Beware of the first months of retirement and their emotional challenge.

 

The word ‘retirement’ can conjure up enticing images – long walks, travel, new hobbies, fun with grandchildren and more. But the reality can be very different. Especially during the first months of this new adventure.

This is because transition from fulltime work comes with an emotional challenge. It’s a challenge that even leads some to be less open with the truth than perhaps they should be.

This has been revealed by research from the Harvard Business School led by Professor Teresa Amabile. She says, ‘For many, the first months of retirement can involve an existential crisis. It can be a very dramatic moment, with many retirees facing a psychological battle for self-discovery.’

Admittedly, this four year Retirement Transitions Study focusing on 120 professionals and their views of retirement, is from the US. But it still has important insights for all making the retirement transition.

What stands out from the research is that, for many, the first steps into retirements are somewhat blissful. With an empty calendar and no need for an alarm clock in the morning being beautiful things.

Prof Teresa reports, ‘Most people are very happy right from that first morning.’ But, for many, this doesn’t last long. This is because they struggle with restructuring their lives and letting go of a big part of their identity as employed people.

The evidence for this is clear from the responses when retirees were asked by the researchers how they described themselves.

Some harked back to their significant role in the past saying ‘I’m a retired librarian’ or ‘I’m a retired teacher or ‘I’m a retired research chemist’. Others even denied being retired, naming their past role even though it was no longer theirs.

Says Prof Teresa, ‘We asked them why they did this and it’s because they don’t want to be seen as someone out to pasture. One person said “I don’t want to be seen as yesterday’s news I want to be the news right now”.’

This points to something important, stresses Prof Teresa, saying, ‘People think of planning for retirement as a financial exercise, and that’s all. But it needs to be a psychological and relationship exercise as well.’’

She sums up the issue saying that when our formal career ends ‘We need to think about who we want to be. The people in our study who do that, tend to have a smoother transition.’

According to Prof Teresa, when someone leaves behind the structure and identity that goes with their employment ‘they need to be ‘an architect of a new life structure and, often, a new identity’. This ‘identity’ being one where they, ‘build a new life and explore new activities, relationships, and ways of thinking about themselves.’

This led to the researchers uncovering something they called building ‘identity bridges.’ They saw retirees using these as a strategy for preserving continuity between life before fulltime work and life afterwards.

Some of these ‘identity bridges’ include what the research team described as –

  • Activating a latent identity – doing so by rediscovering a passion they were not able to pursue while working fulltime.
  • Giving more time to a relationship not possible before – perhaps with grandchildren or adult children.
  • Maintaining a life philosophy – an attitude that helps remain positive despite retirement’s challenges.
  • Finding a new source for valued affirmation – establishing relationships and taking up roles that provide the kind of positive feedback experienced back in the workplace.
  • Using their workplace skills in a new way – often by volunteering.

This didn’t happen overnight, the study reveals. Prof Teresa says that although most welcomed the freedom and flexibility, many retirees described unexpected feelings of being at loose ends. And it typically took from six months to two years or more for them to sort through their thoughts and feelings.

Stressing the importance of this research Prof Teresa says, ‘These are important findings because they can make people more aware of the psychological challenges of moving into retirement And if people can be more consciously aware of the need to bridge with one or more of these strategies, they might feel less discomfort along the way.

Want more in making the transition to retirement? Check out these past AfterWorkNet blogs –

Want to make most of your transition to retirement? Here’s the 4 must-dos.

What might God’s plan be for the early months of retirement? Ready for a surprise?

What’s your experience of the first months of life after fulltime work? Please tell all either here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and escapes to Spain when he can.

It’s time to ban the dreaded phrase ‘senior citizen’. And here’s why.

 

I am not old. My birth certificate and my body may tell a different story. But my mind – and my attitude – say otherwise. And I just wish the world around me would stop trying to get me to change my mind.

The ‘offence’ started a good while ago. My 55th birthday was marked and marred by a mailing from Saga – those blue rinse cruise people – inviting me to do something or other.

That put an end to what was never going to be a good relationship. It was also the opening shots in what has become an ongoing assault on the way I wish to see myself. The biggest culprit being that horrid label ‘senior citizen’ that seems to come from everywhere.

I find I’m in good company – including, possibly, yours. This company includes 78 year-old Retirement and Career Coach Gary Foster.

Recently Gary said, when it comes to senior citizen, ‘I refuse to put myself in that category. This is not a denial that I am not older than most or that I’m not getting older. I just don’t need another moniker to remind me and to plunk me into a category that has a negative tone’.

Absolutely.

Of course, it is markedly better than ‘golden years’, ‘elderly’, ‘old codger’ and such. But do we even need a defining category? To be pigeonholed with words conjuring up the image of a shuffling couple trying to cross the road – as the road sign depicts so unhelpfully?

Quick story. My wife, Rosie, hit 60 – and thus was now a pensioner. Caught up in a raid on a jewellers (she lives that kind of exciting life) she came face to face with a local reporter wanting her story. When asked her age (what did that have to do with anything?!) she was wise enough to know what was ahead.

To say ‘60’ would have the paper designate her as ‘pensioner Rosie Meadows’. Not ‘vibrant mother of five’, not ‘former actress’, not ‘world traveller’, not ‘former business owner’. But ‘pensioner’ – with all negative images it throws up.

So Rosie answered ‘59’ – though she could easily have got away with ten years less. And her fingers were crossed, of course.

My point? It’s that words matter – especially when rather than being life-enhancing they create negativity and point to the bad smell of being past your sell by date.

Gary Foster astutely notes why we are where we are. The blame falls at the feet of psychologists and marketers he claims saying, ‘Until 1904 we had two age categories – adult and child. Then, in 1904, the President of the American Physicalists Association invented the term “adolescent.”’

From there came the growth to seven categories: newborn, infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adult, middle age, and old age. As Gary puts it, ‘Each is a lucrative market for psychologists and clever marketers.’

However, since the 1900s the time span between middle age and old age has extended dramatically. Gary says, ‘Senior citizen probably made sense when you were automatically there at 65 in the eyes of the government, financial industry, the general public and were facing just a few years before checking out.’

But no longer is that the way life is. Those once tagged ‘old’ or ‘senior’ may now have some 20 to 40 years ahead with mostly good health. And it is demeaning, even cruel, to badge them – and treat them – as though this is not the case.

What’s being described here are Baby Boomers– those born during the years after the last war. The generation that spawned Paul McCartney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elton John, Meryl Streep and such.

As Marc Freedman, author of How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations says, ’Baby boomers and the generations following them don’t think in terms of years or age. After all, it was the baby boomer generation that coined ‘60 is the new 40.’

Marc adds that boomers have benefited from medical and technological revolutions and been subject to the explosion of the ‘how to make you look and feel younger’. With the outcome that most refuse to accept that ageing will lead to less productive years.

That’s me. It may well be you. And it’s why I’ll fight tooth and nail to escape from being a ‘senior citizen’ either in name or attitude.

Gary Foster has his own very American way of expressing his feelings on the subject – regarding himself as ‘a fully-functioning septuagenarian with more gas in my tank than I had when I was wandering in the haze of corporate life at age 50.’

He also fights back by seeking out other ‘kick-ass’ (I warned you he’s American) people like him who refuse to play ball with the ageism that terms like ‘senior citizen’ represent.

He even defines what he means by ‘kick-ass’. Here’s my massaged version. You know that’s you if you are –

Something of a rebel: Resistant to – and outspoken about –ageist stereotypes, attitudes, and comments about ageing.

Have high energy: Driven with a late-life sense of purpose.

In charge of your health: Deliberately doing the right things to promote the health of your body and mind.

Curious: Committed to continue learning, exploring and growing in the fullest way.

Creative: Actively showing that ideas and their expression don’t deteriorate with age.

Selfless producer rather than a self-indulgent consumer: Giving back, paying forward, by sharing skills, experiences, talents with those coming up behind.

Necessary: Living to be important to someone all the time.

Which brings us full circle back to ‘if not “senior citizens” then what?’. If there has to be something then I’m attracted to the solution from Maureen Connors, a San Francisco retail consultant.

Maureen recently told the Boston Globe she coined the term ‘perennials’ as a play on ‘millennials.’

Perennial = ‘lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring.’

Yes. That would do me nicely.

And if you’d like a bit more on the negative views of aging here’s a link to a blog you may have missed – Don’t fall for this ‘best before’ nonsense – about food or yourself.

How do you feel about ‘senior citizen’? Do you have a better version to suggest? Please tell all either here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and escapes to Spain when he can.

Glad to be grey? From God’s perspective there are lots of reasons you should be.

In my own growing old, I am hugely encouraged by God’s outstanding promise in Isaiah 46:4 ‘Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.’

As someone who started turning grey in his late thirties, and is now ‘a whiter shade of pale’ – as the sixties group Procol Harum sang, this has been good news for a long time.

I understand the need for some to keep their hair a more youthful colour, but I rest content in the words of Proverbs 20:29 – ‘The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair is the splendour of the old.’

I know a man who has recently retired from being a Police Officer. Despite having an interesting and varied job, he could not wait to get out. He counted down the months, then the days, then the hours until he finally left. He was free!

I met him a few weeks later. ‘I have nothing to do, I am so bored. I think I’ll write a book,’ he told me. I did not have the heart to tell him what that would mean…. Getting older is more than sitting around doing nothing, as he is discovering: ‘

Are we, with our grey hair, to be like the retired policeman, bored and without purpose? The answer is a resounding ‘No!’ We must wake up to this vital point: God is not finished with us.

This could not be clearer than from the Psalmist’s special and unique news for our later years: ‘The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him’. Psalm 92:12-15.

What does it mean to have our youth renewed like an eagle’s in our later years of grey hair? The words of that Psalm remind us that in our youth we were ‘fresh and green’ – and we are to stay that way.

The Psalmist is talking about how we grew and flourished, not just physically and mentally, but spiritually. We lived in the Springtime – and it is to stay that way even though our bodies may tell us it is now Autumn and heading for a desolate, leafless Winter.

