay nothing for the cruise itself. According to there are many opportunities for retirees to work on a cruise ship in exchange for free travel. Examples include arts & crafts instructor, golf instructor, photographer, bridge instructor or guest lecturer. Other examples, such as nurse, actually include compensation. According to my research, contracts for cruise ship employment is typically for a six-month stint. Maybe winter would be a great time to give this a try.

If you’ve discovered other interesting ways to spend the “second 50”, we’d love to hear from you. Drop a line to the editor and fill us in on your ideas. 

Denise O’Donoghue is a biblical counselor in Raleigh and a former professor for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is very blessed to have four living generations to share life with. You can reach Denise at