Exploring Retirement

Welcome to the November 2015 edition of Exploring Retirement, the magazine for the active retired.. Each month we feature articles on well-being in retirement as well as showcasing an activity to consider. In this issue I will be how the amount of time we allocate to our activities can impact on our well-being.

New writers are welcome, so if you are interested, please contact editor@exploringretirement.co.uk. 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.

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

Time Management In Retirement

When they retire most people gain an additional 50 hours or more per week that they can spend as they wish. Psychologist Robert Atchley was the first person to identify what he called "the honeymoon period" in retirement, when the recently retired feel as if they are on a prolonged holiday. Typically this can last from a few months to a year. Eventually however most people find that they become bored with just passing time and begin to search for something more personally meaningful.

In his book "The Beginners Guide to Retirement" psychologist Michael Longhurst talks about a study of retired people that he carried out in Australia. Many of the participants in the study engaged in a "honeymoon" period at the start of their retirement. This was particularly true of those who had not enjoyed their work and who had looked forward to retirement as an escape.

In the study Michael found that after the "honeymoon" period ended many of the participants became involved in "productive" activities such as growing fruit and vegetables in their garden, renovating their house or joining organisations such as PROBUS in an active role. Participation in such activities appeared to have a beneficial effect on their sense of well-being.

Longhurst suggests that purposeful activities fall into three categories:

  1. Where something tangible is produced. Examples are: engaging in crafts such as woodworking or leatherwork, restoring old cars or antiques, painting, sculpturing, etc.

  2. Where a service is provided (either paid or voluntary). Examples are: active membership of service clubs, community work, part-time paid work or starting a small business, etc.

  3. Where self-development or skill development is undertaken. Examples are: learning a musical instrument or a new language, attending courses such as photography or history, embarking on a significant program of health improvement e.g., through a gym, weight-loss program, etc.

A particularly interesting finding from this study was that there appeared to be a minimum amount of time spent in "productive activity" for it to produce a beneficial effect. For most people 5-6 hours per week was necessary, in order to produce a significant enhancement in their life satisfaction in retirement.

In another Australian study, Professor Chris Sharpley interviewed 100 happy retired people and 100 unhappy retired people. Professor Sharpley also found that what seemed to matter was engagement in activities that contained elements of challenge, new social connections and coping with the unfamiliar.

Professor Shapley noted "Very, very interestingly, those people who said, I try to avoid stress by not putting myself in challenging situations, by not meeting too many strangers and by not doing things that I am not familiar with, were the people who were most anxious, most depressed."

Based on a major study from the USA (Health and Retirement Study, 2002); Barbara A. Butrica and Simone G. Schaner, have written a paper entitled Satisfaction and Engagement in Retirement, in which they reported that they also found an upper limit. The likelihood of being very satisfied with retirement was positively related to hours of engagement up to about 10 hours per week, on average. Beyond 10 hours, however, satisfaction seemed unrelated to engagement hours. A possible explanation for this finding lies in the limited range of activities considered in the study. These were work, volunteering and caregiving. In fact, retirees engaged only in caregiving were significantly less likely to be very satisfied with retirement than unengaged retirees. Those most satisfied with retirement were engaged in multiple activities, in line with research showing the importance of variety to well-being.

Purposeful activity in retirement

It is instructive to consider how we can apply these research findings in our own retirement. A quick tot up of my own "purposeful activities" comes to between 15 and 20 hours per week. I find this is enough to keep me satisfied with my retirement lifestyle while still leaving time to attend to the unexpected things that are bound to arise. We have all met people who say they are so busy in retirement they don't know how they ever had time to go to work! They seem to have replaced one stressful lifestyle with another. That's fine, if that is what they want but it is good to know that you don't have to fill every hour of every day in order to enjoy your retirement.

Featured Activity - Trading Times

Trading Times is an initiative of Dr Jonathan Collie, who trained as a medical doctor in South Africa before swapping his white coat for a career in health IT. Trading Times is an on-line matching service that puts people over 50 in touch with local employers who can offer part-time paid work. it is particularly suitable for retirees who either don't want full-time employment or who can't consider it because of caring responsibilities. Jonathan conceived Trading Times as including family carers as well as people over the age of 50 and single parents - all those with skills but for whom full-time work is difficult or indeed impossible.

Applicants register their skills, experience and location on the website. A local business can search these profiles using keywords. They will be presented with a shortlist of suitable candidates. The employer can read their anonymised profiles and select the one(s) they prefer. Promising candidates are then e-mailed the details of the job the employer wants doing. If the applicant wishes to accept, they simply respond "yes" to the e-mail. The employer pays a small fee (£25) and each party is then provided with the others contact details. Applicants pay nothing. Candidates would then normally be asked to attend in person for interview.

Trading Times insist that they are about more than being a recruitment agency. They believe that they are helping to break down the barriers that exist to recruiting older people and debunking the myths and stereotypes of older workers. 35% of the UK workforce are now over 50 and they are healthier, more skilled, better educated and more dynamic than ever before. Jobs on Trading Times can be anything from gardening to bookkeeping, from doing editing work at home to working in a busy office or shop. They can be part-time every day, for an hour or two a week, or a one-off project. To learn more about this initiative, click on the video below.


Michael McSorley

Back in March, Michael reflected on how he felt on his last day at work. Here he regales us with memories of his 60th birthday party, just a couple of weeks before he bade his work colleagues farewell. To read Michael's "address to the nation" on this auspicious occasion, click here.

Jeanette Lewis

This month Jeanette looks at "purposeful living" and describe some techniques you can use for finding your purpose in retirement. To read Jeanette's article, click here.


Reflections is intended to showcase short pieces of poetry or prose that reflect on our life experience. This month features another poem by my late friend and colleague, Philip Clarke. Here Phil is in pensive mood, musing on how our obsession with "doing" prevents us from stopping long enough to take the time to consider who we really want to be.

To read Philips poem "Silence", click here.


This months our cinema goers have been to see "Manglehorn", staring Al Pacino. To read their review, click here