Though our hair colour may change, our spiritual life is not to be a never-ending spiral of decline. If you don’t believe that, come back again and again to these remarkable verses where God says we are to ‘flourish like a palm tree’.

On my visits to equatorial Africa I have seen the different varieties of palms, enjoying the burning heat which attacks them, swaying in the tropical storms which batter them, yet producing delicious fruit.

That is how the ‘righteous’ are to be in their later lives. They are to stand tall like the mighty cedars of Lebanon. In our lives we can do that, in our inmost beings, even when age bends our backs double.

We can do this because, the Psalmist says, we are ‘planted in the house of the Lord’ and we ‘flourish in the courts of our God.’ Stick in close with God the Father, through the presence in your life of Jesus Christ the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit, and you will be fresh and green!

And this is all for a reason. The Psalmist says, ‘They will still bear fruit in old age’ – the verb ‘will’ is a strong word. The expression ‘old wrinklies’ is not particularly pleasant! By contrast, the ‘oldies’ of Psalm 92 ‘stay fresh and green’ and ‘bear fruit’.

Part of that fruit is we give a powerful testimony proclaiming, as the Psalmist says, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him’.

There is also more about God and grey hair in the book of Proverbs: ‘Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained by a righteous life’ Proverbs 20:29. ‘The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair is the splendour of the old! Proverbs 20:29.

This tells us our older lives are to show that God gives us a wisdom from himself as we age. As Job 12:12 says, ‘Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?’

God’s purpose for us is to show, as we get older, that he gives us his strength and, through our experiences of him, his wisdom. ‘Grey hair’ should mean we have this wisdom through the experience of life.

We are therefore, both to bear fruit and also to use our wisdom to give counsel and leadership. Perhaps not in the formal way of church leaders, but by our loving and caring advice and encouragement.

God has a purpose for each one of us, whatever our age or the colour of our hair. There is no moment in our lives when he draws a line and says, ‘That’s it.

Adapted from Ian Knox’s new book Finishing Well: A God’s eye view of ageing (SPCK) – an engaging exploration of how, in our later years, we are not only to be blessed but also to be a blessing.

Ian Knox: Ian has spent most of his life in evangelism and teaching. Though officially ‘retired’, he has an active preaching ministry across the UK and Africa and recently became Canon Missioner at Uganda’s All Saints Cathedral in the Diocese of Lango. He’s been married to Ruth for over 40 years, with four sons and ten grandchildren. They live in rural Northumbria.

What 3 things should every 70 year old avoid if they want to flourish?

There are three things no one in their 70s should do to make the best of their years. All three may surprise you. And all three matter.

So if you are already past that big birthday, or heading in that direction, here’s some wisdom. But I need to confess it’s not mine but comes from the mind of Retirement and Career Coach Gary Foster.

I’m sharing it, first, because it makes sense and, second, in the hope you will not only benefit but check out more of Gary’s rich thinking. You’ll find a link to his blog at the end of this one.

What are those three things to shun like the plague when 70 hits you? Gary is an outspoken advocate for living to 100 or beyond – having set his target at 112 ½. So he’s worth listening to and here they come.

1. Avoid most other 70-year olds.

Gary admits, ‘That sounds cruel’. And it does because most people in their 70s have a circle of similarly-aged friends they love and cherish. But he backs his view with reason.

He points out that many, if not most, 70-year-olds are innocently in the ‘decay mode’ – in terms of their attitude to life and the way their body works. And with that comes a resignation and acceptance of what he calls ‘the myths of automatic senescence and accelerating physical decline’.

Or, to put this in my kind of English, too many in their 70s have fallen for the false belief that age offers no choice but to accept the gradual decay of our faculties’.

As evidence Gary points to the fact that conversations are often limited to the subjects of health, memory or friends impacted by the same. And talk seldom covers how to maintain and celebrate good health and counter decline with wise practices that should always have been in place.

Why does that matter? Gary quotes the opinion of motivational speaker Jim Rohn that each of us ‘rise to the average of the five people we spend the most time with’. In other words, if those closest to a 70 year old are in ‘negative older age mode’ that 70 year old is likely to get infected with the same attitude.

That’s why Gary encourages his fellow septuagenarians to seek the company of those ‘unafraid of change, with insatiable curiosity, and big thinking’ – which is more likely to be found in those in the generations coming up behind.

By doing so, he says, ‘We’ll be able to grow and learn from their creativity and energy and also to help guide them with our acquired wisdom and experience.’

2. Avoid the retirement trap

The ‘retirement trap’, explains Gary, is the belief that life after work should offer endless leisure and rest. A belief that we are born to eventually make the transition from ‘vocation to vacation’ – a concept dreamed up by politicians to free up jobs for those younger and by marketers to relieve us of our money.
He argues that ‘retirement doesn’t exist in nature nor did it exist anywhere on the planet 150 years ago. It’s a Euro-American concept that doesn’t exist in many countries, some of which can claim the longest-living citizens’.
By avoiding the retirement trap we escape the implication that ‘winding down’ is better than staying in growth mode. As Gary would remind us, we are given only two choices with our bodies and brains – grow or decay. And that ‘retirement’ – a word derived from the French ‘retirer’ meaning retreat or go backward – can too easily put us on the decay path.
I like Gary’s list of ‘the fruits of traditional, leisure-based retirement’ – none of which are life-enhancing. To express them in my own words they are –
• Increased separation from stimulating company – a major life limiter.

• A more sedentary lifestyle – despite best intentions, most retirees fail to do the exercise needed to keep in good health.

• The risk of self-indulgence – though we are ‘wired to serve’ it’s easy to drift into ‘I’ve earned the right to put myself at the centre of my choices’.

• Losing work from our lifestyle – with meaningful and productive activity being a key factor in living longer.

3. Avoid drifting

Who would think of trying to travel in a strange country without some kind of road map and a plan? Yet that’s what vast numbers do when exiting full time work for a new territory where they could spend the next 20 to 40 years.
As a result, Gary asserts, many end up drifting. Even those who have a financial plan may have no clear roadmap that takes account of the mental, physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual sides of life in this unexplored land.
This can end up with people drifting without a clear and fulfilling purpose. With their circumstances and the expectations of others becoming the driving force – taking them on a path to accelerated deterioration.
Gary notes the view of the business coach Dan Sullivan who says, ‘People die early for three reasons: No money. No friends. No purpose’. On this basis, a healthy and fulfilling life in our 70s demands a plan, a sense of purpose, and a direction.
Without this, warns Gary, ‘we waste the talents, skills, experience, and energy that still resides in us as 70-year olds. And that’s close to being criminal’.

To see more from Gary Foster check out his website here.

How do these 3 things to avoid strike you? Do you have some of your own to contribute? Please tell all either here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and escapes to Spain when he can. He doesn’t have a garden.

Pick from these 12 great resources to spruce up your spiritual life during lockdown

With a little more time on your hands than normal, now’s the moment to dig a little deeper to refresh your spiritual life. And there’s lots out there to help you – some created especially with this season in mind.

Here come 12 valuable resources for you to choose from and in no particular order. Enjoy and be enriched.

Want to do better with the Bible?

Top of the tree has to be The Bible Course from Bible Society. This superb series of 8 videos gives an overview of the Bible’s ‘big story’ and particularly shows how the Old Testament points to Jesus. The small cost involved is well worth it.

Also from Bible Society is Lyfe, to help individuals and small groups discover a deeper life with God. It draws deeply on the Bible and spiritual practices that have inspired and sustained Christians throughout the centuries.

Or how about seriously adding to the Bible verses you have tucked away in your mind. Here the Bible Memory App could be exactly what you need. It even has tips to improve your memory.

Want to do better with prayer?

To discover prayer through fresh eyes – and explore everything from ‘Why Pray’ to ‘Adoration’ to ‘Unanswered Prayer – the Prayer Course has no equal. The 8 sessions each have a 20-minute video plus questions to explore further. Don’t keep it to yourself as this is also perfect for a ‘virtual’ small group.

When it comes to putting prayer into action, there’s a choice from two excellent Bible-based meditations. Both help you to ‘pray the Bible’ daily based on Lectio Divina. This dynamic way of reading the Scriptures follows the four-step approach of Reading, Meditation, Prayer and Contemplation.

One is from Bible Society with free downloads based on the three year lectionary cycle. The other is Lectio 365 an app from 24-7 prayer which tends to have a more topical approach and reflects the core values of the 24-7 prayer initiative.

Want a daily boost?

There’s a free phone line – 24 hours a day – with prayers, hymns and their story, a message from the Archbishop of Canterbury and more. Called Daily Hope, this is designed for those stranded by not being able to access an online church service – so be sure to share. But all are welcome. Check it out on 0800 804 8044.

For a short daily Bible-based audio message, CWR have Life Every Day Extra featuring Jeff Lucas. It has no shortage of wit, wisdom and practical application.

Want to enjoy a feast?

With the major Christian worship and teaching festivals not able to take place there is – or will be – some excellent online resources.

Right now there’s a huge archive of seminars, celebrations, fun and more from Spring Harvest at Home with every age group in mind.

On the way is a rich choice of Bible teaching, celebrations and lectures from the Keswick Convention which goes on line from July 13 to August 2 and, no doubt, will stay there for some time.

Want the joy of your grandkids getting closer to God?

With much grandkid contact happening through Zoom or Facetime there’s the opportunity to add a God dimension.

Scripture Union have developed excellent lockdown resources to ‘reach out while we can’t go out’. These include ‘Make and pray’ for children, with craft and loads of great ideas to inspire children and young people to engage with the Bible. ‘

Faith in Kids have materials to be used at home – useful for home schooling – and to help you teach children at a distance. They also have ideas on how to keep Junior Church children involved and well worth passing on to others.

Want to check your ‘spiritual balance’?

Now is the opportunity to take a longer look at how your spiritual life is going. From CWR, their self-diagnosis evaluation on Keeping Your Spiritual Balance offers a great opportunity to affirm what’s good and to take some steps forward where needed.

