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Published: April 3, 2024

Bucket List written on post it note with red slash through image

Yes, many older adults are “all in” when it comes to maintaining a bucket list, be it to visit all U.S. National Parks or MLB Stadiums, run a marathon or climb an epic mountain peak.But if the list starts to feel more like a pain instead of a pleasure maybe it’s time to rethink what’s on your list and maybe start another one. Let’s call it the anti-bucket list.

In an AARP magazine article entitled “After Almost Kicking the Bucket, I Wrote My Anti-Bucket List,” 73-year-old Stephen Randall said a cancer diagnosis got him thinking about simple pleasures instead of adventurous outings his friends were pursuing.

“My bad year had taught me a lot, and probably chief among those things is that there’s much to be said for ordinary life. Yes, the Eiffel Tower is magnificent, but so is the sandwich shop on the corner. Family, music, walks in the neighborhood — I love those things. TV is pretty darn good too. And you can watch the Eiffel Tower on that — it appears more often than drug commercials. Yes, the great chef Anthony Bourdain did enough globe-trotting in his final decade to fill everyone’s bucket list several times over, but then we know what happened next. Maybe those adventures aren’t as fulfilling as advertised.”

Your anti-bucket list

 We don’t need a serious illness to shake things up, but just permission to say:

“Been there.

Done that.

I’m done.”

For instance, if you’re always the one who helps organize church lunches or neighborhood cookouts, maybe it’s time to say, “I’m retiring from that job” or “It’s time for someone else to step up.”

Sometimes it’s a physical challenge that causes us to step away from things that were once fun, like the garden club or park trail cleanup. No reason to feel guilty, better to listen to your body.

And what about simple pleasures you’ve never had time for. Well, now you do, be it sitting in a nearby park with a neighbor or browsing the shelves of a bookstore. You also now have time to say yes to a Lifelong Learning class on an “always wanted to take” topic, either online or at your local college.

And if you step back from some of your obligations, be they “bucket list” ones or volunteer ones, you might find time for something you’ve always thought about but never prioritized.

Like a volunteer mission trip.

For example, the International Volunteer HG is a clearinghouse for hundreds of project across the world. You can support sustainable coffee farmers in Costa Rica, renovate community structures in the Philippines and provide aid to homeless people in Athens, Greece.

Or write your life story for loved ones. The internet is full of programs and prompts to help you tell your story. One of the most popular is Storyworth, which sends you a weekly writing prompt for a year and then bounds your essays into a keepsake book.

Glass half full syndrome

Maybe it’s just a matter of semantics. For some, calling it a “bucket list” seems more like work than play, more about dying (i.e. kicking the bucket) than living (carpe diem).

“Bucket List Journey” blogger Annette White gets it, which is why she came up with such possible substitutes as Wish List, Living List and Dream List.

But whatever you call your list, bottom line, Annette writes,: “What matters the most is that it does not lose its original meaning and purpose: to live your life to the fullest by experiencing the things you find meaningful and fulfilling, one checkmark at a time!”


Why Oberlin ?

A Guide to Oberlin, Ohio- Dining, Shopping, and Attractions

See Why Oberlin is a Great Place to Live

Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.