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.

Welcome to the March 2018 edition of Exploring Retirement. In 2018 we are exploring some of the roles open to people in "retirement". Not necessarily full-time, not necessarily paid but all of them interesting!

As awareness grows of the huge and growing number of active retirees, so new initiatives are springing up to cater for their needs. This month we feature Retired 4 Hire, a website that aims to match people with skills developed over a lifetime, to those who have a need for those skills.

Exploring Retirement is fast becoming the most comprehensive source of ideas for an active retirement lifestyle on the internet.

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.

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

Work, Retirement and Identity

"We are in the midst of an extraordinary transition that few of us are prepared for. If we get it right, it will be a real gift. To ignore and fail to prepare will be a curse. Just as globalisation and technology changed how people lived and worked, so over the coming years increasing longevity will do the same." Gratton and Scott - The 100 Year Life.

In the UK the Government Department of Work and Pensions estimate that about 12 million people are not saving enough to provide them with an adequate pension when they retire. The Government have introduced a number of measures to tackle the problem. These include automatic enrolment into a pension scheme and people having to work longer before receiving their pension. In the 100 Year Life, Gratton and Scott envisage a scenario were people will move in and out of employment over a much longer timescale than at present. They suggest a multi-stage life with a variety of careers, with breaks and transitions.

Most people hold a number of jobs in their working life. Few people find these transitions a pleasant experience. After the initial excitement of accepting a new job offer it is not unusual to experience some doubts about whether we are doing the right thing. When we do eventually take up our new responsibilities there is inevitably a steep learning curve while we adjust to our new role.

Herminia Ibarra is a Professor at the London Business School. Thinkers 50 has ranked her among the most influential management thinkers in the world. Professor Ibarra believes that changing roles also involves redefining our identity – how we think of ourselves. This does not mean swopping one identity for another but rather it is a transition process in which we reconfigure the full set of possibilities that lie within us. “Who we are is not a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. Rather it is defined by the things we do, the company we keep and the stories we tell ourselves". [1] The transition from employment to retirement is really no different. It provokes similar feelings of uncertainty as we struggle to redefine who we are in this new role. Our new identity in retirement will be defined by the new activities we engage in, the new friends we make and the story we tell ourselves to tie it all together.

"Sticking Points"

Professor Ibarra has identified a number of "sticking points" that can block a successful transition. These include -

  1. Not knowing what else you can do. This is basic. Retirement for most people is an undiscovered country. It is still the case that most people who retire in the UK are given no help whatever with coming to terms with their new role. For some, it can seem a desert. The reality, as Exploring Retirement aims to show, is very different.
  2. Not allowing enough time for the process of discovery. Ideally planning for the third age should begin about five years before retirement. This time can be used to explore ideas and try some new activities. Most people however don't have the luxury of a long run up to retirement. Hence we must expect and plan for an extended period of adjustment.
  3. Thinking about your skills in a functionally specific way. This is a very common mistake. Most people develop a wide variety of "transferable skills" during their career. If you have any doubts about what you have to offer, try putting "transferable skills" into Google. You will be pleasantly surprised by how many useful skills you have
  4. Feeling you have to start again from the beginning. Perhaps you do, but you don't have to start where someone else says you should! As an adult you can decide how you want to proceed. A little thinking "outside the box" can help.
  5. Not including others in your plans. This is an important one for retirees. Every study on well-being in retirement tells us that having someone close that you can share your life with is important. Ideally you both want time for your own pursuits, to develop new friendships and new interests. This makes you both more interesting people to be with when you do spend time together. It is important at the beginning of your retirement to have this conversation.
  6. Remember staying is risky too! Some of the saddest retired people I know are still living in the past, hanging on to their old identity, reliving the "glory days" of their career. Reminiscence can be therapeutic from time to time, but the "third age" is a time for self fulfilment. Each of us has a new life out there waiting to be discovered.

Professor Ibarra sums up her thinking on life transitions like this - “Adults are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting”.

References: [1] Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career

Featured Activity:The Age Employment Network

When I retired at the end of September 2006, the mandatory retirement age was 65. The day after I retired the mandatory retirement age in the UK was done away with. Had the date for it's abolishment been one day earlier, my employer could not have insisted on my retirement. Fortunately for me I was quite happy to leave the job that I had been doing for 37 years. Been there, done that and got the T-shirt!

I was fortunate in that I had access to a good quality final salary pension scheme which I had paid into all my working life, so I could afford to stop work. Not everyone is so fortunate. I know at least one individual who is still working as he approaches his 70th birthday, not from choice but from economic necessity. In the UK many workers are dependent solely on the pension provided by the State. The age at which this pension can be accessed is set to rise to 66 by October 2020, then to 67 between 2026 and 2028. Further increases have been penciled in after that. The argument for these changes is that people are living longer and in better health. Some may but not every one.

The Age Employment Network

The Age Employment Network (TAEN) was set up by the Shaw Trust, a national charity in the UK, providing employment opportunities, skills development training and health and well-being services. TAEN is a dedicated resource for older people who are seeking work or who are already in work. The TAEN website includes information on the barriers older jobseekers face, the modern job market and the best techniques for navigating it.

50+ Lives

I have included this short video from the TAEN website because it illustrates how work is changing. A "job for life" now seems to be a thing of the past for many people. In the third age many are seeking work that provides more than simply "a living wage". They are looking for work that they find personally meaningful and that allows them the freedom to employ their abilities as they would choose to do.

The lady in the video has had quite a range of jobs during her working life. The underlying reason for her changing roles seems to have been a need to find more personal fulfilment from the work she was doing. At one point in her story she finds herself questioning why she was working at a job with a commercial firm that was not in keeping with her core values. Being older made her realise that it was not what she believed in and that she needed to change. Watching this video you can see how she underwent a process of self discovery. Her increasing self confidence providing the drive for increasing autonomy. She has clearly reached a point in her life were she feels the need to take control and choose which of many possible futures is right for her.


Michael McSorley

Michael begins his essay by considering whether there is a best time for achieving different things, including learning a new language. In Northern Ireland our local power sharing Assembly has failed to reach agreement on an Irish Language Act. Michael makes the case that Irish was once commonly spoken and should not be allowed to become a source of division. To read Michael's essay, click here.

Jeanette Lewis

Nowadays everyone knows they need to eat a "healthy" diet but what exactly does this entail? Jeanette takes a look at our food habits in retirement. To read her take on this subject, click here.

Quote - Unquote

"When you're twenty you care what everyone thinks, when you are forty you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you are sixty you realise that no one was ever thinking about you in the first place."

Winston Churchill