That’s my 12. Don’t try them all or you could blow a gasket. But please do start somewhere.

I confess the list is somewhat personal and reflects my own sphere of knowledge and interest. So do please make your own suggestions by adding them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook page.

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club. And looking forward to lifted restrictions letting him escape to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall.

Think this might be helpful to others? Then do please share using the simple links below.

Gardening – a secret to happiness?

Thanks to the impact of Corvid-19 on how we spend our time, our gardens have probably never been in better shape. And the good news is this is likely to also be true for us personally, as well.

That’s because the ‘health’ of our gardens has a direct link to our own health and well-being according to new evidence. Particularly regarding how happy with life we feel.

To put it simply, the fruit of our labours in the horticultural department can deliver very worthwhile fruit for our own lives.

We know this thanks to research from the US Princeton University. They ran a study in the Minneapolis-St Paul area with people using an app to report their emotional well-being while taking part in any of a selection of activities.

As a result, they discovered the level of emotional well-being – or happiness – generated by gardening matched that produced by cycling, eating out or walking.

When it comes to how meaningful and rewarding an activity felt while being engaged in, the researchers found home gardening was among the top five.

This is in line with research among populations with the greatest number living into their 90s and beyond. Known as the Blue Zones, these communities have certain ways of living in common that lead to longer, healthier lives. And gardening is one of them.

What’s the reason for this good news? Those behind the research and others identify a number of clear benefits from getting horticultural. These include that gardening –

Builds self-esteem. With people feeling good about the outcome of their labours.

Is good for the heart. The physical activity involved burns off calories and strengthens heart muscles.

Reduces stress. A focused and non-threatening task helps reduce depression and anxiety.

Can make you happy. Out there among the earth, breathing in mycobacterium vaccae – a healthy bacteria living in soil – increase levels of serotonin and reduces anxiety.

Boosts vitamin D. This gift from sunlight increases calcium levels benefiting bones and the immune system.

The Princetown research also suggests the benefit from gardening is equally experienced across all sectors of the population – with women and those with low income benefiting the most. At the same time, the advantages from generating a sense of happiness extended almost equally between races and urban and suburban communities.

It seems whether people gardened alone or work with others, the benefit is much the same. However, those reporting the higher levels of emotional well-being were those with a vegetable patch rather than a garden for display. So digging up the petunias and planting beans instead may be a step towards being even happier.

The research was designed to inform decisions on town planning and revealed the value of including gardens and community gardens. But in the process it has shown that those who dig, plant, water, and prune reap the benefits in more ways than one.

God really knew what he was doing when he put Adam in charge of a garden.

How does your garden grow? Do you recognise the benefits to how you feel? Please share your story here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and escapes to Spain when he can. He doesn’t have a garden.

Once every box under ‘God’ was ticked. But not now for some. How best to respond?

Those of us with 50 years of faith under our belts, and as stalwarts in the church, are assumed to have it all nailed in the ‘belief’ department. Done and dusted. Every question and issue sorted.

For many now old enough to be retired, that may be true. But not for all. And certainly not for me.

This can be unsettling for those of us who are finding our faith now has blurred edges. It can be even more unsettling for fellow Christians who struggle to come to terms with those rethinking some of the black and white convictions of our ‘oh so certain’ heritage.

They are the ones who have reached their after-work years with a faith that’s safe, secure and certain. But for some, as our bodies have changed with passing years, so has our perspective on the God who made us.

This might be for one or more of the following reasons –

  • The ‘promises’ of the past having never been fulfilled. In my case the assurance of revival round the next corner and our church stream being at its heart and in a leading role.
  • People they have served alongside in church now being hostile rather than supportive when God and ‘truth’ seem elusive. Or experiencing a church torn apart with internal strife while the leaders pretended it wasn’t happening.
  • The pain from spending time with a good friend whose marriage failed because of the unfaithfulness of their church leader abandoning her for a younger woman.
  • Seeing what the church has to say about same sex relationships – and how those involved are treated – doesn’t seem to chime with the lives of gracious and prayerful gay people close to them. Or with the words and actions of Jesus.
  • The more they look in depth at the Bible, the less God seems to be one who is ready to roast all who get it wrong about him. And are beginning to see God as far more welcoming and abundantly loving than they’d first been taught.

Much of the above is true of me. As I’ve discovered it’s also true of many others – whose deepening faith is now accompanied by some doubts, uncertainties and things they want and need to keep thinking about.

Within months of coming to faith in my Brethren Assembly I had everything settled. In place was a clear assurance of what was ‘sound’ and what was not; who was ‘in’ and who wouldn’t make the grade.

The years that followed have shown me how little I really know compared with God’s greater plans. In fact, some of those I would have said firmly were ‘out’ have contributed greatly to my spiritual growth.

With all that in mind, let me suggest 5 things for those working through the blurred edges of their faith. And then 5 for those who enjoy certainty and are more than a little concerned over those who don’t.

Five things for those with a blurred edge faith.

If you are revisiting those things that once seemed so absolute, I’d encourage you to keep the following in mind.

1. Focus on the things you can be sure about

Despite questioning many areas of what I have been taught, I’ve always been sure of two things: that God loves me, and that his amazing grace is always there for me.

In the same way, I’d encourage you to identify what you are sure of – seeing each certainty as a brick in a wall of faith to be built upon. You may only have one or two but that’s a starting point. Think of the friends who would stand with you no matter what – add them to the wall as more bricks.

2. Know it’s okay to question and doubt

I’ve yet to meet an honest Christian who has not wondered whether prayer was all in our minds, or thought some Bible passages are cruel, appear contradictory or are simply unbelievable.

But park those things until you can find someone safe to talk with or you have time to ponder them further. And be confident that God is not troubled over our doubts and doesn’t demand that we have our spiritual lives totally sorted. As a friend once said to me, ‘Build on the good bits.”

After all, even the first disciples of Jesus didn’t have it all sorted. Matthew’s Gospel tells us at the final resurrection appearance of Jesus ‘When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted’.

If it’s okay for those who went on to be world-changers to doubt, then surely it has to be so for us.

3. Try not to get cynical

This is a tough one, especially when you see huge inconsistencies in other people’s lives. We look across the Atlantic with bewilderment at how some Christians live in ways that seem starkly inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching – and it happens closer to home too.

But we are only responsible for ourselves and the choices WE make. Finding room for negative thoughts and cynicism is ultimately destructive and takes us no further along our spiritual journey.

4. Find others to travel with you

Don’t walk alone in your time of questioning. There are always others willing to walk with you. Just reassure them that you’re not attacking anything they hold dear or looking to them to answer your questions. You simply want a trusting friend to walk with you while you work things through.

5. Have realistic expectations

We have grown up conditioned to think everything about our faith should be cut and dried. And it’s some of those ‘certainties’ that are now under question. The reality is you won’t answer every question and that’s fine. It does not diminish your relationship with God.

Five things if you have it all nailed.

If you have all the boxes ticked and think those who haven’t are letting the side down, please –

1. Trust our integrity.

All that’s happening is we are committed to taking our faith seriously. And are making ourselves vulnerable by disclosing doubts and seeking to process them. That is an expression of honesty which deserves to be respected, even if you don’t understand it or even if you feel threatened by it.

2. Understand our pain.

The pain becomes more acute for those who have had an ‘untroubled’ Christian faith for many years. This is because we have lived with the expectations – of ourselves and others – that ‘knowing who we have believed in’ should mean we have certainties about everything else.

Dealing with doubts, and processing spiritual issues, takes time and needs freedom from outside pressure. Please give us space and time, while playing whatever part you can.

3. Don’t try to resolve our issues.

Please be sure we’ve already had our fill of instant answers, exhortations to ‘have more faith’, and being given a barrage of Bible verses, opinions and platitudes. Indeed, some of these have contributed to where we are and continue to be a total turn-off.

Feel free to pray for us, please. Listen with your ears and with your spirit. Make no assumptions and say nothing unless and until asked.

4. Don’t judge us

As you contemplate where we are spiritually, please don’t dismiss us as ‘backsliders’, being light on the Bible, or having sin that’s not been dealt with. Or for any other reason. Rather, please accept us as fellow travellers wanting to follow Jesus as closely as you do – but with some honest doubts about some of your certainties.

5. Be kind

This is the most important thing of all. The person with doubts and uncertainties – still a humble follower of Jesus – is bruised and vulnerable. Because of this, what they need most is kindness. And, as Jesus said –

‘Anyone who gives one of my most humble followers a cup of cool water, just because that person is my follower, will be rewarded.’

Doubts and uncertainties are part of the Christian life. And that’s fine as it in no way damages our relationship with God. What’s needed is for those in the happy position of being (fairly) sorted to walk with the pilgrims who are finding the terrain a little rocky.

Paul Dicken

What is your experience of fuzzy-edged faith – either yours or someone else’s? Please share it here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community Thank you .

Paul Dicken is a passionately Welsh social justice warrior, left-wing, historic transport geek, radio ham, unlicensed historian, lover of hiraeth (nostalgia), information junkie and happy grandpa to ‘four wonderful kids’.

Locked down? Take time for the 3 most important questions.

As an actively retired person in lockdown you are at risk. Not from the virus but from something hazardous in another way.

It’s the danger of doing no more than replacing one set of activities with another. For example, many cupboards are now tidier and gardens looking lovelier than they have ever been.

For my part, my garage door has been transformed from dirty grey to pristine white.

But, in all this, there’s the risk of simply filling our lockdown with things that keep us busy and our minds from thinking too deeply.

What if we have been given a massive opportunity to pause and reflect? To ask ourselves –

What is God saying in the midst of all this upheaval and absence of ‘normal’?

There seems to be no shortage of people telling us what they think God is saying to nations and his Church. That this is his judgement on a world that’s rejected him. That this is God’s last statement before Jesus returns. And more.

But we can never be sure we know the complete answer to any of them? Even then, what God may be saying to one culture could be very different to what he’s saying elsewhere.

More than that, speculating around these big questions can mean we avoid the one question we can address. It’s ‘What is God saying TO ME?

