I was speaking to my aunt yesterday. She is going through what is called an "empty nest syndrome". Her only child has flown the nest in pursuit of higher studies and she and her husband are on their own. While my uncle is keeping himself busy in his work and other activities (read watching TV...and watching TV!), my aunt is at a loose end as to what to do with her time. Her entire routine has gone haywire, she feels listless and has nothing to look forward to. She is fond of gardening, but being on the 4th floor, there's only so much gardening one can do.
I know of many such women who don't know what to do with their time once their children leave home. Actually, many men go through it after retirement too. My own father has gone through this. My advice to everyone has always been to pursue a forgotten hobby or cultivate a new one. However, most people tend to stop pursuing hobbies while earning their bread or looking after kids. They get so preoccupied in building their life around others, that they forget to live for themselves.
Cultivating a hobby is like investing in your future( post retirement) occupation. Sometimes, it can really lead to a lucrative occupation - meaning you can make money out of it too. Love, marraige, family, children all require a lot of investment in terms of time and effort and leave room for little else. However, like all investments, it is wise to start as early as possible so that the fruits during retirement are that much sweeter.
Reading and writing are my passions and I have never suffered from loneliness due to the same. Books are ones' most faithful friends. No matter what your age is, you can always find an interesting book, magazine, newspaper etc. to keep you company. Although, some elders use books as sleep-inducing agents since sleep is elusive as age advances!
Not only for planning your retirement, hobbies or some alternate occupations provide an escape from the daily grind. They offer solace when life has dealt you a particularly vicious blow and are a safety valve to maintaining your balance.