Let's Make Retirement Redundant!

We never retire from life...

We may retire from paid employment, but we should never retire from life, says former TV presenter Ian Gall.

Ian Gall spent many years working in radio and TV and was a regular presenter of Songs of Praise in the 1980's and 1990's. He then set up a consultancy company, which he stopped working at in 2008 but refuses to use the ‘R’ word!

Ian is also a member of McCarthy Stone’s Greater Life Advisory Board (GLAB).

Having been a regular face on TV for a decade, I was used to being recognised or certainly aware of a ‘nudge-nudge’ when someone thought they knew me. Then a few years ago, I was stopped in a supermarket with the words, ‘Didn’t you used to be Ian Gall?’ Apart from making me laugh, it raised a more worrying question – as I was no longer on television, I had ceased to exist for this person.  Human beings are so much more than just a job title, but for many, an individual’s identity and sense of worth is measured by what they do for a living, rather than the kind of person they are. 

When we come to the point in our life which has traditionally been called retirement, this can be very difficult, but it’s crucial to understand that while we may retire from paid employment, we do not retire from life. We are still the same person when we stop working, and every one of us has amassed a vast wealth of knowledge, experience and skills during our time on this planet. We can either choose to let all this slowly die with us, or grab the opportunity to continue to learn and share our abilities with others. Someone once said, 'I never stopped doing anything when I retired, I just stopped getting paid for it.' Recent research shows that staying active and involved in life's challenges and opportunities is beneficial as it means people continue to interact socially within a routine of leisure and endeavor, which itself promotes physical and mental wellbeing essential in later life. Of course, our quality of life all depends on our health, personal and financial circumstances, so part-time employment may be the way we choose to boost our income. 

But the wisdom and experience that we have amassed over the years could also be made available to our community in a wide variety of ways. Through harnessing what we know and connecting with people, we could help with anything from mentoring a younger person to starting a business, to planting up our first allotment or setting up a new community group. Now you may think you have little to offer, but this really is unlikely. So pause and remember what you have achieved in your life and the experiences, challenges and people who have influenced and shaped you. 

As wise owls, we can share what we would tell our 18 year old selves and we can also educate people about what later life means. We are also time-rich in comparison with those with young families, careers and mortgage commitments.

So what have I been doing? Serving on the Greater Life Advisory Board (GLAB) for McCarthy Stone is very stimulating and challenging, as we try to think in new ways about issues that affect us all in later life. I’m also heavily involved with 'It’s in the Bag', a fund for supporting men who have been diagnosed with Testicular Cancer in the South West of England. I’m involved with the Patient Participation Group of our local surgery too, I'm also chairman elect for our village monthly magazine, and I take an active part in other clubs and societies in our very lively community. On a personal level, we also have four grandchildren under three -- and two horses, which take up a considerable amount of time!

We all know folk who behave like old people long before they have to. Avoiding this is all about attitude; after all, age is only a number. And although I’m 65, in my head I’m 27 and that is a crucial factor which drives how I live my life. Of course, there are occasions when the body reminds me that I’m not actually as young as I thought I was - but such reminders are only mildly annoying!

The key is a positive attitude and then you start to see opportunities as opposed to problems. As Mark Twain wrote, 'Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'

Let’s make the word ‘retirement’ redundant -- what do you think?

The Guide to Later Life will be published in full in October 2013. To receive your copy, please email your request to [email protected]