Indeed, in this season of my active retirement have I ever given God a chance to speak to ME about ME? Have I ever taken time in a quiet place – like Jesus – to reflect on what God might want me to hear?

To do this means creating space – sometimes hard but worth doing. Starting by waiting on God and finding it helpful to read a Psalm or other portion of scripture.

I’m not talking about a long period of introspection and self-criticism. That can be good but should be brief. Rather I suggest such a time should lead to facing these 3 important questions.

1. How is my relationship with God?

Be realistic about the direction you are travelling with him, your sense of him being with you and lining up your life with what you understand of his intentions for you.

Start from a position of believing God wants to speak to you – because he does. And that, because he is God and you are not, he has the authority to speak about you and to you.

Treat it as a privilege which busyness may have shut off. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46.10) may never have had such significance.

Ask God for answers as to what could be done to make your relationship richer and even more valuable. And make a commitment to do them.

2. Who is my first date?

This is not an invitation to hit the town. But busyness can mean we flit from one person to another without spending meaningful time with anyone. As you listened to God, see if one name crops up. Someone you could develop a deep and lasting relationship with.

If so – and I hope so – this is your first date after lockdown. Or your next Zoom meeting – something as a low-order techie I’ve found surprisingly easy to use.

Your first date could involve you in establishing a mentoring or encouraging relationship. Or offer time and attention to someone you know to be lonely.

Whoever it is, make a date with one person and follow it through.

3. What’s your next project?

If you have not said it yourself you are likely to have heard if from one of your actively retired friends – ‘I’ve never been busier’ or ‘I’m busier than when I was working full time’.

It’s often spoken with great pride. At times even as if it’s an indication of living exactly the way God intends.

But is this the time to take stock? To step back from drivenness?

Take time to bring before God everything you do (bit by bit) and ask God to speak to you about that activity. Should it stay or should it go? Does it need either pruning or developing?

Is there one activity that should become more of a focus than the rest? Is it time to move on from the ‘I’m indispensable’ mode and do some pruning?

These times are giving us an all too rare opportunity to stop, think, and engage with the God who made us and loves us – to take stock and re-evaluate.

 Please don’t miss it.

Do you have another question that seems important? Please share it using the links below. And feel free to have your say either here or on our Facebook page.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Want to do better than just ‘survive’ the lockdown? Here’s some simple ways to actually flourish.

While in quarantine during the plague, Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Macbeth, and Anthony and Cleopatra. And while in isolation, Sir Isaac Newton he made some of his greatest discoveries including gravity.

You and I may not reach such great heights during the present lockdown. But we can use the time to do better than just survive. Yet it won’t ‘just happen’.

I like the approach of the author Guy Dauncey on keeping SANE during the crisis. With SANE standing for Strong, Active, Neighbourly and Energetic.

With that in mind, here’s some realistic suggestions that could lead you to coming out of the lockdown with something under your belt – and, hopefully, with it a notch or two tighter.

Establish some rules

Avoid the risk of just drifting, and letting things take their course, by establishing some rules to follow. I’m not suggesting mine should be yours. But here they are in the hope they give you something to think about.

  • Exercise 6 days a week
  • Be productive 5 days a week
  • No TV mid-morning or afternoons most weekdays
  • Make proactive phone/Facetime calls at least twice a week
  • Occasionally reward myself for good behaviour

Set yourself goals

Again, this is about not drifting. And having goals give you something to aim for and have a sense of achievement when you’ve ticked them off. Your goals will be personal to you. But, again, here are mine in the hope they inform your thinking.

When this season is over I want to –

  • Be fitter
  • Be more connected with family, friends and neighbours
  • Have a more rounded perspective on life
  • Have touched up lots of paintwork in the home
  • Have sorted our historic family photographs
  • Have learned to play the ukulele
  • Have sold some of our stuff on eBay

Keep the right focus

This is the spiritual bit. When walking on the water to Jesus, Peter began to sink because his eyes were on his circumstances. Perhaps this was in the mind of the writer to the Hebrews who encourages us to run ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus . . . so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’. Hebrews 12.2-3

At a time when the fierce storm of Covid 19 is raging I can think of no better place to fix my attention to see things in perspective. And, to help you do so, strongly recommend the free daily prayer app Lectio 365

Get sunlight and fresh air

Open those windows when inside and take every opportunity to get outside that the ‘rules’ allow. And fill your lungs – good deep breaths – when you do.

This is not just a good idea. Sunlight produces vitamin D which cheers us up. And fresh air is seen to improve blood pressure, reduce stress levels and improve the way we feel.

Keep active

Get things done – things that keep both your body and mind active and with thoughts other than on the crisis. Make a list and get to work. From those kitchen cupboards to disorganised drawers. A new project for the garden to a new hobby or learning experience.

Look after your appearance

When tucked away, with no need to be ‘presentable’, the temptation is to slob out. Perhaps not with full-on slobbery. But with a gentle drift to taking less care in the sprucing up department.

Taking care of our appearance increases our sense of well-being, helping keep us motivated.

Don’t keep looking at the same four walls

Cabin fever comes from the impact of being stuck in the same environment for days on end. A smart move is to change the ‘cabin’. Could you rearrange the furniture, redecorate, find a way not to spend all your time in the same room?

Even swapping some of the pictures or having a big declutter of ornaments and pictures can make a positive difference.

Maximise the opportunities for human engagements

People need people and there are many ways to engage in the lockdown era – including social media and online via Skype, Zoom, etc. Use them to the full. This is not the time to be shy or to leave the initiative to others.

One simple way is to hold a Come Dine With Me dinner party – inviting a few friends simultaneously share a meal while joined together on Zoom.

Enjoy the experience of eating well

In the old ‘normal’, life could be too busy to cook from scratch, right down to making our own sauces or using a range of herbs and spices. That’s no longer the case.

You can now enjoy the relaxation of creating a self-prepared meal and the benefit from eating less processed food. So dust off your cookbooks, search Google – BBC Food comes recommended. Better still see the great recipes in Rosemary Conley’s Stay Young Diet.

Develop a new skill or interest

Though stuck at home, it’s still easy to work at a new skill or hobby. For a mass of ideas see this list on Wikipedia. To help make it happen, Skillshare has hundreds of free classes led by those they say are ‘icons, experts, and industry rock stars excited to share their experience, wisdom, and trusted tools’.

Do something for others

Shift the focus from the virus and yourself by helping others – which is good for you and good for them. A simple way is to create a list of those you could cheer up with a phone call. But you could do something more substantial either through your church or some other way.

The charity Rest Less has some practical ideas including –

  • Good with languages? Then put this to good use by volunteering for Translators Without Borders (TWB)
  • Help those visually impaired. Use the Be My Eyes app to make life easier for people who are partially sighted around the world. Anything from helping them check food expiry dates to distinguishing colours or navigating surroundings.
  • Give practical support to overseas missionaries. Can you post a magazine? Search the internet? Audio type? Then MissionAssist will like your skills to urgent needs.
  • Be a grandparent to children on another continent. Though called Granny Cloud, it links male and female volunteers by Skype into remote locations to chat with, listen to, read with and play with underprivileged children in Colombia, Cambodia, Mexico, Greenland and Jamaica.
  • Contribute to peace and sustainable human development. As a United Nations Volunteer your time will impact the wellbeing of others by matching your skills to the opportunities. Everything from writing and editing to teaching and training. Art and design to research. Administration to event organisation.

Exercise at least a little each day

There’s a lot more benefit to moving around with some energy than you may imagine. Along with strengthening your body parts your brain gets a treat as well. This is because exercise causes the brain to release hormones- endorphins – that cheer you up and help you to sleep.

If this thought is new to you then start small and build up. A short sharp walk is good for starters. And check what is free on Google that you can do at home and do as much as you can. For more on this see the AfterWorkNet webpages on Keeping Fit.

Don’t be too driven

Finally, in these challenging and strange times cut yourself a little slack. You won’t hit all your goals or get everything done you’d hoped for. But celebrate what you can do and treat yourself when you at least get somewhere there.

If you think others will be helped by this please share using the links below.

Do you have a ‘rule’, ‘goal’ or insight on making the most of the lockdown? Please share it here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director and presently under ‘house arrest’ and missing his grandchildren. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and dreams of escaping to Spain when travel permits.

How not to be bad news in the coronavirus crisis.

You’d imagine Christians, in their active years of retirement, would be nothing but good news in these troubled coronavirus times. I wish.

And I’m not making this up.

To be fair, most are heeding the official advice. Including limiting contact and putting church and volunteer activities on hold. Yet others, seemingly convinced they’re not vulnerable and God offers them some special protection, seem to think that life as it was is fine.

Over the past weeks, I’ve come across a surprising number of after-work boomers with an approach that puts them and others at risk. That may not be you, but perhaps you recognise the symptoms.

In which case, please take the following to heart – or use it to open the eyes of others.

Don’t behave as though you are invincible

Unlike the frailty of their parents when retirement came, boomers land on the shores of after-work with a spirit of ‘can do’ optimism.

Alongside that comes the fact that most of us don’t see ourselves as ‘old’ or ‘vulnerable’.

All of which can lead to seeing ourselves as invincible – and being tempted to behave as though it is true. Our parents came through the second World War and we’ll come through this one.

Recent research indicated 1 in 4 adults had yet to make any significant change to their behaviour since the outbreak began. This leaves me wondering how many of them were, in their own minds, ‘invincible boomers’.

Yet, in reality, our bodies are not all that they were. Nor are our immune systems. Should the virus strike us our invincibility would be out of the window. And, invincible or not, failing to make changes puts others at risk.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said or even said it yourself – ‘I’m not going to stop living’. But that’s not what is being asked. What’s needed is a different kind of living – one that demonstrates the reality of how things are and doesn’t risk your life or the lives of others.

Christians are not a special case

Multiply that invincibility with a sincere belief that ‘God is on my side and in control’.

Then add a sprinkling of ‘If God be for us who can be against us’. And it can be a toxic mix in the present circumstances.

