After my last, somewhat off-topic, blog let me return to the world of retirement and what seems to be a common problem. I have a friend who has not enjoyed retirement. He says he feels useless. In an effort to take back some of the lost control or self esteem, he has, after a few months of retirement, begun volunteering for ‘jobs’. So far he has offered his services for free to his local school of architecture (he was an architect), to Hollybush – a scheme for young adults with learning difficulties working in the community and as a guide for historic houses and churches. I shall be fascinated, to say the least, to see how all these plans work out. His wife only mentioned them because I admitted I was struggling with this retirement business so she felt able to share his problems with me I guess.

I knew I personally was struggling when I started paying attention to an item on the radio news about Subway (the sandwich chain) opening up another 300 branches and creating 600 jobs or some such and I caught myself thinking, I wonder if that’s the answer. I knew I was struggling, even before this partial epiphany, when, a while ago, I was taking the dogs for a walk. I often walk around the grounds of our local university. I’ve lectured here in the past and, although I have no thought of doing so again, I walk past a building with the name Occupational Health on the door. I know they have a counselling service, maybe I should offer my services. After all, unlike working in Subway, this is an area I know well. I even, on impulse, knocked on the door – it was locked – nobody answered. I took this as a sign that it was not meant to be.

This is by way of introduction to a blog I wrote some time ago but haven’t published, until now. This is it. Have you ever heard of something called No neither had I until this weekend’s paper. An editorial in The Observer (a while ago now) described an organisation that has been set up in America that ‘recruits and supports the over 60s to take on creative and entrepreneurial work to tackle social problems.’  Purpose Prizes are awarded to people over 65, up to $100,000, to support the work. The person who set it up, Marc Freedman, says ‘it is time to invent a new stage in life – after a career and before retirement – in which older people give back to current and future generations, utilising “a windfall of talent”’.

‘Good ideas, lifelong experience and the wealth of spare time are assets we cannot afford to scorn,’ says the article. A positive view of us over 60s is that we are ‘an army of diverse talents crying out to be tapped for the benefit of all.’ The article gives several examples of how the scheme works. They’re American because the UK does not have such a scheme, at least not in the same form.

This raises an issue that has been in my head for a long time, from the point, before retirement, when I contemplated what exactly would I do in retirement? One obvious activity that retired people engage in is voluntary work. This appeals for all the obvious reasons but there are two problems for me. First, I have my own charity that takes up a day a week, i.e. my mother. Second, I have never been sure about what kind of voluntary work I would find most rewarding. Pleasing even and yes, I do think I should be able to enjoy whatever it is, as well as regard it as useful.

There seem to be two polar opposite possibilities. One is that I carry on with a similar kind of ‘people help’ work – charity shops, Childline worker, offering my counselling services to my GP or even to retired people. This would involve using an existing skill set and would probably enhance self esteem – maybe. I will write more about this at a later date.

On the other hand, I could do voluntary work which is totally different to the kind of work I’ve done before. For, say, Subway or more pleasingly, The National Trust; English Waterways; the North Yorks (or similar) steam railway or various other forms of heritage organisations. I’ve always liked history, old houses, Victorian engineering, canals. So could this be a way forward for me? In this case there would be no using of existing skill sets but it would be a completely fresh start. Hmm, tricky.

In the article there is a retired naval captain who has set up a charity to recruit volunteers to teach fly fishing to veterans of the armed forces. I like this one. It fits into my new services to (sort of – military personnel) same customers quadrant in my blog on retirement.

Again in the article, there is a woman who retired from her job working with the homeless and set up a scheme to use video conferencing to keep incarcerated parents in touch with their children. This feels like a ‘more of the same’ approach and I do not mean that in any kind of pejorative sense.

For whatever reason, and there may even be a reason I haven’t thought of, I’m procrastinating about (more) voluntary work. I may, for example, simply be a selfish bastard who feels like, with his monthly direct debits to 3 charities, that I’m doing enough. I mean, fuck it, let somebody else do it. And, as a bonus excuse for my relative inactivity, I can always play the ‘I simply haven’t got time, don’t know how I found the time to work’ excuse that I so hated when others used it. Ha, it’s different now, isn’t it? Now you’re saying it. Now it’s true.

Anyway to round up, according to the article above, ‘it’s not the money that counts it’s the validation that they are still of use, that they have much to give.’  Ah yes, validation. This rather takes me back to my internal / external locus of control blog – the one I haven’t written yet. Or the ‘caring about what other people think of you’ blog. It really pisses me off that I might need validation from other people to believe I am useful. I mean what the hell do they know about me? It remains to be seen how much this worrying about my role, as it appears to other people, influences my retirement activities. But to end on a positive note, I did enjoy this article. It ended by saying. ‘surely it’s time for Britain to adopt its own version of encore-org. I find it hard to disagree. Maybe I should start it. That might be a useful thing to do in retirement.

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