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 October 2017 edition of Exploring Retirement! In 2017 we are focussing on different aspects of creative activity in retirement, especially those activities that offer the opportunity to make new friends. If you are engaged in an unusual creative activity, we would love to hear from you Contact editor@exploringretirement.co.uk. .

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 benefits of creativity in retirement

Creativity in older age has been shown to positively influence both mental and physical health. The process of creating something new and its effect on one's attitude toward life may be more important than the actual product or any tangible outcome. Older adults who engage in creative activities can strengthen their sense of self competence and feeling of autonomy, which, according to leading motivation researchers, Professors Ed Deci and Richard Ryan, lead to enhanced well-being. Therefore, in terms of novel productions, it is not only the end result, but the process of getting there that benefits the older adult.

While many activities are typically thought of as creative, such as painting, there are also many others that are not traditionally identified as such, but that do provide opportunities to use our creative talents. Many older people are put off trying to be creative because that think they need to be Picasso! They should keep in mind Abram Maslow's comment that it is more creative to bake a first rate cake than to paint a second rate picture!

Links with creative activities are to be found everywhere in the literature on psychological well-being. Being creative has been shown to produce greater mental clarity and awareness and improved emotional states. Here are some examples of creative activities that anyone can engage in and which have ben shown in research studies to produce positive outcomes in terms of personal well-being.

This short video clip shows that age is no barrier to taking up dancing if you really want to -

The benefits of any creative activity are enhanced when enjoyed in a social setting. This is very much in accordance with Deci and Ryan's Self-Determination theory of motivation, that postulates that humans have innate needs to experience competence and autonomy, in the company of like-minded others. While we can enjoy a sense of accomplishment from using our skills on our own, our enjoyment is enhanced when we are in the ccompany of others whose regard we value.

Featured Activity: Retirement, Creativity and the Internet

Creative activities like writing, photography, playing a music instrument, handicrafts etc have been around for a very long time. The internet though provides whole new dimensions to explore which can greatly enhance your awareness of what is possible.. When I was a teenager trying to learn t o play the guitar, all there was to learn from was sheet music, written for piano. Nowadays you can find a wealth of instructional videos on YouTube that can show you exactly how it is done note-by-note and you don't even need to read music!

An important first step in becoming creative is to acquire the fundamental knowledge of the field you wish to master, whether it is learning to draw a picture or edit a video. This process takes time and does require a certain degree of what psychologists call "self-regulation". If you do decide to use the internet to master a new skill then you will need to set aside some time each week on a regular basis. Don't be too ambitious, better to invest half an hour once a week and keep at it, than to allocate major chunks of your time only to become bored and frustrated.

Here are a few examples drawn from my own experience. This is creativity with a small "c", but lots of small creative moments add up to a more fulfilling life.

  • Writing for your grandchildren. Our grandchildren live in England, so we only get to see them two or three times a year. When they were small my wife had the idea of keeping in touch by writing them bedtime stories. The stories were based around real incidents in their lives that we learnt about from our daughter. They always featured the children by name so that they were the star! I searched the internet for appropriate pictures with which to illustrate the story line, as well as using pictures of the kids themselves. Our grandchildren loved these personal story books and creating them helped us keep in touch with their lives.
  • Photography, including video. Nowadays you can share photos pretty well instantly from your mobile phone or on social media sites like Facebook. To learn more about internet available photo editing software click here

    My eldest daughter recently expressed interest in our family history which has inspired me to return to an ongoing project to create a short video with scenes from my hometown where I grew up. Video editing software that allows you to splice together short clips and add voice over narration is now widely available.

    My wife learnt a salutary lesson recently when she tried to log in to her iPad using the wrong password. After three attempts her iPad locked and there was no way to unlock it without losing all the photos she had stored on it. This would not have happened if her photos had been backed up elsewhere. It took an hour and a half phone call to Apple support but now every photo she takes is backed up in iCloud! It is important to keep up-to-date and having a hobby like photography makes you learn new things.

  • Dance. My wife and I began classes in ballroom sequence dancing some years ago. We have learnt lots of dances (including waltz, quickstep, foxtrot, jive) in that time but more importantly we have made lots of new friends. It is worth noting for anyone on a low income in retirement, that sequence dancing is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment to be found. Add in a cup of tea and a biscuit and it is practically for nothing! One of the first things I do these days when we are learning a new dance is check it out on YouTube. If it is online, then I can learn it at my own pace (slow,slow, slow).
  • A 2003 study looking at leisure activities and the risk of dementia in later life found that while mental stimulation, such as frequent crossword solving, reduced the chance of developing dementia in later life, physical activity generally did not. The major exception was frequent ballroom dancing which brought about a 46% reduction in the chances of developing dementia and was the most beneficial of all the hobbies and leisure activities examined. That is a phenomenal benefit.

Take a look at these two!


Michael McSorley

It seems appropriate given our emphasis on creativity, that Michael has chosen to write about his experience of attending the Edinburgh Arts Festival the world's largest festival celebrating creativity in the arts. . Click here to read how he survived what sounds like a hectic few days!

Jeanette Lewis

Jeanette takes a look at an often neglected aspect of healthy ageing, namely looking after our teeth. Many people are not aware that gum disease is associated with heart disease. I have a dental check up twice a year as a preventative measure. Read Jeanettes article here