As I read on Twitter recently –

I went to church today. I did not shake hands.

One friend actually became upset. One joked that he had more faith than me. One said we know God will protect us.

Don’t do this people.

He is so right – ‘don’t do it’. And if you don’t believe me believe Jesus.

‘God makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’, said Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5.45.

In context Jesus was saying that everyone benefits from acts of nature – not just God’s special people. In the same way, it is clear that all natural phenomena is equally distributed.

When trouble comes the good guys and the bad guys are treated alike. There’s no supernatural shield round those who are on the inside track with God.

You may not fear catching the coronavirus. But loving our neighbour means we should fear spreading it. Bold acts of misplaced faith could bring suffering and even death to others.

In the midst of not being fearful we must also be responsible.

You may need to be brave

The social group each of us is part of has a huge impact on the way we behave. Standing out from the crowd is seldom comfortable.

That’s why, if your Christian environment is one where ‘life can go on because God will protect us’, it may take some courage. After all, who wants to be written off as a spiritual pigmy?!

But your survival, and the health and survival of others, may depend on you being willing to rock the boat.

If you think others will be helped by this please share using the links below.

Do you have an insight or experience about balancing faith and practical reality? Then do please share it here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director and presently under ‘house arrest’ and missing his grandchildren. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives with a dream of escaping to Spain when travel permits.

What might God’s plan be for the early months of retirement? Ready for a surprise?

There seem to be three very different approaches to life that people take during the months that follow the end of them working fulltime.

One is to aim at doing as little as possible –treating it as the start of an everlasting holiday.

The second is to set about all the things that were waiting for a time like this – effectively trading one kind of work for another. Though at a slower rate.

The third is simply a blend of both.

But there’s a fourth option – and, I suggest, a far better one. Yet it’s an approach that seems to have passed most people by.

It’s one that takes seriously the Biblical concept of Sabbatical. And has its roots in two Biblical commands –

  • For people to stop work on the seventh day, keeping it as ‘a Sabbath to the Lord your God’. Exodus 20.8-11.
  • For the land to rest every seventh year before resuming productivity. Leviticus 25.

When this concept is applied to retirement – the years that follow years of work – it means beginning with a period of deep Sabbath rest. And using it to end toil, renew and re-evaluate.

This much-neglected principle is at the heart of the excellent book ‘An Uncommon Guide to Retirement’ by Jeff Haanen. And well worth exploring and heeding.

Jeff, the Founder and Executive Director of Denver Institute for Faith and Work, urges us to grasp and employ the value of Sabbatical in retirement.

After all, it is the best way to live on a week by week basis. So why not apply the same wisdom to the grand scale of life – and thus to the period when fulltime work ends?

Jeff points out that not only did God observe the Sabbath but this is a pattern woven into the fabric of the universe. ‘To be like God – and to be fully human – we need both work and rest in proper proportion’.

But the benefit involves much more than having time to chill. Jeff stresses the value that comes from being reliant on on God. As he puts it, ‘Like children dependent on their parents, Sabbath makes us see that food, clothes, sunlight, friendship, air – are all gifts from the Creator, not mere products of our labour’.

What Jeff proposes is in contrast to a retirement based on an attitude of ‘the time is now mine’. One focused on our own comfort and desires. Rather, Sabbath points us to the God who sustains us and the spiritual renewal and refreshment he desires for us.

Does this all suggest endless weeks of thumb twiddling and introspection? That’s not the idea. Sabbath is as much about what we do as what we don’t do.

In his valuable book Jeff sets out 9 simple practices to consider for someone planning their post working life Sabbatical. They deserve you exploring them in full. But in essence they are to –

1. Prepare

It was possible for a Jewish person to keep the Sabbath only because of the preparation they’d done in the week before. In the same way, a Sabbatical during the months after work ends needs intentional preparation rather than to be stumbled into.

That’s why Jeff stresses the need to consider how you will shape your time. Even thinking about those – a friend or spouse – who could be part of your plans.

2. Feast

It seems to me that ‘Sabbath’ has had a bad press –sounding like an activity of ridged rules and maximum misery. Yet, for the Jews, Sabbath was one of the ‘festivals of the Lord’ Leviticus 23.

So think of your Sabbatical as having a lavish feast, encourages Jeff. Or even several – for those you’ve worked with, family and friends – to look back on your working years with gratitude.

3. Worship

As Jeff points out, worship is the centre of Sabbath which was ‘to the Lord your God’. This calls for more than the usual worship times – so periods of silence, prayer walks and engaging with the Bible.

4. Re-create

Try to make your times of recreation to be ‘re-creation’ is Jeff’s advice. This means sports, hobbies, music and theatre become more than ‘things to do’ but serve as ingredients in your renewal.

This is the opposite of them being a kind of work or time-fillers. Check by ‘listening to your heart’ encourages Jeff. Make sure, during your Sabbatical, such activities create ‘rest’ for you and that something more driven is not going on.

5. Remember

Use some time to make a record of God’s goodness and care over your working lifetime. Dig out past photographs, catch up with old friends to reminisce.

6. Love your neighbour

Unlike the Pharisees, Jeff points out, Jesus saw the Sabbath as a time to do good. And you can too – with lots of good waiting to be done. Whose lives can you touch? The lonely shut-ins? Friends in emotional pain? Others?

He wisely stresses, ‘Sabbatical is a time for seeing what you otherwise were too busy or distracted to see during your career’.

7. Simplicity

Many in their early post-work life set about decluttering – their home, garage, loft and more. Jeff would have us invoke the Christian practice of simplicity and so add a layer of spiritual restoration.

Indeed, in this time of after-work Sabbatical, it would be a good time to remember that the prayer ‘Give us today our daily bread’ is effectively a call to contentment.

8. Renew your mind

Here’s the opportunity to take time to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. Romans 12.1-2. That means far more than reading religious books. It could be a time to renew or discover areas of knowledge you’ve never had the time for.

9. Decide when to stop

Finally, Jeff advises that from the very start it’s important to have a date when your Sabbath will end. This creates focus and prevents drift.

Given the alternatives of endless holiday, getting the jobs done, and a blend of the two, doesn’t all this sound a wiser and richer way to go?

In which case, it’s worth putting the meat on the bones by enjoying Jeff Haanen’s book ‘An Uncommon Guide to Retirement’ – of which his thinking on Sabbatical is just a small part of its riches.

What thoughts or questions does this generate for you? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

If you think this blog would be helpful to others please share using the links below.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

The A to Z of getting older – discover 26 priorities for a good retirement

Waiting for you are 26 priorities for a good retirement – one for each letter of the alphabet. Though you’ll only get a taster here. The full set are in Derek Prime’s excellent book ‘A Good Old Age’.

Don’t be put off by that word ‘old’. Derek’s book is all about living a fruitful retirement after years of hard work. With the subtitle – ‘An A to Z of loving and following the Lord Jesus in later years’.

With insight and wisdom, Pastor and Bible teacher Derek Prime, himself in his 80s takes you from A for Acceptance to Z for Zeal. On the way covering things like C for contentment, P for peaceable, V for victorious and X for X-factor.

Let me give you a few tasters.

C for Contentment: Derek writes, ‘Areas of my life bring both contentment and discontent. This can be seen in our family and friends. We can be proud of them, but it may be that we see too little of them, perhaps making us think they do not care much about us’.

Recognising we all have to deal with joys and sorrows he concludes ‘day by day the reading of the scriptures feeds our contentment’

H for Hope: Derek deals with the true meaning of Christian hope. He says, ‘‘Hope means rather than thinking wistfully about the past and what I am missing, I will be thinking with eager anticipation of what God promises me in the future’.

J for judgement: This includes Derek facing the folly of judgementalism. He writes ‘It puts up barriers and ruins relationships particularly between different age groups. It is better, by God’s grace, to be an instrument of his peace than a member of Satan’s fifth column’.

The book has a lovely balance. It does not minimise the new pressures faced by those in their retirement years and gives positive answers on how we can live as fulfilled followers of Christ during them.

The more I read the book, the more I wanted to say – ‘this is how I want to be’. It gave me things I can work on. Character traits that need healing – like tending to be a grumpy old man.

Each chapter concludes with a prayer. And I was humbled by the one at the end of ‘T for Talk’

‘Please help me, Lord, to so fill my heart with the good things of your word that my tongue may share and speak about them when the opportunity is present. May the talk that comes out of my mouth be always helpful and beneficial to others’.

The book has had a mass of 5 star reviews. So I encourage you to take a look. Ether read it straight through or a chapter a day over a longer period. It has also been used as study material for a small group.

The book is a gem. And written by someone with a deep love for God and willing to face the issues retirement brings with fresh insights from God’s word.

A Good Old Age by Derek Prime is published by the Good Book Company with discounts for bulk purchase.

Read something here that would encourage others. Please share it using the links below. And feel free to have your say either here or on our Facebook page.

Dave Fenton:
Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

The 7 good habits of an actively retired disciple. How many are yours?

As the old proverb goes ‘Habits maketh the man – or woman’. But what habits will serve you best as a follower of Jesus in your years of active retirement? Here are my recommendations.

1.Aim to keep Jesus as the centre of all you are

Of course, this first habit is no different from the way Jesus calls us to live during the stages of life that have gone before. To ’Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind’ Matthew 22:37.

2.Don’t quit the race

In this new season it is not a time to rest on our laurels and coast. But to keep engaging with God through Scripture, prayer, worship and joyful obedience at a time of fresh opportunities.

3.Cultivate an expectation of continued spiritual renewal

Keep looking to God for new spiritual growth and understanding. As Paul says, ‘We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed’ 2 Corinthians 4:15. 

4.Deepen your trust in God for the future

We may wonder how you’ll manage. ‘Will we cope?’ ‘Will we have enough?’ But God has promised he will provide: ‘Even to your old age, I am he who will sustain you’.  Isaiah 46:4. That’s a promise to keep hold of from the very moment fulltime work ends.

