Philip Kotler
8 min readFeb 26, 2024


When you Retire, Can you Handle the New Freedom of Leisure?

Philip Kotler

Workers look forward to a retirement time when they will be able to sleep late, choose the day’s activities that please them, and lead a life of leisure and chosen pleasures.

Retirement is also a time when you bid goodbye to your fellow workers and wish them well. Now you have the next 30–40 years of life to live the way you chose.

There is a dark side to retirement. Three problems arise. How to handle the loss of valued friends from your work life? How would you make new friends and acquaintances? How should you spend your free time?

You have been an adult for a long time. Now you are entering the second stage of your adulthood.

What might happen now?

Some retirees will have a good vision of what they want to do. Some retirees will choose to travel to places they have never been. Other retirees might take up a wished-for career such as a musician or painter but to be practical, they decided on a law career. Still others might want to join some “cause” group and work for a better world.

Finding a new set of activities will ease their transition into a life of retirement. A few activities, however, might not deliver the expected satisfaction. Eventually they will settle down to daily routines. Boredom and disappointment might set in. If they don’t find new friends or satisfying activities, they may feel lost in living a life without purpose or meaning.

The good news is that some programs have appeared to help retired people get “unstuck” from their desperate state. Here we will describe some programs.

University Programs

David Brooks, the NYTimes columnist, published “The New Old Age” in August 24, 2023. He noticed that some universities have established programs to help high status retired people transition from a position of high power to the task of forming a new identity. Brooks cites the following programs:

Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative

Stanford University’s Distinguished Careers Initiative

Notre Dame’s Inspired Leadership Initiative

University of Chicago’s Leadership and Society Initiative

These programs appeal to persons who retired from high career positions and have the funds to pay the steep tuition costs of a major university. Their whole work life was one of goal setting and achievement. Yet mentioning their past leadership position may not mean much to others. These retirees will need a new identity. By enrolling in one of these university programs, they will meet other high career retirees and share their search for a new identity.

Retirees returning to college often find the experience to be highly satisfying. They meet other retired adults and often discover new courses of interest. Many had never read the classics of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. They didn’t face thought-provoking questions on the meaning of life. They are now on a new intellectual adventure. They are also on a new social adventure, meeting men and women, some of whom will become new friends. Many retirees will move toward joining a worthwhile cause calling for creative planning and funding.

The MEA Solution of Chip Conley

Chip Conley, a seasoned hotel entrepreneur, facing his own midlife crisis became passionate about finding ways to help others grow old. He established the Modern Elder Academy (MEA) with the headline “Welcome to the New Midlife — No Crisis Required.” Conley describes MEA as the world’s first “wisdom school” dedicated to midlife transitions. MEA aims to change the way society views aging. MEA features two beautiful campuses, one in Baja, California and the other in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Applicants can download ‘The Anatomy of a Transition’ Digital Guide’. If interested, they can sign up for a one week stay (or longer) where they will meet with instructors and about 15–20 other applicants. The normal price is $3,000 to cover a private room. Conley also invites applicants with less income to apply for the $500 program that comes with a shared room. But only a few applicants for the $500 program will be accepted.

Friendship Centers

Clearly the average person who retires doesn’t have the income or savings for attending a university or a MEA center. A much less expensive solution is to join a Senior Friendship Center. For example, the Senior Friendship Center in Sarasota, Florida charges $150 for an annual membership. All programs offered at the center are free to members. Senior Friendship Centers in the Sarasota service area serve close to 10,000 older adults. Adult day services include activities, events, caregiving resources, healthy meals, exercise classes, volunteer opportunities, lifelong learning, support groups, economic assistance, and more. Senior Friendship Centers have four goals:

• Empower older adults to live active, healthy lives to improve all aspects of health.

• Promote good nutrition and physical activity to maintain healthy lifestyles.

• Provide crisis/supportive intervention and help promote financial stability through education and community resources.

• Allow older people to maintain their independence and live in their own homes for as long as possible.

Other Helping Opportunities

Seniors have six other ways to meet new people and find new activities of interest.

1. Decide to go back to college. We mentioned earlier that four major universities provide programs specifically for high income retirees. Another opportunity consists in retirees simply signing up for interesting college courses. Retirees should look at the 125 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLIs) that appear in 50 states. Each Ollie is affiliated with some college. The 125 OLLIs offer courses and activities funded in part by The Bernard Osher Foundation. Each OLLI is unique and operates as an independent initiative of its host college with offerings tailored to meet the needs and interests of its community. OLLIs offer a wide variety of intellectually stimulating, university-level, non-credit courses and learning opportunities designed for people “50 and better.” Many offer lectures and educational travel opportunities as well as study groups and events that build a sense of community. There are no tests and no grades. Members pay an inclusive fee or according to the number of courses. OLLIs are administered by professional staffs and also offer significant opportunities for volunteer engagement and leadership. More than 170,000 people nationwide are members of Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes.

