Exploring Retirement

"The institutions and instruments which have been created to meet the problem of ageing, are in no position to provide us with a policy for that great majority of retired people who present no problem at all"

Peter Laslett: A Fresh Map of Life.

Welcome to the January 2018 edition of Exploring Retirement! All of us at Exploring Retirement would like to wish our readers a healthy and happy New Year!

In the coming year we will be exploring some of the roles open to people in "retirement". Not necessarily full-time, not necessarily paid but all of them interesting! If you are active in an unusual role we would love to hear from you.

January 2018 marks the beginning of our sixth year in existence, which means we have to date published 60 articles on health, well-being and active retirement.

Exploring Retirement is fast becoming the most comprehensive source of ideas for an active retirement lifestyle on the internet.

Exploring Retirement is written by and for retired people, to assist active retirees make the most of their additional years of good health. If you are interested in writing for Exploring Retirement, please contact For ideas to write about, have a glance at the July 2014 issue of Exploring Retirement, available by clicking on "Past Issues" in the navigation bar on the left of this page. These are only suggestions, please contact us if you have a different topic you would like to share your thoughts on.

We trust that you will continue to enjoy our monthly publication and please tell your friends about the site.

Writing team

We have three regular contributors on our writing team. Here they are with a brief note explaining their principal areas of interest:

John Copelton, EditorDr John Copelton - well-being in retirementMichael McSorley, contributorMichael McSorley - lively comment on sport and cultureJeannette Lewis, contributorJeannette Lewis - inspiring ideas on retirement living

The impact of ageing stereotypes on health and well-being

I last wrote about the impact of stereotypical images of ageing in April 2013. Since my previous article there has been a good deal of further research examining how the internalisation of stereotypes affects both our health and well-being.

Professor Becca Levy has put forward a theory to explain how negative stereotypes of ageing can influence our health and well-being According to Professor Levy, the process has four components These are -

  1. Negative stereotypes become internalised across the life span, starting when we are very young. You only have to think of the Wicked Witch who is portrayed as an aged crone.

  2. It isn't only in childhood though that we are exposed to negative stereotypes of ageing. We receive a constant barrage of ageist language, terms such as "senior moment" to describe a short term memory lapse, for example. Experimental subjects exposed to negative descriptors such as senile, deteriorating etc., have been shown to adopt more negative behaviour without the subject even being aware.

  3. Gain salience from self-relevance, i.e. recognising that we have reached a socially acknowledged milestone such as the accepted age of retirement, or becoming entitled to "Senior" discounts such as a reduced admission to theatres and cinemas. can lead to the acceptance that we are "old" and should behave as such. The old is the only outgroup that inevitably becomes an ingroup for individuals who live long enough. Exhortations to "act your age" may become harder to resist.

  4. Utilise multiple pathways, e.g. in an experimental setting, subjects exposed to positive stereotypes outperformed those exposed to negative stereotypes on both cognitive and physical tasks. Professor Levy has found that in every day life older individuals with more positive self-perceptions of ageing are significantly more likely to engage in healthy practices (e.g., taking prescribed medications) than were those with more negative self-perceptions of ageing.

These components constitute a process that occurs in two directions: top-down (from society to the individual) and over time (from childhood to old age).

The physical effects of negative stereotypes

A recent study found that negative age stereotypes held earlier in life predict worse health among older individuals (Levy, Zonderman, Slade,& Ferrucci, 2009). In a cohort of 440 participants, aged 18 to 49, those who held more negative age stereotypes at baseline were significantly more likely to experience a cardiovascular event over the next 38 years, after adjusting for relevant covariates such as family history of cardiovascular disease. Further, in a younger subset of 229 individuals, aged 18 to 39 years, those with more negative age stereotypes at baseline were twice as likely to have a cardiovascular event after age 60 than those with more positive age stereotypes at baseline, after adjusting for the relevant covariates (Levy et al., 2009).

In a recent paper (2016) Professor Levy has reported a link between holding negative stereotypes of ageing and the brain changes associated with the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Those holding more-negative age stereotypes earlier in life had significantly steeper hippocampal-volume loss and significantly greater accumulation of the neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques associated with the disease.