5.Be prepared to be surprised by God and to see new things happen

This season can offer endless opportunities to have new experiences and explore new challenges. Be ready for what God may do for you, in you and through you. It may be different from the past but it will still be significant.

You may not be old yet, but if Scripture says ‘Your old men will dream, dreams (Joel 2:28) get some practice in before old age arrives.

6.Invest in others

Encourage and equip those coming up behind you by mentoring, supporting, inspiring and providing hospitality. Share the wisdom that God has given you with younger generations, pray for them, seek God’s best for them. As the Psalmist says, ‘I declare your power to the next generation’. Psalm 71:18.

7.Establish the right priorities

As an after-work disciple you are the target of all kinds of marketing. From holidays and finances, to hobbies, sports and funeral plans. There’s no shortage of those who would like your money and your time.

So make sure you listen also to God’s voice in all this. And take to heart St Paul’s encouragement to not ‘be conformed to the world’ but to be ‘transformed by the renewing of your mind’. Romans 12:2.

With these 7 habits at work you’ll be making each day count in serving God’s Kingdom. As Psalm 90:12 prays: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Dianne Tidball

What insights, experiences or questions do you have about establishing godly habits in your after-work years? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Dianne Tidball is a retired Baptist Regional Minister spending her after-work time Bible teaching in local churches, mentoring women leaders and helping churches house the homeless.  She loves being a grandma to Noah, travelling, reading novels and sharing coffee and social events with other women.

We’ve got it so wrong about the impact of ageing on our brains. Ready for some great news?

There’s a picture of ageing that most people carry in their heads. It’s one of inevitably being increasingly forgetful, irrelevant, and with limited ability to learn. And it’s time to see things differently.

That’s the conviction of Daniel Levitin, an expert in how the brain works.

And the news is good. Because science is now revealing our older years to be very different from the accepted stereotypes. Very good indeed.

You are still a smarty pants.

Daniel Levitin’s been applying his discoveries to the brains and lives of those in their retirement years. Put simply, his message is –

                                       Though your pants might now be bigger, you are still a smarty-pants.

But what about those times you’ve lost your keys – again? Can’t remember thingamajig’s name – again? Walked into a room but can’t remember why – again?

Daniel, a neuroscientist, cognitive psychologist, and with five best-selling books on the science of the brain to his credit says ‘Don’t blame your age because you are just as smart as you were’.

Don’t believe the myth.

The myth is that with ageing comes a steepening loss of being able to remember. Yet, insists Daniel, the decline is far less than we have come to believe. More than that, the way we frame our expectations has a big impact on how we see things.

Daniel points out that having taught undergraduates for his entire career, he’s watched them make all kinds of short-term memory errors. He says, ‘They walk into the wrong classroom; turn up to exams without a pencil; forget something I taught two minutes ago.’

This, he asserts, is all similar to the kinds of things their elders do. But the difference is how we come to describe such events.

These error making students don’t think: ‘This has to be a sign of Alzheimer’s.’ Instead they put it down to being too busy, not having enough sleep, or for some other reason.

But for someone 50 years or so older the prevailing explanation is that some marbles have now gone missing – accompanied by a worry about the health of their brain.

More than that, there’s the fact that older adults have more memories to search through to find what they’re looking for. Our brain becomes crowded with memories and information. It’s not an inability to remember that’s the issue. But that there’s so much more information to sort through.

But don’t we start to forget words as the years go by?

According to one neuroscientist, Deborah Burke, of Pomona College’s Project on Cognition and Ageing, when older adults lose track of individual words it’s not the word itself that’s forgotten but just its sound.

Our brains are better than we realise

Daniel cites research showing our brains in later life actually have distinct advantages. He lists things like –

  • Being able to resist acting on impulse
  • Being able to deny gratification
  • Being able to more easily get on with others
  • Being able to make wise and thoughtful decisions.

For reasons like this, the brainy brain expert insists that those entering retirement are just reaching their prime.

Our thinking can even get better

In fact, insists Daniel, some aspects of memory get better as we age. For instance, our ability to extract patterns and to make accurate predictions improves because we’ve had more experience. For this reason, he argues, if you need an X-ray you want a 70-year-old radiologist reading it, not a 30-year-old one.

Daniel concedes that brains slow down and get smaller over time. It’s a decline starting from about our mid-30s. So with age comes a slowing down at answering quiz questions or retrieving names. But at other forms of mental processing we can get better — and faster.

For example, abstract thinking improves, reveals Daniel’s research. This is the kind of processing that enables mathematical ability, language and problem-solving.

So, too, does practical intelligence – or ‘wisdom’. It’s the ability to assess situations and make the best responses. With your brain’s ability to spot patterns where others don’t, and to understand what’s likely to happen next.

Discovery and learning are still possible

Nor are those older as stuck in their ways as popular myth suggests. Neuroscientists speak of ‘plasticity’ – the ability, or not, for the brain to adapt and learn.

A generation ago it was a ‘given’ among the scientific community that those over-60 had little hope of experiencing any significant remodelling of their brains. But new research tells a different story. It’s one where the brains of older adults are able to take great steps to adapt and learn. The only difference being that it simply takes a bit longer.

This means there’s the potential to keep learning and discovering into our 90s and beyond. We just need to expect it to involve a little more concentration and take a little longer.

All of which is perfectly summed up in the words of Daniel Levitin who says; ‘I’ve come to see ageing as not inevitably a period of decline and loss and irrelevance. But a period of potentially renewed engagement, energy and meaningful activities.’

So it is down to each of us to decide which story we will live by. The one that resigns us to imagined inevitable decay. Or the one that grabs each moment positively to make the rest of our lives the best of our lives. Living in the way God has made us with all the opportunities this offers.

Bestselling books by Daniel Levitin include Successful Ageing: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives and The Changing Mind: A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Ageing Well.

What insights, experiences or questions do you have about thinking and learning new things in your after-work years? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Retiring or retired? Here’s the 15 most important questions to ask yourself.

The better the preparation the better the outcome. Isn’t that our perceived wisdom – from travel to DIY? And it equally applies to the major transition from fulltime work to the new era of retirement.

That’s why asking yourself the right questions – and then finding the best answers – can transform the possibly 20 years or so of active life that will follow.

There’s much more to it than ‘will I have enough money’ or ‘where can we travel to’. Much more. And the following 15 questions give you the opportunity to steer your way to a rewarding new era.

Please don’t thrash through them in one sitting. It will blow your brains. And don’t just pick the ones you like. As some are intended to get under your skin a little to provoke the richest outcomes.

One way is to face them in batches of five at intervals – weekly, monthly or whatever. And you can make your own choice on which to tackle first if you see some as a priority. However you do it, don’t rush but give yourself time for some deep reflection.

You might also find it helpful and rewarding to do some of this thinking in the company of others. Perhaps with your nearest and dearest or with others making the same exciting transition.

It’s your call and your future. So here we go.

YOUR FIRST FIVE

1.How and where will I find the space to reflect on what this new season can offer?

Investing quality time and thinking now will pay dividends over the years to come. Simply trying to make it up as you go along is like arriving at a country you have never visited without making the right preparations.

To explore the issues check out The 5 key transition steps.

2.What is my number 1 goal?

Above all else, what big thing do you want to achieve in this next season of your life with all its opportunities? It may take courage to name it and own it. But it will be worth it.

3.What do I believe God is calling me to do with my retirement?

It’s been said ‘God loves you and everyone else has a plan for your life’. And the danger is of letting ‘everyone else’ drive the agenda. This may be one of the hardest questions but it is by far the most important.

You might like to see God designed old age on purpose.

4.How will I meet my financial and practical responsibilities to those who depend on me?

If you need professional advice over money then be sure to get it. And check on what reasonable expectations others may have of your support.

There’s on this at Your money – 4 top tips.

5.What legacy do I want to leave and what will it take to make it happen?

There is one absolute certainty – it’s that our lives will not go on for ever. So what will it take over the next decade or so to leave something valuable behind for others?

YOUR SECOND FIVE

1.How will I replace the two key losses that come when fulltime work ends – being needed and enjoying relationships?

Don’t underestimate the ‘bereavement’ the end of fulltime work can bring. For a fulfilling retirement you’ll need situations where you matter and where lost relationships can be replaced.

For more see What 1,000 retirees said about life after work. And also Surprising community opportunities.

2.What do I need to put in place for my retirement to be the best it can be? 

The best will not happen all by itself. Some positive planning and action is going to be needed to make it so.

For more on this see The 10 planning commandments for retiring.

3.How will I deepen my relationship with God now there’s more time to do so?

Here’s one of the great opportunities that comes when the daily commute has gone. And it points to the danger of filling the new time available with ‘stuff’ rather than the delight of knowing God even better.

4.What of my skills, knowledge, talents and relationships should I let flourish in this new season?

Nail down what is special and valuable about you that can enrich others – and in turn be rewarding for you.

There’s more about this issue at Don’t waste your life-skills and experience.

5.What new experiences do I want to have and what new skills do I want to learn?

As part of making the rest of your life the best of your life, be specific as to what you want to embrace.

For some inspiration see the AfterWorkNet web page on Opportunities.

YOUR THIRD FIVE

1.What is my biggest fear as I look into the future and how will I confront it?

It’s tempting just to bury our fears – or even to pretend we have none. But transition into a whole new way of living can, quite reasonably, generate anxiety. It’s wise to name yours and how you will deal with it.

To understand the challenges ahead see Retirement is a foreign country.

2.Who are the three people I should contact who I neglected when I was working?

It can happen when a driven life pushes us away from what could be productive relationships. So don’t just make a list but reach out.

3.Who do I know who have lived well in their retirement and serve as role models?

Sometimes it can be valuable to see what has worked for others and how this might inform your own plans and decisions.

4.How will I create a balance so my mind, body, and spirit are all engaged?

Indeed, ‘balance’ is the name of the game. And it is not enough to hope it will happen naturally. If only. Rather, careful plans and more than a little discipline will be needed.

5.What would I say to myself in 20 years’ time about the decisions I’m making right now?

Listen to your inner voice. You’ll only get one shot at this. So aim to make decisions you’ll be proud of in the years to come.

