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 November 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

Researching Retirement

By 2024 there will be 18 million people over 60 in the UK. More than 1 person in 4! That makes retirees a very significant grouping in our society. In 2015 the Big Lottery Fund awarded a £50 million ten year endowment to the Centre for Ageing Better. The Centre's primary aim is to support a good quality of life in older age and promote the benefits of an ageing society by bridging the gap between research, evidence and practice. A new Report by the Centre, in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, has found that one in five adults (20%) who retired in the last five years admitted to finding the transition difficult,

The survey was carried out by YouGov, an international Internet-based market research and data analytics firm, headquartered in the UK. It included more than 1,000 people across the UK who had retired in the last five years, and more than 1,000 who were anticipating retiring within the next five years. The data revealed that only around half (56%) of UK workers planning to retire in the next five years were looking forward to it, with 41% worried about managing their money, 33% concerned about feeling bored and 32% concerned about missing their social connections from work. Nearly a quarter were worried about losing their purpose (24%). Some 17% of workers were also worried about being lonely in retirement.

Exploring Retirement was originally conceived to address these issues, especially the concerns of those about to retire who receive no help or guidance on the many opportunities for personal fulfilment that retirement can bring. Our regular readers will have noted that we emphasise the importance of establishing new social connections. Psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad, undertook an analysis of 148 research studies published over 28 years to see if there was a relationship between the level of social engagement and longevity. She defined social engagement in terms of the size of someone's friendship network, whether one lived alone, and how often one participated in social activities. Holt-Lunstad's analyses indicated that across all the studies, those with large social networks, living with others, and who had high participation in social activities lived longer than those less socially engaged. People who had larger networks of friends increased their chance of survival by the end of the study by 50% over those who had fewer friends.

The Centre for Ageing Better study also involved an evaluation of seven pilot pre-retirement workshops, delivered by different charities, which focused particularly on building resilience and emotional well-being. It found that participants had improved confidence and perceptions of ageing - even six to twelve months after the workshops had ended. Having the opportunity to reflect and take stock of their strengths, skills and personal attributes boosted the participants' sense of self-worth, and left them feeling better equipped and confident to deal with change and future challenges. They reported a much more positive outlook and attitude to later life as well as a greater appreciation of the importance of their social relationships and the role they would play in their life in future.

To end on a positive note - the Report found that retirement was a very positive experience for many. 62% of workers who had retired in the last five years reported feeling more relaxed, 41% said they spent more time on their hobbies or started new ones, 20% became more involved in their communities. Exploring Retirement aims to play our part in the movement towards making this new life phase a positive and fulfilling experience for everone.

Featured Activity: Research as a creative activity in retirement

At first glance researching retirement may seem an unlikely outlet for the creative drive in retirees. But consider

  • The sheer numbers of retirees available to study
  • How accessible these subjects are
  • The diversity of life experience and interests they represent

Really the question should be, "why isn't more research into this fascinating cohort of our population being pursued?" There is obviously a need here which retirees themselves are ideally placed to fill. Unfortunately, for too many people, research is perceived as something carried out by universities. They doubt the value of any contribution they might make. While this is true to an extent, there is really no reason why non-academics should not get involved. In the social sciences there are two usual approaches to research of this kind

  1. In depth interviews with 20 - 30 individuals, or
  2. Large scale studies using questionnaires and requiring statistical analysis.

The first approach requires an open-minded attitude, with good listening skills very important. It is ideally suited to older people who have a rapport with the subjects of the interviews. The second approach is usually more expensive and does require a sound knowledge of statistical techniques. The two approaches are ideally used together, as the more in depth interview often reveals issues that can then be explored in the larger scale study. In this way retirees can make a real contribution to academic research.

The Ransackers Project

The Ransackers Project was set up in the UK in 2004 to enable people over 55 who had not previously had the opportunity of higher education, to go to college to study and to research a topic of their own choosing, and write a project. The participants viewed the project as an "Educational Adventure" because it enabled people of 55 + years, who had not previously had the opportunity of higher education, to engage in college life, studying and researching a project of their choosing. The colleges provided the necessary tutorial, IT and study skills support, as many students would not have written an essay or thought about academic work since they left school.

The project was intended to explore the meanings, social value and impact of serious study in later life by drawing upon the experiences and expertise of older learners. The end result for the students was a 5-10,000 word thesis on their research. Having renewed the learning bug, some Ransackers went on to complete full degrees and several completed PhDs! All Ransackers students returned to their communities better informed and more confident to carry out whatever commitments they had.

The Ransackers Association was then set up by former students, who wanted to ensure that the amazing opportunities of the Ransackers Project were continued for as many people as possible. In the present more stringent financial situation, the Ransackers Association is actively investigating ways they can run more educational courses for older people who missed out on Higher Education when they were young.

In 2016/17 the Ransackers are undertaking research, with funding from the Averil Osborn Fund, to investigate the value of serious study in later life, for both benefit to the individual and the wider aspects of older people as citizens who are a contributory resource for society. A team of researchers, all over 55, are being supported by academics who are experts in the study of ageing, and who provide coaching and support via 3 workshops, e-mail and telephone throughout the 12 month project.

To learn more about the Ransackers Association, and the issues involved in running a project like this, take a look at this video interview:


Michael McSorley

Listening to music, whether recorded or live can, at first glance, appear to be a passive experience. But, as Michael's article demonstrates, it can also be both intellectually and emotionally, profoundly moving. Click here to read Michael's account of the most recent performance in Northern Ireland by the world famous Mariinsky Orchestra.

Jeanette Lewis

Like most people these days you may feel that the world is spinning faster! Jeanette has been mulling over the effect the increasing pace of change is having on us all. You can read Jeanette's thoughtful article by clicking here