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 August 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 "workateering" - paid work for a charity or not-for-profit, a term I first came across in an article by Professor Nancy Schlossberg.

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

"Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness."

Sigmund Freud

Many UK charities rely on volunteers for their very existence. Yet the statistics show that although the retired are more "time affluent" than any other section of the population, reported volunteering rates among people in their 50s and early 60s are lower than at earlier ages. Why is this?

The View From The USA

During my Churchill Fellowship I met many influential people. One of these was Reed Dewey, Director, Volunteer Centres and National Partnerships at the Points of Light Foundation. Points of Light focuses on local grassroots volunteer centres as well as offering training for non-profits and providing recognition for volunteers. Reed was concerned that the current way of managing volunteers was not working as well as it should, despite the "baby boomers" being the best educated and most widely experienced workforce the country had ever known. Reed believed that there needed to be a shift from an authoritarian approach, where the volunteer was expected to carry out the tasks they were given, to a more egalitarian approach where volunteers were trained for leadership, with shared decision making. He believed that 50+ people wanted:

In this paradigm, volunteers would be encouraged to set the direction and involve their team in planning details. There would also be a focus on developing team members.

A question Reed considered important was “How do you retain the volunteers you’ve got?” He felt that having invested in training the volunteers, too many organisations found that they stopped volunteering after a relatively short time. Reed was also rethinking how to offer volunteers recognition and awards. He was considering replacing the recognition luncheon with a menu of options e.g. gift certificates/free tickets/discount cards etc. Rewards for high performance could include presenting at a Board Meeting/paid attendance at a Conference/co-authoring a journal article with staff/serving as a media spokesperson/supervising other volunteers/interviewing new volunteers/training new members of staff and becoming a Board member.

Nancy Schlossberg

Retired counselling psychologist Nancy Schlossberg spent many hours volunteering, doing many things she used to do as a professional but receiving no pay – only the feeling that she was contributing to society. With the downward spiralling economy, she began to resent volunteering. This made her feel guilty since after all, wasn’t this the time to give back, to feel grateful for all that she had received over her life?

Then something happened that turned everything around. Nancy was invited to work on a short-term project as a “workateer” with the Senior Friendship Centers in Florida, a position that paid a small amount of money. According to Dennis Stover, Vice-President of Senior Friendship Centers, workateering is a concept that bridges -

“The experienced worker to the volunteer role and adds value and benefit to what volunteers are providing organizations. A small stipend is paid for the work the volunteer does. It provides a transition from paid work to volunteering. Hence work with some money attached connects the person with their past professional life while beginning a life of mostly volunteering one’s skills and talents. We hope this ‘hybrid’ concept adds to the discussion of how we approach volunteerism as we look to Boomers retiring and wanting purpose in their next life phase.”

Nancy reports that even this small remuneration made her feel like a professional, that her work was valued, and that she was still a player. She believes that this is a concept that could really change the way volunteers see themselves. It would be a win-win situation. Volunteers would feel important to the organization, and organizations would get increased productivity—and all for very little money.

Featured Activity: Encore Careers

In the UK more people are now planning to retire later. This has been fuelled by a number of changes to retirement funding. From 2019, the State Pension age in the UK will increase for both men and women to reach 66 by October 2020. The UK Government is planning further increases, which will raiie the State Pension age from 66 to 67 between 2026 and 2028. As well as the State "safety net" not being available until later in life, the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA), who represent workplace pension schemes, estimates that 13.6m UK workers are at “high risk of failing to achieve an adequate income in later life”. Hence many older people will have to continue working in some capacity, in order to avoid an impoverished old age.

Retirement is no longer seen as a one-time, permanent event for many. Rather it is a process. A 2005 survey by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that 42% would prefer to “cycle” between periods of work and leisure. The survey also found that substantial numbers would prefer to keep on working rather than retire completely, provided their work would:

  • Enable them to learn new things
  • Give them a lot of freedom to decide how to do their own work
  • Allow them to have a say in important decisions.

The similarities between the findings of this British study and what Reed Dewey was saying in America are striking. It would seem that many people in the developed world would be interested in continuing to work on into their sixties and maybe even their seventies if they could find work that was personally fulfilling.

Marc Freedman

In the USA Marc Freedman, Founder of Encore.org, has been promoting a very different view of later life. Encore.org mission statement reads "The decades of life beyond 50 should become a time of social contribution and impact - to leave the world better than we found it." Rather than focussing on an ageing population as a problem, Freedman prefers to look at the potential of the most highly educated, healthy and experienced cohort of older people the world has ever known.

Throughout the Western world there is a chronic shortage of workers in education, health care and social services; all jobs with the potential to "give something back". Freedman sees these and similar shortage areas as providing opportunities that older workers might wish to fill if they could be more easily facilitated. He points out that governments need to act to help older workers who want to make a career change, Assistance with retraining and job search need to come from central resources. Simply removing the barrier of compulsory retirement at 60/65 is not enough. There are heavy financial costs involved for the individual who wants and is willing to retrain as a nurse or a teacher.

We also we need to look at the time cost involved. For an older worker this can be a serious deterrent. When you are fifty five or sixty, a three year course is a long time. If we can consider two year degrees and apprenticeship programmes for young people, then why not for older workers who will have many years to repay the social investment through their additional taxed earnings? The wastage rates from young teachers is appalling (~70%). Wouldn't a highly motivated older worker, with substantial real life experience to offer, not be a better bet?

To listen to Marc Freedman outline his ideas on "encore careers", click on this short video clip:


Michael McSorley

Sometimes the news reporting seems so depressing that there seems no option but effective use of the "off" switch. In this month's article Michael reminds us that it has not been all bad. Instead he has selected three recent news items that give us all some cause for hope in the "better angels" of human nature.

Click here to learn more.

Jeanette Lewis

As some of Jeanette;s readers may know, she and her husband own a cottage on the shores of Lake Huron, one of Canada's Great Lakes. In this month's article she describes life in the great outdoors. Jeanette very kindly let me have a few pictures of her lakeside home, with which to illustrate the essay.

Click here to read on.

Photo Gallery

I am grateful to my friend Henry for this wonderful photo of a fledgling blue tit, taken just at the point when it was about to leave the nest for the first time.

Moments later the tiny bird stumbled out of the nest, frantically flapped its wings and soared into the blue sky.

It's having the courage to try that makes all the difference.