1/22/2024 | By Terri L. Jones

Do you have a bucket list? Should you? Seniors Guide writer Terri L. Jones looks at the benefits of this lifetime wish list and tips for building your bucket list.

A Forbes Health survey determined that 40 percent of people 59 and over have identified a variety of things they’d like to accomplish. Commonly called a “bucket list,” these experiences and achievements often take on even greater importance – perhaps even urgency – as people get closer and closer to the proverbial act of “kicking the bucket.”

For many, these goals revolve around travel. For example, Martha wants to see Mount Rushmore. (It’s just one of those things she’s always wanted to do but never gotten around to.) Ruthie, on the other hand, dreams of spending a weekend in a treehouse, while her husband, Bob, would like to go glamping in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The items on others’ bucket list are less experience based. For example, Beverly wants to renovate her kitchen, and Chris, who has always wanted to play the guitar, is taking lessons now that he’s retired. And after having a convertible ’57 Chevy in her younger years, Virginia dreams of riding in one again!

What are the benefits of building your bucket list?

Having experiences that you make happen and goals that you strive toward can have myriad benefits as you age.

1. Renews your purpose.

After you retire, it’s easy to feel like your life has lost its purpose. Whether it’s running a 10K or learning a foreign language for an upcoming trip, setting goals and achieving them helps you regain some of the meaning and fulfillment that you may have had – and lost – with your career.

2. Gives you a feeling of accomplishment.

A woman listening to music while painting in an art studio, for article on building your bucket list. Image by Aaron Amat

There’s nothing like checking items off a list to give you a sense of gratification and boost your self-esteem. Join a pickleball team. Check. Go to the balloon festival in Albuquerque. Check. Learn to bake sourdough bread. Check. What a good feeling to set your mind to something and achieve it!

3. Keeps your brain sharp.

If your bucket list includes learning something new, like playing a musical instrument, watercolor painting, or learning a new language, you’ll not only be having fun, but studies show that you’ll also be preserving – even growing – your cognitive abilities. The key is to step out of your comfort zone, set your goals high and push yourself to absorb the information and master that new skill. While it may be challenging, you’ll reap huge rewards!

4. Helps you focus on what’s important to you.

When you’re first retired, you have so much more time on your hands that you may find yourself frittering away hours on meaningless activities like cleaning the refrigerator or scrolling through social media. A bucket list can help you stop wasting time and focus on the tasks and goals that are truly important to you.

5. Creates memories.

Whether it’s skydiving, walking the Great Wall of China or helping meet the needs of a nonprofit, these experiences will not only stay with you for life but also with your loved ones. Years after you’re gone, your family will still be talking about how you let nothing stop you from realizing your dreams.

Tips for building your bucket list

If you don’t already have a bucket list, here are some questions that may help you create one:

  • Think about different areas of your life, including family, health, finances and friends. What do you want to achieve in each area?
  • Are there places in the world you’d like to visit?
  • What skills, like playing an instrument or building furniture, would you like to master?
  • Are there experiences you’ve always longed to have?
  • Is there a lofty goal you’d like to accomplish, such as riding your bike 50 miles or writing a novel?

Despite the many advantages of a bucket list, it can also have a downside when you let the goals you don’t achieve minimize those you do. Take a lesson from George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and recognize all the things you’ve already accomplished and the value of your life exactly as it is today. Then marking off the items that remain on your bucket list will just be icing on the cake!

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones