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Family Time, New Experiences Are Popular Items on Bucket List

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question: I have a friend who is talking about her bucket list.  Exactly what is it and how do you create it?   I am 80 and expect to be around for a while. 

Answer: Your friend probably is referring to the  2007 movie “The Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The movie is about two terminally ill men who escape from a cancer ward and go on a road trip with a wish list of “to-dos” before they “kick the bucket.”

Several months ago, I met with a group of women from Project Renewment who addressed the subject.    These women meet monthly to discuss issues about their transition from work to retirement and concerns they face as they age.

The women are in their 60s and 70s with similar education and success in their work.  Here are some of the bucket list items they presented.

  • “Nothing has changed about what’s important to me.  I just am more focused.  I want to see people I care about and now act on my feelings. Taking trips with my grandchildren is a high priority.”
  • “My brother was killed and left a son with no father.  I want to give him a book about his family and grandparents.  I want to continue to be open to opportunities in my life and be more conscious of them.”
  • “I want to see my children well-situated and live long enough to influence my grandson.  I want to leave some ‘nuggets’ in my life and record important things for my grandson to know about me.”
  • “I want to create a scrapbook of my family so they will know about their grandparents and how they contributed to society. I want to leave a memory of who we are.”
  • “I want to spend more time in nature, snorkeling with tropical fish among coral reefs and feel that peace and tranquility.  I want to give back while trying to find balance in my life given the demands of the non-profit organization I launched.
  • “I want to be better about money, learn Windows 7 and know how to text.   I also want to read more books and downsize.”
  • “I want to visit some of the places listed in the book ‘1000 Places to See Before You Die’ (Workman Publishing, 2010 revised).  I want to do new things, die with my life in order and have the foresight to know when to tie up the lose ends.”

Legacy was central to the lists.  Learning, being open to new experiences and having tranquility were important.  However, creating memories, influencing grandchildren and giving them a sense “of who we are” were overarching themes.

Men also have bucket lists.

A 65- year old man wants to jump out of an airplane, play on a renowned golf course, ski where he never skied before and spend a half-hour with someone he highly respects. He also would like to take his entire family on a special vacation, finances permitted.

A 55-year old man, who is unemployed and a seasoned professional wants to continue pursing new places and experiences as he has done throughout his life.  Although looking voraciously for work, a job was not on his bucket list.  He was after a greater goal.

A man in his 80s is acting on his bucket list.  He has reservations to take his grandson ballooning, river rafting, hiking and zip-lining in Utah.  This is while he spends almost all of his time as a caregiver to his wife of almost 60 years.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you get started on creating your own bucket list. They are suggested by Celestine Chua, principal coach at The School of Personal Excellence:

  • What have you always wanted to do, but haven’t done yet?
  • What would you do if you had unlimited time and money?
  • What skills do you want to learn or try out?
  • Any countries or places you would want to visit?
  • What experiences do you want to have and to feel?
  • Are there any people you want to meet in person?
  • Are there any special moments you want to witness?
  • What would you like to say and do with people you love?

Thank you for your good question. Let’s live our dreams to the extent possible — and enjoy.

Copyright 2010 Helen Dennis. All rights reserved.

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