Exploring Retirement

Welcome to the January 2016 edition of Exploring Retirement! Each month we provide articles on well-being in retirement and also feature an activity to explore. Exploring Retirement is written by and for retired people, to assist active retirees make the most of their additional years of good health. In the past many people found when they retired that there was very little help or guidance available. The Exploring Retirement web site is intended to fill that gap. No one knows it all, we are all explorers in this new land. We hope that by sharing what we have learnt with you, that you in turn will want to share what you have learnt with others. We trust that you will enjoy our monthly publication and please do tell your friends about the site. All of us at Exploring Retirement wish our readers a Happy New Year!

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

Regrets and Resolutions

At the beginning of a new year many people make resolutions to be better in some way in the months to come. Often our good intentions don't last very long. While "I should ..." may only provide a stick to beat yourself with, it can be a worthwhile exercise to review your life with the intention of minimising those things that someday you may wish you had taken action over.

Bronnie Ware was a palliative nurse working with patients who were dying. She recorded their regrets in a best selling book "The top five regrets of the dying". We should read each of these statements not as regrets but as positive, future oriented resolutions that inform our own lives.

  1. I wish I had had the courage to live a life that was true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

    This was the most common regret of all, when people looked back over their lives and realised that they had not fulfilled the dreams they once had. Often they had made wrong choices or had made no choice at all. While we still can, we should act to realise our dreams. Often we are held back by the fear of failure. There is a Chinese saying "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". Determine to take that first exploratory step and see where it leads you.

    "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

  2. I wish I hadn't spent so much of my life at work.

    This was a very common regret, particularly among men, who pursued their career at the expense of spending time with their families. We can't relive the past but we can take control of the present and live as we would wish from here on.

  3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

    Often this was the result of not wanting to upset someone else. We need to learn to tell others how we feel while not sounding as though we are blaming them. Above all, we need to listen. If we pay close attention to our loved ones for long enough, we may begin to hear what they are trying to tell us. As we begin to reflect with them, they in turn may start to understand us a little better.

  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

    The findings from the Harvard Longitudinal Study of Aging have shown just how important our social relationships are. This major study has thrown up three important results -

    • Good relationships predict health, happiness and longevity across the lifespan .
    • It's the quality of our relationships that matters rather than the quantity.
    • Being in a close relationship benefits the mind as well as the body, especially memory.

    The Harvard study also reveals that it is not that others care about you so much, as that you care about them. Close friendships don't just happen, they need to be nurtured. New friendships don't arise spontaneously, they are more likely to happen when we meet with people who share our interests. We have to accept that this takes time and we need to be patient. It's not necessarily our fault if it doesn't always work out, but it is our fault if we don't try.

  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

    It can come as a shock to realise how much of our happiness is really down to ourselves and the choices we make. The 5th century commentary on the Jewish Bible (The Talmud) says that when you get to Heaven you will be held accountable for all the good things in life that you could have enjoyed but did not do so. We had better start enjoying ourselves while we can!

Reflecting on these five statements, we can see that they revolve around failing to pursue what really matters to us. Our hopes and dreams and spending time with the people we care about. Reflecting on his own later life, American psychologist and founder of person-centred counselling, Carl Rogers, had this to say ...

"Increasingly I discover that being alive involves taking a chance, acting on less than certainty, engaging with life. All this brings change and for me the process of change is life. I realise that if I were stable and static it would be a living death."

Our five New Years Resolutions were summed up over two thousand years ago, by Rabbi Hillel:

If I am not for myself then who will be for me?

But when I am for myself, then what am I?

And if not now, when?

Featured Activity - Streetbank

Streetbank is a community project designed to bring neighbourhoods closer together and make the world a little bit nicer. Not every initiative we write about in Exploring Retirement is exclusively for older people. This is deliberately so since it is important to develop social connections with people of all ages. That way we avoid the trap of painting ourselves into a corner labelled "old". Streetbank is an initiative that affords opportunities for you to connect with local people, in a helping capacity that is irrespective of age. As one of the participants in the video remarks "It makes you feel good!"

Streetbank gives neighbours the opportunity to offer their time and skills - or lend and give away consumer products - to anyone living within one mile of their home. Streetbank's vision is that sharing with your neighbours becomes normal. It hopes to bring neighbours together - to foster community and generosity by encouraging people to share their things, skills and time. When a person joins Streetbank, they have their own unique 1 mile catchment area and receive a weekly newsletter showing new members, new offers and wants and local announcements.

Since they started a year ago, the Streetbank team have seen small acts of generosity like neighbours giving away strawberry plants and tomato cuttings through to witnessing big acts like sorting out an elderly neighbours back garden or giving away an unused piano. They have seen people lend ladders, power hoses, guide books and fancy dress outfits. They have also seen people baking bread, making pies and giving away some old bottles of champagne that were unwanted after their owner went teetotal!

Streetbank now has over 20,000 members sharing 25,000 items and is growing by nearly 10% a month. To learn more about how Streetbank got started, click here to view the website or take a look at the video -


Michael McSorley

Michael click here.

Jeanette Lewis

Jeanette Click here.

Retirement: My Way

After teaching for twenty years, Cecil Holmes took a career "turn" and joined an organisation which, ultimately, became the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum. Examinations and Assessment (CCEA). Here he found a new and stimulating challenge advising the Department of Education on how best to link, more effectively, what was being taught in schools to the needs of the economy. Now, "employability", is a distinct aspect of the statutory provision in primary and post-primary schools.

Some years ago Cecil visited Vietnam, mainly because he remembered the horrific television images of the Vietnam War or the American War as the Vietnamese prefer to call it. He wanted to get a better understanding not only of the country but also of how the people dealt with such a trauma. We all remember that iconic image of the little naked girl running away from a napalm explosion - The Girl in the Picture. Over the years he returned several times to Vietnam but always expanding his travels to include other Asian countries. He fell in love with the infectious smiles and optimism of the Khmer people of Cambodia where many suffer from poverty, exacerbated by endemic corruption in government and in society.

When Cecil finished full-time employment he volunteered in different parts of Cambodia before settling with the Buddhist NGO - Life and Hope Association - located at the Wat Damnak Pagoda in Siem Reap. His current responsibility is to help the Monks to manage a small school where young enthusiastic learners from poorer families can study English.

To read about Cecil's experience of living and working in Cambodia, 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. As we settle into winter, Phil's poem "Flurry" seems appropriate to this season of snow and ice. His exhortation to "weave ourselves into the greater pattern" is a beautiful metaphor for life.

To read "Flurry", by Philip Clarke, click here.