Exploring Retirement

- the online magazine for retired people

"I married him for life but not for lunch!"



Welcome to the third edition of Exploring Retirement, the online magazine for people who have recently retired or are about to retire. Each month we provide articles on well-being in retirement and also feature an activity to explore. This month we are looking at gender - do men and women experience retirement differently? Research seems to show that men and women find retirement equally satisfying, at least when they experience it on their own. Problems can arise however with couples who may retire at different times or who may find that being together more often takes some getting used to!

Men often experience more social isolation in retirement than women do. For those men who feel the need for some masculine company from time-to-time, our featured activity this month is Men's Sheds.

Feedback from readers is welcomed, whether you want to add your thoughts on well-being in retirement or share your experience of an activity you have enjoyed since you retired. E-mail editor@exploringretirement.co.uk

The Gender Gap

If you are married or in a long term relationship, it is important to realise that your partner may have a different view of retirement than you do. While most couples look forward to having more time together that does not mean they should spend every minute of every day in each others company. It can be a good idea to make the adjustment to retirement gradually. If you are used to one of you being out of the house at work during the day, then it can be a good idea for that person to have some outside interests that take them out of the house for a significant period of time on at least one or two days per week. That way their partner gets to have the space they are used to. Also, since you are engaged in separate activities, you will have more to talk about when you do get together. This is one area were the experts all agree that it is important to talk things over and come to a mutual understanding.


A practical gender related concept for couples to consider is cross-skilling.This refers to the need for both partners to be capable of fully functioning in the others absence. For example, if one of you had to go into hospital for a few weeks, does the other one know how to work the washing machine? Simple things that we tend to take for granted, because our partner always looks after them, can cause real problems at what may already be a very difficult time. At the very least, it makes sense to find out how to do these basic things and write them down for future reference. To see a simple checklist of common household responsibilities, click here.

It's a good idea to create a simple file of instructions for all the different gadgets we rely on and put it some place where it can be easily found. You should add a page to your file with the contact details of tradesmen such as a plumber, electrician, central heating engineer etc. There are a number of websites that offer to find reliable tradesmen in your location, but it is probably better to ask friends or neighbours if they have someone they can recommend from personal experience.

Featured Activity

Men's Sheds

The concept of Men's Sheds originated in Australia and has spread around the world. A shed provides a meeting place where men can meet together to work on one or more projects. It is particularly attractive to men who may otherwise find themselves quite isolated and alone when they retire from their workplace. In a men's shed they can find an outlet for their talents and experience as well as companionship. There are now over twenty Men's Sheds in the Republic of Ireland and a growing number in Northern Ireland. To date there are Men's Sheds in Belfast (2), South Armagh, Hollywood, Co. Down, Antrim Town and Portglenone, with more in prospect.

Men's Sheds were originally established to facilitate some common interest, and often involve activities built around arts, crafts and technical skills - the kind of things done in the backyard shed. Rather than work on those interests alone, a community shed introduces a social interaction among the participants that plays an important part in developing well being. As the involvement in the group develops, they can expand the range of projects that they are prepared to take on.

Last week I took up an invitation to visit the newly formed Men's Shed in Antrim. I was met by the founder of the shed, Kevin Keenan who has for some years now been running a charity to help Ethiopian children. Kevin and his colleagues opened a charity shop in Randalstown to help raise funds. To date they have managed to build, equip and staff two schools in Shashemene, Ethiopia which together accommodate 600 children from very poor backgrounds. They have plans to build two more schools, funding permitting. To learn more about the project, click here.

Kevin stores secondhand furniture for the charity shop in a large shed behind the Maxol fuel station in Antrim town. Part of this building he has now sectioned off to form the Men's Shed. Very importantly the men have built themselves a nice little kitchen, where I was treated to a cup of coffee and a biscuit! There are about a dozen members of the Shed at present and they have just formed a committee to steer it in the future. Among their plans they hope to build outdoor garden furniture such as picnic tables, which will be sold to help fund the Ethiopian Schools Project. They are also planning to restore old engines, which should appeal to the more mechanically minded. My overall impression was of a warm and welcoming atmosphere and a group of men with a lot of great ideas and a strong sense of belonging to something worthwhile.

Men's Shed Video

To watch a short video made by the Men's Shed in Hartford, Northwich Click here.

Useful websites

Men's Sheds Network (UK)

Men's Sheds Ireland