Found this helpful? Then please share using the links below.

Is there a question missing? Please share here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Don’t let the Victor Meldrew’s get you. Here’s how.

Of course it could never happen to you, could it? The drift towards grumpiness that can characterise some in their after-work years.

But are you sure? After all, without the focus of employment to occupy us, there’s more time to bemoan the state of the world, our church, our relationships and such?

Is it possible that when we retire we may drift into thinking we deserve a bit of personal pampering? That it’s our right for things to be done our way? This is fuelled by the danger of attitudes hardening as we get older. Leading to us becoming more fixed and less open; more opinionated and less tolerant.

As a result, without realising, we are in danger of drifting towards negativity and a touch of the grumps. We may not go round screaming ‘I can’t believe it!!!’ at regular intervals, but we can too easily head in the direction of being a mini Victor Meldrew.

Yet the Bible says ‘Do everything without complaining’. (Philippians 2:14). And that instruction might be very apposite for those in their years of retirement.

So how can we guard our lives? Here’s some thoughts that may be in the best interest of those around you.

Why we might get it wrong

It is easy to forget that we are now living in the new world of retirement. Things are different. The daily routines have shifted. The security of working life has vanished.

As a result, it’s easy to turn in on ourselves in search of alternative securities. That can mean putting the focus on how we expect things to be done and how they should be.

With this in mind I found some inspiration from Thomas Rainer, founder and CEO of a US internet community. He lists the kind of things he tries to avoid as he becomes more senior as –

  • Having an entitled attitude because of my giving to the church
  • Saying I’ve done my time
  • Focusing more on recreation than on serving
  • Complaining
  • Being more concerned about my preferences than the needs of others

What is at the heart of our life?

Our life has been focussed on clearly defined objectivities. These lead us into all kinds of actions which fill up most of our waking hours. Retirement gives us the chance to re-calibrate our lives and to follow a fresh set of values. Paul defines his values in Romans 12:9 to 21).

They are simple – they don’t need explanation. They demand action

  • Love must be sincere
  • Hate what is evil, cling to what is good
  • Be devoted to one another in love
  • Honour one another above yourselves
  • Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord
  • Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer
  • Share with the Lord’s people who are in need
  • Practice hospitality
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn
  • Live in harmony with one another

AND SO ON …….  There is more. It’s a long list. And if we could do half of it, it could transform our lives.

How easy it is to drift into introspection and change resistance. The essence of Paul’s list is looking to the needs of others as being more important than our own needs. Do that and there will be no room for complaining and the grumps.

Paul has defined how to live as a Christian. These things are easy to lose sight of in the after-work era of our lives.

So let us be people of God committed to his purposes and use both time and experience to grow the Kingdom and not a grumpy attitude. We have so much to give and fresh horizons await if only we look to THE SON.

In contrast to Mr Meldrew, you’d better believe it.

If you’ve found this helpful do share it using the links below. And if you have something to add to the conversation please respond to this blog or on our Facebook page.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

 

Keep it or dump it? Here’s 10 valuable tips for decluttering your inner life.

The move from our three-storey home of 35 years to somewhere much smaller was always going to be a challenge. Over the many years much had been accumulated – some because we could not bear to part with it. Some just because that’s what happens.

And when that time came – and with Christmas just around the corner – I found myself singing to myself what was close to reality:

‘On the twelfth day of moving, these objects I did see…

12 torches shining; 

11 staplers stapling;

10 scissors snipping;

9 kitchen gadgets;

8 pairs of wellies;

7 extra duvets;

6 coffee tables;

5 IKEA Allen keys!

4 broken bikes;

3 doormats;

2 rusty woks;

and a fish taaaaank going for free!’

To be honest, some of the decisions were easy. After all, who needs five pairs of scissors? Just keeping the best ones made sense. But it was not all that simple.

Which got me thinking about how we can apply the principles of physically decluttering to our inner life – and the habits, thoughts, attitudes we’ve gathered over the years.

This is what I came up with – some simple questions to ask ourselves and some actions to take.

1.Is it time for an internal review?

How long is it since you sat quietly and took stock of what’s ‘cluttering’ your thoughts and emotions? Too long? Then make the commitment to do so, asking God to help you start and expecting him to be with you in the process.

2.Does such a thought fill you with dread?

Don’t be hard on yourself or charge off in the direction of feeling guilty – any more than you should about what may be cluttering your garage or attic. God wants to bless you as you ‘clean house’ and has plans for your future, for hope.

3.Are you aware of what’s in your life – emotionally and spiritually?

It’s easy to get in a rut and feel your inner life is ‘same old, same old’. But the best years may be ahead and some uncluttering could give you the space for it to unfold.

 4.What do you need to prioritise?

Looking after your health and wellbeing – physically and emotionally –is vital and not selfish. So think about rooting out activities and external demands that put this at risk.

5.Is there stuff you should dump?

Has the time come to lay down some of the past you are carrying? Hurts, resentments, disappointments, failures? Perhaps the spiritual equivalent of your local dump is The Cross – which is where you need to take them and leave them.

6.What’s good that you need to celebrate?

A physical declutter can often reveal some treasures that have been overlooked and deserve dusting down and giving pride of place. That can be true of our inner lives too. Look out for those gems that deserve being celebrated and made more of.

7.Are you taking time to enquire and listen to what God wants to say to you?

With a listening ear, ask God what he’d love you to leave go of and what he’d like you to make room for. Perhaps do so in the company of those closest to you. You may be surprised at the answers.

8.How are your spiritual disciplines?

Discipleship is lifelong learning and progress only comes through regularly practising spiritual habits like taking time with the Bible, praying and giving thanks, loving others.

9.Are there old hopes and dreams that God is stirring in you again – or could do?

The passing years might have dulled desires and aspirations you once had. So consider spending time remembering, perhaps reading old journals or sharing with long term friends. Maybe the time has now come to go for it.

 10.Is Jesus at the centre of your life or are other loves competing?

The first Commandment speaks about God’s loving jealousy for us to stay in a mutually committed relationship with him. One that places our trust in him alone to deliver and see us through. Is that where you are?

That’s my list. To be honest, it’s a lot more challenging than figuring out which pair of scissors to keep. But even more important.

If you have found this helpful please share it using the links below.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother.

What if Mick Jagger checked out your church? Would boomers like him fit in? If not, now what?

It may seem odd to use Mick Jagger as an example of someone who might check out your church. But I need to pick on someone of his baby boomer era to make my point.

It could equally be a Michaela as a Mick. And any of old rubber lips’ fans would fit the bill. In fact, anyone in the age bracket between mid-60s and mid-70s. Who grew up in the 60s. Never waltzed. And feels more comfortable in denim than anything else.

Right now, picture one of them checking out churches, landing on the website of yours, and asking ‘where would I fit in?’ Their quest is not for a show, or a party or dry ice and lasers. But just for a setting where they’d feel comfortable.

Perhaps something you have flagged as being for ‘seniors’? But perhaps not. ‘Traditional’ is never going to float their boat. Attractive as it might be for those a decade older, it’s ‘thanks but no thanks’.

Perhaps the ‘all-age family worship’? Well your website visitor is ‘all-age’, and does have a family – but it’s long fled the nest. Should they put a toe in the water? But can you picture a Michaela or Mick – or anyone of their boomer culture – throwing themselves with relish into My Lighthouse together with all the actions?

Can you? Really?

But there’s still that evening event geared for youth – who else in their right mind would figure 6.30 on a Sunday as a suitable time to do anything other than get ready to eat?

But there it is. Casual, friendly, contemporary – and stacked out with teens and 20s and very few of M and M’s age they could relate to.

Does it really matter that nothing seems to fit? After all, aren’t the urgent needs to reach the young and care for those who can hardly remember when they were? Of course. But should this be at the expense of neglecting the over 9 million contemporaries of Michaela and Mick?

That’s right. Over 9 million. With few of them finding a home in our churches – perhaps including yours.

Yet ought not these boomers to be on the minds and hearts of our churches? This generation is the last to have heard the Bible’s stories in Sunday School, and to have experienced an act of Christian worship at school each morning.

This means they know the Bible’s stories in a way those coming up behind them simply don’t. No wonder it was this generation, and Mick’s mates Webber and Rice, that gave us Joseph’s Technicolour Dream Coat and Jesus Christ Superstar.

What can be done? What MUST be done?

Perhaps it was with this segment in mind that an American church turned their Christmas nativity into a Beatles rock opera. Their ‘Let it Be Christmas’ celebrated the Gospel ‘according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, George, and Ringo’.

Mixing well-known carols, Scripture and the music of the Beatles, it invited people to a ‘magical mystery tour through the Gospels to tell the greatest story of all time, with the greatest music of all time’.

The creators discovered the songs were a perfect fit with there being no need to mess with the lyrics. Ideal was Here Comes the Sun. And not least was the moment Joseph responded to Mary’s news with an upbeat ‘We Can Work it Out’.

What boomer Tom, Dick, Harry, Michaela or Mick would not be open to that? The answer is something of a no-brainer.

Yet there’s no need to go into that kind of overdrive in order to respond to the spiritual needs of such a neglected and underserved segment of your community.

All it takes is for a small group – even two or three – to start praying and looking for appropriate ways to engage with unchurched Boomers. And then to do something about it, however small.

Push the door and see if it opens. You will never know until you try. You may even find yourself to be a ground breaker – giving ideas and inspiration to others – because precious little on this front seems to be being done at the moment.

As you pray you might seek answers to questions like –

  • Who do we know already who belong to this group of people?
  • How could we get to know them better and build friendships?
  • What issues are they facing and how are they dealing with them? Meaning to life? Disappointment? Loss of status or health? The need for adventure? And many more.
  • What openings might recreation offer – walking football, badminton, tenpin bowling, etc?
  • Is there a way to do Alpha that matches their lifestyle?
  • How can we offer them the opposite of the fake news they have come to hate?

Whatever you come up with, aim to keep it small, friendly, and relevant. Even a small book group or a pub night is better than nothing. And everything has to start somewhere.