Professor Levy has conducted a number of studies were older adults were exposed to positive age-stereotype words (e.g., wisdom) or negative age-stereotype words (e.g., decrepit) flashed on a computer screen at speeds designed to allow perception without awareness. She found that older individuals exposed to negative-age-stereotype primes tended to perform worse than those exposed to positive-age-stereotype primes on four memory tasks (Levy, 1996).

In another experiment, a panel rated the handwriting of those who were subliminally exposed to the negative ageing stereotypes as significantly older and more "deteriorated," "senile," and "shaky" than the handwriting of those exposed to the positive-ageing stereotypes. A third experiment involved measuring the effect of exposure to positive ageing stereotypes on walking speed, a measure that has been shown to predict overall functional health and mortality. Participants showed a significant increase in swing time and gait speed (Hausdorff et al., 1999). Their average increase in speed was comparable to the gain observed when older individuals participate in rigorous exercise programs for several weeks.

Challenging negative stereotypes

Being aware of the insidious influence of negative stereotypes should alert us to the need for constant vigilance. When people joke that I am experiencing a "senior moment" my rely is that I have been experiencing moments like that all my life! Seek out the company of people with a more positive outlook. Always be prepared to seek out new challenges. Act the age you want to be, not the age other people think you should be.

Featured Activity: Positive Roles in Retirement - Market Researcher

One of the features that many people miss when they retire from work is having a "role". Saying simply that you are retired doesn't give any indication of what you actually do! There are many possibilities for those who feel this way. They can continue working, work-part-time or work on an occasional basis. You can also have a "role" without necessarily being employed in the traditional sense. You might, for example, work for a charity on a volunteer basis or organise a community group. We will explore this concept further over the coming year.

Market Researcher as a Retirement Role

I was having a quiet cup of coffee one evening a week ago when someone rang my doorbell. When I went to answer it there was a lady with a clip board standing outside. She explained that she was conducting a survey and asked if I would mind answering a few questions? Thinking quickly I agreed, providing she would answer one or two of mine! As a retired careers adviser I am always fascinated by the different ways people find to earn a living. We settled down to complete her questionnaire and in between she told me how she came to have this role.

After graduating from university she had worked quite happily for about twelve years for a major drinks company. Unfortunately, due to changes in the business she had been made redundant. As is usually the case, having to find a new job presented both challenges and opportunities. She wanted to find work that she could do on a more flexible basis to fit around her other commitments. Working for a market research organisation turned out to be exactly what she was looking for. Her new employer wasn't concerned about a 9 to 5 working pattern. As long as she did the hours necessary to achieve the requisite number of interviews, they were quite happy. She could suit herself by working occasional evenings and weekends, thereby gaining much more flexibility during the rest of the week.

As a market researcher she could ask people for their opinions on a wide range of subjects from the media to healthcare and from local government to shopping. This information is used by the market research company's clients so they can provide the products and services that people want. It is an important aspect of market research that the person who is interviewed is not identified and their responses are kept in complete confidence. The information supplied usually ends up in statistical tables. You may be asked for some personal details such as your age, marital status etc., to ensure that your views are representative of a good cross-section of people in society. This information is normally destroyed after your responses have been recorded statistically.

It was quite clear from our chat that my interviewer enjoyed her job and found it both congenial and well suited to her lifestyle. She was quite happy to recommend it to others. She went on to tell me that her employer was currently seeking to recruit additional research staff. The company offer flexible working, competitive rates of pay, including holiday pay and full training. If you are interested you would need use of a car, be comfortable using a computer to input data and have access to the internet from home. Be willing to work at least 4-6 hours a day, including evenings and weekends for at least 2 or more days per week. If you are an outgoing person with good people skills this is a job were no two days are the same and you have a good deal of control of your time.

You can watch a short video clip on market research by clicking here -


Michael McSorley

Michael is a keen cinema goer and this month he reviews some of movies he has been to see in recent weeks. An eclectic mix as they say! To read his views on the best of recent "art house" cinema, click here.

Jeanette Lewis

In this month's article Jeanette focuses on the realities of growing older. Jonathan Swift wrote "everyone wants to live a long life but no one wants to grow old". To read Jeanette's thoughtful essay on the subject, click here