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 May 2018 edition of Exploring Retirement. In 2018 we will be exploring some of the roles open to people in "retirement". Not necessarily full-time, not necessarily paid but all of them interesting! This month we are looking at generativity, a concept that dates back to the work of Professor Erik Erikson in the 1950's. By generativity Erikson meant "a concern for establishing and guiding the next generation". While the idea has been around a long time, the present cohort of older people are taking it in new directions.

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

Quote - Unquote

"The only thing of importance, when we depart, will be the traces of love we have left behind".

Albert Schweitzer

New Directions in Generativity

The concept of generativity was first proposed by Professor Erik Erickson in his well-known theory of life stages. According to Erikson, many older people feel an urge to "give something back", to pass on the benefits of their knowledge and experience to others. In each life stage Erikson proposed that there were a range of possibilities. "Generativity" is one extreme while "stagnation" is the other. Stagnation describes the self-centred individual who is solely concerned about their own welfare.

As he grew older himself, Erikson's reviewed his theory in his book "The Life Cycle Completed", which placed particular stress on the penultimate life stage of generatively versus stagnation. This stage immediately precedes the final life stage of "integrity" versus "despair". Developing concern for others helps the individual in the final stage to see the value in their own life. In the passages referring to generativity, Erikson points out that this stage can be the longest, lasting 30 years or more. He refers to this stage as "a wonderful time to be alive, cared for and caring".

It is important to point out the generatively and despair are not the only options! Rather Erikson intended them to be seen as opposite ends of a spectrum of behaviour. Most people demonstrate some form of generatively to some extent. It could be taking your grandchild to the park, helping a neighbour or volunteering with a church or community group.

As is so often the case with altruistic behaviour, there can be as much benefit for the giver as the receiver. In a nationwide survey in the US, Keyes and Ryff (1998) provided extensive documentation of generativity's relation to psychological well-being. Supporting people emotionally, feeling obligated to society, having generative concern, seeing oneself as a resource and possessing more generative personal qualities were all found to be associated with higher levels of psychological and social well-being.

While helping with grandchildren is probably the most common form of generatively experienced by older adults, it is by no means the only outlet for the desire to contribute to others. In recent years there has been a great deal of interest in the idea of "mentoring". The Oxford English dictionary defines a mentor as "an experienced and trusted adviser".

A Research Study Into Volunteer Mentoring In Northern Ireland, described mentoring as “a formal voluntary arrangement where an experienced individual provides one- to-one support and encouragement over a period of time to another person in order to assist them set and achieve goals; develop their skills; manage their own learning and development; and maximise their potential to become the person they want to be”. As the baby boomers move into the third age, it should not surprise anyone if they explore new ways to give back. We have much to offer in terms of knowledge and experience.

Featured Activity: Mentoring in Retirement

In the UK and Ireland, interest in the concept of mentoring has been growing, to the extent that there are now a significant number of mentoring schemes in a wide variety of settings. There are also two umbrella agencies, based in Britain: The European Mentoring Centre, which focuses primarily on mentoring as a development tool in the workplace and The National Mentoring Network which is playing a lead role in the development of one-to-one mentoring schemes, particularly with marginalised young people.

Mentoring can encompass all the life stages, from the very old to the very young. Here are just some examples of programmes available in the UK:

  1. Supporting primary school and transition pupils

  2. Mentor Link is a UK charity that aims to provide additional pastoral support to schools by providing them with a dedicated mentoring service for children and young people. The mentors work with young people in the school setting who are not reaching their potential and disengaging from their learning.

    Mentor Link look for volunteers that can show

    • Good listening skills
    • Reliability and punctuality
    • Patience and perseverance
    • Non-judgemental
    • Empathy
    • Positive outlook
    • Willing to commit for at least 6 months

    Older adults with a lifetime of experience to call on, should possess these skills in abundance.

    You can watch a short video featuring a retired volunteer with Mentor Link here:

  3. Youth Advocate.

  4. In England and Wales the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) provides advocacy and legal representation to children and vulnerable adults when important decisions are being made about them. The children and young people NYAS work with might be in care, have a disability or special needs, be subject to child protection plans, have mental health difficulties or their parents might be separating.

    NYAS Independent Visitor Programme matches volunteers with children and young people who are particularly vulnerable. Each volunteer is matched with a child or young person in care in their local area. Our volunteers commit to spending time with their young person each month – helping their child or young person to engage in new experiences, share interests and hobbies and have fun.

  5. Adult Literacy Tutor
  6. Helping an adult to learn to read can be very rewarding. Further Education colleges offer Adult Literacy classes for adults who, for one reason or another, never managed to learn to read properly. For example, they may have undiagnosed dyslexia. The colleges also offer courses for adults who would like to obtain a recognised certification as a literacy tutor.

  7. Mentoring a business startup
  8. There is a huge demand for experienced business managers to mentor young entrepreneurs who are just starting their own business. My eldest daughter started her own food company a few years ago so I asked her to write a short note on how important mentoring was to her. To read about her experience both of being mentored and of subsequently becoming a mentor, click here.


Michael McSorley

Michael's regular readers will know of his fascination with language. This month he returns to English. For native speakers the language makes perfect sense, that is until they stop to think about it. Probably better not to!

Click here to learn more.

Jeanette Lewis

This month Jeanette picks up on the appointment in the UK of a Minister for Loneliness. It appears that loneliness in our society is more wide spread than anyone imagined. To read Jeanette's article, click here

Photo Gallery

Last week my wife and I visited Mount Stewart, a local National Trust property that is just a few minutes drive from our home. The Trust at Mount Stewart are engaged in a programme to encourage and protect the indigenous red squirrels which are in danger of being displaced by the grey squirrels that arrived here some years ago from North America.

The main threat to red squirrels is the spread of the invasive non-native grey squirrel. Grey squirrels are larger and more robust and have replaced reds in many parts of Northern Ireland, out-competing them for food and habitat and introducing squirrel pox, a disease that is fatal to reds.

On our walk we met local nature photographer Lesley Barker. Lesley was photographing the many species of bird life that have made their home in the woods at Mount Stewart. The property is one of the best places in the country to see red squirrels and Lesley very kindly agreed to share one of her amazing pictures with our readers. Enjoy!