2. Join a Road Scholar Tour. Road Scholar is a nonprofit designer of travel opportunities all over the world for age 50+ Group that includes lodging, meals, & expert-guided tours. Micro-tours of 3 or 4 days come in hundreds of different programs with thousands of departures annually. A micro-tour consists of a maximum of 12 Road Scholars. The small size gives a retiree easy access to the instructor and a chance to enjoy the camaraderie of a small group.

3. Apply for individual or group therapy. Seniors facing certain social or personal problems can contact a professional therapist (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, or coach) or therapy group to help think through their problems and solutions.

4. Use the web to meet other seniors. Join up with a reputable senior dating site and meet other senior singles. Whether they turn into dates or friends, the retirees will expand their networks and get practice talking with strangers who can become friends. is a website serving Singles over 50 who connect with shared activities, friendship and travel. Members meet personally or in group settings. is another website to help members find groups of interest in their community. The monthly charge for membership is approximately $5.

5. Move to a retirement home. Retirement homes are found in many cities to provide living arrangements for senior citizens. These homes sponsor many facilities, activities and events for their seniors to meet each other and make life easier and more interesting.

6. Audit the activities of the AARP. AARP stands for American Association of Retired People. The AARP was founded by a retired high school principal, Ethel Percy Andrus. Its four official goals are to (1) enhance the quality of life for older persons; (2) promote independence, dignity and purpose for older persons; (3) lead in determining the role and place of older persons in society; and (4) improve the image of aging. The AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) is a trusted resource that advances innovative, equitable, and actionable solutions that empower people to choose how they live as they age.

Clearly, many opportunities are available to help retirees comfortably ease into this second stage of adult life. When a solution works, retirees are likely to feel that they have entered one of the happiest periods in their life.

I am concluding with a list of 44 activities that retirees can consider in a search for satisfying activities.

􀂅 1. Browse mindfulness and meditation courses

􀂅 2. Write daily entries in a journal or diary

􀂅 3. Search for new recipes and do more cooking or baking

􀂅 4. Watch a film every evening

􀂅 5. Watch Ted talks

􀂅 6. Watch comedy programs and films

􀂅 7. Read biographies of persons who inspire you

􀂅 8. Do some coloring or painting

􀂅 9. Register for a drawing class

􀂅 10. Learn basic yoga poses

􀂅 11. Learn calligraphy or hand-lettering

􀂅 12. Learn how to play a musical instrument

􀂅 13. Learn to do coding

􀂅 14. Learn a foreign language

􀂅 15. Learn furniture making

􀂅 16. Read biographies of persons who inspire you

􀂅 17. Attend live theatre performances

􀂅 18. Make a list of things to eventually buy

􀂅 19. Find a time to relax each day

􀂅 20. List your goals for the year

􀂅 21. Start a blog to share and exchange information

􀂅 22. Chat with new people in your area

􀂅 23. Redecorate your living space

􀂅 24. Do jigsaw puzzles

􀂅 25. Do crossword puzzles and Wordle

􀂅 26. Listen to more podcasts

􀂅 27. Listen to new music

􀂅 28. Update your biography and CV

􀂅 29. List books that you want to read this year

􀂅 30. Search Pinterest for craft or project ideas

􀂅 31. Declutter your home

􀂅 32. Play new board games

􀂅 33. Search the internet for local groups and volunteering opportunities

􀂅 34. Arrange video chats with friends and acquaintances

􀂅 35. Write poems or short stories

􀂅 36. Brainstorm ways to save money

􀂅 37. Make a cookbook of your favorite recipes

􀂅 38. Join one or more book clubs

􀂅 39. List desired travel destinations and travel more

􀂅 40. Research topics you are curious about

􀂅 41. Watch live operas online

􀂅 42. Watch streaming shows from Netflix

􀂅 43. Do home improvement projects

􀂅 44. Do gardening

􀂅 45. Do more active stock investing

􀂅 46. Learn knitting, cross-stitch or embroidery

Source: Adapted from Philip Kotler and Edgar Keehnen, Retirement: A Gift, Not a Curse”



Philip Kotler

Philip Kotler is the S.C. Johnson and Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (emeritus)