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.

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 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.

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

Welcome to the May 2017 edition of Exploring Retirement! In 2017 we are focussing on different creative activities in retirement, especially those that offer the opportunity to make new friends. If you are engaged in an unusual creative activity, we would love to hear from you.

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

How crafts contribute to well-being in retirement

If the goal is to try, and you do, you have succeeded. - Professor Dorothy Cantor

Dorothy Cantor is making a very important point. Of course you may never paint like Van Gogh or sing like Caruso. You would be very foolish to make emulating these exceptionally gifted individuals your life goal. But you can try painting or try joining a choir. and if you make trying your goal, you will succeed. Too many people say things like "I can't dance - I have two left feet". Fred Astaire you may never be, but if you can walk in a straight line, you can dance. After all dancing is just walking set to music!

Professor Csikszentmihalyi has spent many years studying why people engage in activities for their own sake. He has summarised his findings in the concept of "flow". You experience flow when your skills are fully employed in meeting a challenge. When the challenge and the necessary skills are in balance then your attention becomes ordered and you feel fully invested in the activity. To quote:-

"A person in flow is completely focused. There is no space in consciousness for distracting thoughts or irrelevant feelings. Self-consciousness disappears and the sense of time is distorted so that hours may pass in what seems like minutes. When we are in "flow" we do not actually experience a sense of well-being at the time, because we are too busy to focus on our emotions. It is only afterwards when we can look back at what we have achieved that we experience a sense of well-being - in retrospect we are happy".

Two quotes from a recent Report from Voluntary Arts England, entitled Restoring The Balance, support Professor Csikszentmihalyi's stance:-

"When I'm throwing pots on a wheel I almost go into a meditative state. I lose myself in it. I think about really positive things as I am making, channelling that energy into what I make. I think that I haven't had the space in my life before where I can have those positive thoughts that I get when I am doing arts activities."

"I really enjoy being in the process and how it feeds back to me. I find it deeply engaging to be in that intense creative place. You are consciousness immersed in activity. I relish that, it's such a delicious place to be."

Be inspired!

Mrs Doris McCleery, was a retired teacher and minister's wife who in her final years came to live in a retirement home in Northern Ireland. Doris was a talented artist of wood carving and floral illustrations. She took up a new challenge at the home in 2013, when she began to work modelling clay. Her artistic talents were displayed throughout the home.

In February 2014 Doris achieved local recognition when her ceramics were selected for an exhibition in the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. She was 103 at the time!

Doris is pictured here with one of her ceramics.

Retirement Activities - Building Models

"Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with man's physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed."- Baudelaire

One of my childhood memories is of watching a young man flying a model aeroplane in our local park. The aeroplane had a wingspan of several metres and was powered by a small petrol engine. It was controlled by two long steel wires connected to a handle. He could make it take off, circle, perform acrobatics and land safely. I was fascinated!

Imagine my surprise, 60 years later to find that this hobby is still very much alive and well. Here in Northern Ireland we have no less than 9 separate model flying clubs! Part of the fun of owning a model aircraft is building and maintaining it. As a boy i could not have afforded the large scale model I saw demonstrated in our local park but I did manage to acquire a simple balsa wood kit and became the proud owner of a Beechcraft Bonanza! You have to experience it for yourself to understand the pleasure to be derived from watching all those flimsy bits of balsa wood turn into a proper flying machine. For those with artistic ability, you can also paint the completed model to look like the real thing.

What is involved?

There are lots of excellent ARTF (almost ready to fly) models available which can be assembled in a few evenings. Most model aircraft these days are powered by either a petrol engine or an electric motor. The planes nowadays are radio controlled with a transmitter and a receiver plus a servo mechanism to allow you to steer the aircraft. Luckily the radio equipment can be interchanged for every model that you will ever own, as it can be quite expensive. Before splashing out you would be advised to contact your nearest club and go along to watch what goes on. Most members would be only too happy to offer advice and guidance if you do decide to get involved. To learn more, visit the website of the British Model Flying Association by clicking here.

Model railways

Round where i live we have a thriving model railway society. But they don't just play with trains. Take a look at this video clip from their 2016 Exhibition. There is much more to this hobby than just the trains, although they are pretty amazing. Look at the scenery and sheer attention to detail, not to mention the wonderful artistry on display.

Modelling enthusiasts don't just want to play with trains. Quite a few of them want to be an engine driver! This next video clip shows what can be achieved by a few dedicated individuals. It is worth mentioning that this scale model is open to the public and has provided children of all ages with hours of fun as well as raising money for local charities. I have a lovely memory of bringing my children to Drumawhey when they were young. The enthusiasts had a organised a "throw your teddy" competition. They used s "cherry picker" crane as a launching pad from which to hurl the children's teddies as far as they could go. Of course, each teddy possessed a fully functional parachute! My kids loved it.

Preserving Our Railway Heritage

100 years ago Northern Ireland was covered by a railway network that connected all the main towns. In the1950's and 60's most of this extensive network was closed down. However there are still many people who remember the "days of steam". The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland maintain a museum at Whitehead in Northern Ireland, where all the locomotives and carriages in the RPSI's Northern Ireland collection are stored. Here is where all locomotive maintenance and overhaul is carried out. The station consists of a station building (housing a shop open on their Summer Steam days), a platform, a short running line for public demonstrations and to allow the shunting of their stock. Beyond the station are the sheds housing the engineering equipment and stores necessary to maintain Ireland's mainline steam train fleet.

The members operate steam-hauled excursions over the present day Irish railway network for families and enthusiasts.To learn more click here.

The enthusiasm for steam doesn't stop there though. The Downpatrick & County Down Railway (DCDR) was set up in 1985 by a group of enthusiastic volunteers with the aim of restoring a portion of the former Belfast and County Down Railway as a working railway museum, incorporating the various aspects of Northern Ireland's railway heritage. Since it's inception this group of volunteers have restored track and rebuilt bridges to provide access to a number of important heritage sites. To learn more about their remarkable achievement click here.


Michael McSorley

Michael has been on a family holiday to Crete, which, by happy coincidence, coincided with the Greek Easter. His article describes his experience of the island and, in particular, attending a Greek Orthodox Easter Service. Click here to read about his time in Crete.

Jeanette Lewis

Many retired people join a book club or a course on literature. Jeanette has been reading a new first novel by a Canadian writer who teaches at Bath Spa University. It's a story about an 83 year old lady who decides to walk across Canada but can of course be read as a metaphor for the journey of life. To read what she made of it, click here