x Exploring Retirement

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 July 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! This month we are looking at crafting, a concept that has been developed by Professor Jane Dutton at the University of Michigan. Jane has studied the different ways in which people "craft" their work in a number of settings but here we examine whether the concept can be be usefully applied in retirement.

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

Positive Retirement Study

Researchers at Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK) are conducting research to better understand what makes a positive, healthy retirement. They believe this is an important topic due to the number of older adults who have a negative retirement experience, for example, feeling depressed, lonely, or have poor physiological health.

The research team are currently recruiting retirees (or soon to be), to take part in a longitudinal study which will track their experience from employment to retirement. We hope that by taking part in this research and contributing to the knowledge around retirement transitions, you can help future retirees enjoy their well-deserved retirement.

To learn more about the study, please click here.

Crafting Your Retirement

Job crafting was first investigated by Jane Dutton, Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology at the University of Michigan. She noticed that the happiest workers were those who didn’t work strictly to their job description but adapted their role to be a better fit for the kind of person they were and the values they believed in.

Professor Dutton defined job crafting as “the physical and cognitive changes individuals make in the tasks or relational boundaries of their work”. It is interesting to apply this concept to activity in retirement to see if it can be made to fit and, if so, how it might work in practice.

Professor Dutton found that people took three different approaches to crafting their work role -

Crafting Activities

You can change an activity by adding or subtracting, expanding or diminishing their scope, or changing how they are performed or who they are performed with. It is quite normal for the newly retired to try a number of new activities in the early years of their retirement. Often these are things we may have dreamed of doing but never had the time while we were working. Sometimes our dreams work out according to our expectations and sometimes we may be disappointed. Before giving up however it can be worthwhile to consider whether we can make the reality come closer to the dream.

To illustrate how crafting an activity might be achieved in practice, let me recount a conversation I had some years ago with a lady who mentioned that her hobby was oil painting. She attended a weekly painting class which she really enjoyed. I asked her to tell me more about it and this what she said “I have made some great friends through painting. Every couple of months we go of together as a group to a cottage in the mountains for a painting weekend. In the morning we go walking together with our sketch pads looking for suitable views to paint, then in the afternoon we focus on creating a picture. In the evening we all go out to a local restaurant for a meal and afterwards we go back to the cottage. Some of the group bring fiddles or guitars and we have a great old singsong! Last year a number of us went to Paris together for a painting weekend and that was great fun too.” Just look at the additional activities that this painting group had crafted - walking in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, supporting each other with their creative efforts, sharing a meal and good conversation and finally, making music together. Any one of these would be rewarding in it’s own right.

Crafting Your Relationships.

You can change the nature or extent of your interactions with other people. For example, my wife joined a dance exercise class at her local leisure centre. She enjoyed the class in it's own right but then a small group started going for coffee and chat afterwards. The class lasts an hour, the coffee and chat often last twice as long and she has made lots of new friends in the process!

Crafting Your Perceptions.

You can change how you think about why you engage in an activity; or you can reframe the activity as a whole. Let me give you the example of someone I have recently gotten to know. Roy is an athlete who has been running all his life. Now he is in his seventies he has decided to stop running marathons and make do with half marathons instead. Roy runs because he is good at it and he enjoys it. For many years now he has combined his love of running with a desire to do some good in the world by fund raising for a number of charities. Roy's perception of himself is of someone who, over the years, has raised many thousands of pounds for good causes.

Dorothy Cantor, in her book “What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up” has a very interesting take on exploring new challenges in later life. She points out that while we are working for a living we develop a mindset that worries about getting things right; the line between success and failure. or being accomplished. If you keep on trying and not succeeding, you are out of a job! However, in retirement that changes. Trying something and getting it wrong – or not quite right – isn’t failing to succeed. If the goal is to try, and you do, you have succeeded.

Quote - Unquote

"There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Featured Activity: Vocational Vacations

In May I wrote about mentoring, as a form of generativity. This month I want to look at being mentored as a way to gain experience of an activity that you may have dreamed about but never thought possible.

In 2003 Brian Kurth was an ambitious marketing executive at Ameritech, a phone company in the Midwest of America, when he hit a career rough patch. “I was doing the corporate grind, working my way up and all that, but I was just unfulfilled,” he said. During long commutes in Chicago, he passed the time thinking about what he’d rather be doing. One of the fantasy careers that kept recurring was being a dog trainer.

Brian decided to pursue his daydreams without giving up his day job. He convinced a local dog trainer to let him shadow her and learn the ropes. “My question to her was: What did it take for you to do this? She said, "I put all my savings and my house up for collateral,” Kurth remembers. “It’s stuff like that I needed to know.”

He didn’t give it all up to become a dog trainer, but word got around about his experience lining up a mentor for that and his other dream careers (wine-making and tourism), and soon he was helping friends find mentors for their most heartfelt ambitions. Out of that experience, a job layoff and a cross-country move, Vocation Vacations was born. By the end of 2005, Kurth’s Portland-based company was offering more than 200 dream-job holidays — a chance to spend a day (or longer) experiencing the nitty-gritty of an occupation under the tutelage of an inspiring tutor.

Through Vocation Vacations, people pay to walk in the shoes of their professional idols in 30 states and the United Kingdom. They can talk hops with a brewmaster, take bids in the style of an auctioneer, do commentary for a baseball game or create a signature fragrance with a perfumer, and on and on.

The stuff of dream jobs, in Kurth’s experience, falls into five basic categories—food, fashion, sports, entertainment and animals, particularly dogs. People take Vocation Vacations for two reasons, Kurth says. For many it’s a window into a passion they hope to pursue. For others, it’s a one-time deal - a lark or a chance to gain insight into an industry but not a catalyst for change. The majority of vocationers come from a few high-burnout professions including the law, information technology, accounting and financial services. They range in age from 18 to 70, but the baby boomers and upper-end Gen X’ers looking for a second or third career - and usually a dramatic lifestyle shift - comprise the bulk of his clients.

The inspiration impact is key. Kurth and his colleagues are proactive in searching out excellent mentors, and they frequently turn away people who aren’t a good fit. Not just anyone will do, Kurth says. He wants to help people “change their lives,” which means finding mentors who will inspire “vocationers.” That often translates into finding mentors who themselves took a mid-life leap of faith like Kurth.

Vocation Vacations founder Brian Kurth says that it is not unusual for Vocationers who make the change to a second or third career to discover that their previous experience takes on new importance in the new role. For example, a Vocationer who retired from banking to become a dog trainer, found another role as a consultant to dog businesses. “I learned there are an awful lot of incredibly talented dog trainers and groomers and daycare owners and kennel owners, all sorts of people, but their main strength and interest is not in running a business,” he says. Ironically, the “mentoree” has become the mentor.

To watch Brian Kurth talk about Vocation Vacations, how he got the idea and how it has grown, click on the link below.


Michael McSorley

Michael has been to the nation's capital for a short stay. As always he takes every opportunity to soak up the cultural highlights. In this month's article he shares some of the excitement with us.

Click here to learn more.

Jeanette Lewis

This month Jeanette tackles a serious issue - the legalisation of cannabis in Canada. The decision by the Canadian government to legalise cannabis for other than medicinal use has implications far beyond the Canadian border. Here, in the UK, the debate is ongoing and no doubt we will expect to learn from the Canadian experience. To read Jeanette's article, click here

Photo Gallery

Cow Parsley is one of the humblest plants that grows in our hedgerows. The delicate white flowers and fern-like foliage are common along our verges and grassy areas in spring. This year a combination of a wet start to the year and some early summer sunshine has brought it out in all it's glory! My thanks to Henrietta Price for this lovely picture.