Of course, there is still the bigger picture – the limitations of what your church may offer at the moment in the context of its worship and teaching. I wonder if there is a clue in that the Let it Be Nativity had its genesis in an advent sermon series that used a different Beatles song title each week.

Whatever, any kind of response is going to take some courage. But at least the issue should be on the church leadership’s to-do list.

Want to explore this subject more? Then see the AfterWorkNet blog on How Come Everyone is Interested in the Saga Generation Other Than the Churches. And check out Chris Harrington’s book Reaching the Saga Generation, (Grove Books).

What insights or questions do you have about reaching those retired and active? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Want to do well in the transition out of fulltime work? Here’s the 5 key steps.

The transition from fulltime work is like moving to a country you have never visited. With the changes involved likely to be far greater than you could ever imagine.

In theory, every day becomes a Saturday. But such unstructured time, with seemingly endless opportunities, is not as easy to navigate as you might imagine.

So if you are heading towards the world of no longer working fulltime, or are already there, here are 5 key steps to keep in mind.

1.Take a breather

This is something I wish I’d done. It was so easy to slip from a demanding work environment into an almost equally busy existence – with not enough thought as to what was going on.

Like many others, I soon found myself thinking, ‘I’m busier now than when I was working’. But is that really a good thing to just drift into?

Perhaps the biblical idea of ‘Jubilee’ has something to teach us. One year in fifty is a fallow year (Leviticus 25:11). We may not all be farmers but we will have worked for close to fifty years. So taking a year out – or even a few months – would seem a sensible way to recharge, process the change and define what you are and what you do.

But this kind of Jubilee ought to involve much more than watching endless daytime TV? A good start may be to pray – to thank God for your working years, however hard they may have been. And asking him to guide you into and through the next phase of life.

2.Make an inventory

As the dust settles on the old start listing down –

  • The things you’ll miss from the past
  • Things you always wanted to do but work got in the way
  • Dreams you might now be able to fulfil
  • Your bucket list
  • The expectations others may have for you that will impact your decisions
  • The kind of legacy you want to leave behind
  • The abilities, expertise and wisdom you now have to offer

If you’ve never done some kind of gift analysis – exploring what you have to offer – this might be a good time to do one. An example is the Shape Test which will help you identify what your passions and gifts.

Sometimes this confirms what someone already knows. And sometimes it can produce a surprise or two.

3.See where you can be used

Without being presumptuous, it is likely that you will have some 10 years of active retirement to enjoy and invest. That will match around 20 per cent of what has been your working life. This may be longer than you ever spent in one particular job. So it is worth getting it right.”

Then it’s time begin exploring some opportunities that seem to match your gifts and passions. Keep in mind that you’ll be needing to replace the companionship you had in your fulltime working days. And also the fact that you had somewhere you were needed.

But commit to absolutely nothing until you’ve had a good look around. It’s easy to end up responding to every demand made of you. Now you have time there may be plenty of people who assume you now have time for what they have in mind. So, at the very least, make sure your passions and gifts are a good match for their requests.

For example, an accountant doesn’t now have to be either an auditor or a treasurer for every charity in their county. I had a friend who longed to dump many of his financial responsibilities. On the other hand you may want to use your professional skills in retirement years.

Don’t be too restrictive or humble about what you could do. Our church recently sent an 85 year old to visit an African hospital he had supported and prayed for over the years. He’d longed to visit but caring for his sick wife made it impossible.

However, when she died he was free to go and was so blessed by the new experience. So were we by his passion for mission when he returned.

4.Be available

Before your transition into ‘after-work’ your life was crowded and demanding – it had to be that way. But you now have space and time. Not least to be more available to God and to strengthen your relationship with him. Including, perhaps, reading books or listening to podcasts you never had time for.

Such availability need not be all God-centred. When a friend asked me what I was in to at the moment. I gave some good holy answers. But he challenged me to say something about an issue I was interested in. With my passion in military history I confessed I was looking into ‘luck’ in war. I’m still researching.

Being available, includes being available to others. If you have carved out time for reading and reflection then be prepared ‘sacrifice’ some of it for drop of the hat helping out moments. Your availability could be exactly what someone needs.

5.Consider your community

In the process of reviewing where your passions and abilities could be invested, do consider your community. Especially as so many social services have been cut, leaving many people vulnerable. It’s impossible for me to be prescriptive here but a look at the local Citizens Advice may show you something that needs doing and is a good match.

Or maybe, just call in on a lonely person down your street from time to time. To lift their spirits and remind them they are not forgotten.

Whatever you do, remember each of us – at work and in the years that follow – you Christ’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). And the words of Jesus remain true, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did it for me’ (Matthew 25:40).

Found this helpful? Then do please share it using the links below. And have your say here and on our Facebook page.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

It was tears and no church on Easter Sunday for this retired vicar. This is David’s valuable story.

When I retired, ten years ago, I nearly went to pieces. I had been in the same church for twenty six years. And my wife, Sue, and I knew it was time to leave, for our sakes as well as the church.

Longer ministries are a good idea, but there are limits.

In the final weeks everyone was kind. Remembering to look sad when they bumped into us. But beneath the surface there was gathering excitement about the next phase of the church’s life.

And we were excited too.

In my mind I was more than ready for this new stage of life. New adventure, new freedom. Lots of time to sit and pray and read and think and write- and visit Waitrose coffee shops. And walk the dog.

But in the end it came like a body blow.

I don’t want to alarm you, but retirement for a clergy person is a triple bereavement. You lose your job, your community and your home. And, understandably, you are not encouraged to hang around.

So we left our lovely rectory and moved to a pleasant semi-detached house ten miles away. Because my father had been a vicar I had lived in large detached houses for much of my life and I was about to discover I was a snob.

Sitting in our new garden one day there was a sudden eruption of noise from over the fence. ‘What’s that?’ I shouted. ‘Dad,’ said my daughter, ‘it’s neighbours. Welcome to the real world.’

It was close to Easter and for the first time in about a hundred years I didn’t go to church on Easter Day. I looked out of our lounge window and cried I know it’s a bit pathetic, but it’s true.

What’s the point?

Long story! Sue sometimes says to me after a sermon. ‘Great story, Dave (it’s always Dave when she wants to wind me up) …and your point?’

Well the point on this occasion is that in the process of ‘running a church’ I had got confused about my identity. I had come to see it as bound up with my role.

‘Who are you?’ ‘I’m Rector of St. Saviour’s Guildford.’ But of course identity is to do with who we are first, and only then with what we do.

I think God was simply telling me that in retirement I remained his beloved child. It was like he was telling me to sit still, to look and listen and wait. ‘You’ve done enough damage over 40 years, now just calm down and wait and know that I love you.’

What came home to me was that I am a sheep under the care of the chief Shepherd. That is my identity.

Why is this so important?

It’s because identity brings security and we can only function well out of a place of security. Secure in God’s loving call we are able to relax, to listen, to care, to love and to forgive.

Conversely the unidentified life is a brittle one. Uncertain of who we are, confused maybe about our worth to God, our attitude to others becomes uneasy and inconsistent.

It’s a valuable lesson I have learned. And that’s why I’ve shared it.

Adapted from David Bracewell’s blog Essentials: Identity – letters to a church leader in their first job in charge. To view or subscribe go to Church Leader Blog.

Found this helpful? Then do please share using the links below.

For more on ‘identity’ see the AfterWorkNet webpages on Status.

David Bracewell.

David Bracewell was a CofE minister for over 50 years. Now, mid-70s, he lives in Derby where he’s a member of St Werburgh’s in the city centre. David mentors a few young people, travels a bit teaching and preaching and continues to run a much loved Mazda MX 5 sports car.

Each of these 8 transferable skills opens doors to rewarding work – paid or voluntary. Which is yours?

 

A key to flourishing in retirement is to keep active – in mind, body and spirit. One way is to find work – paid or voluntary. Though in a less demanding and time consuming role.

But what if the job you have done doesn’t have a part-time equivalent? Or you simply don’t want more of the same?

Don’t worry, as there’s hope. The secret, when looking, not to think ‘job role’ as there may not be a round hole waiting that matches the one you once had. Instead, focus on the ‘life skills’ you have developed – because they open doors.

Indeed, there are 8 distinct transferable skills that can lead to a rewarding role. That’s what RestLess, an organisation helping those who are ‘older’ find rewarding roles, have identified.

And here they come. Check out which are yours and explore the opportunities.

1. Communication skills

Being a good communicator tends to mean you are a good listener and able to express yourself clearly and concisely, verbally and in writing

If you’ve a track record in a role requiring that kind of ability you have something that’s much needed.

Opportunities include: Teaching English as a foreign language, Counselling, Teaching assistant, Receptionist, Customer service.

2. Planning, organisation and time management skills

Employers love organised people because they get things done. Such people are great at setting goals and planning the steps needed to complete them. Don’t that? Then you are on your way.

Opportunities include: Party planner, Project manager, Admin assistant, Personal assistant, Travel planner.

3. Creativity

A creative person uses their imagination to think outside the box and bring new light on old ideas. And there are plenty of roles that call for such skills.

Opportunities include: Florist, Art therapy, Photographer, Furniture restorer.

4. The ability to keep calm under pressure

Not everyone can keep calm in a high pressure environment. If you’ve previously held roles where you have been able to keep calm and carry on you may be an ideal candidate.

Opportunities include: Doula, Emergency call handler, Carer.

5. People skills

People with exceptional people skills tend to have high levels of emotional intelligence, empathy and compassion. They are able to put themselves in other people’s shoes, consider how they may be feeling, and produce a response that the receiver will be particularly receptive to.

Opportunities include: Counsellor, Customer service, Call centre, Tour guide, Personal shopper.

6. Leadership skills

A strong leader takes charge of situations and motivates and inspire others to achieve their goals. They are also problem solvers who delegate, plan and coordinate.

Opportunities include: Become your own boss, Franchise owner, Project manager, Youth worker, Volunteer team leader.

7. Technological skills

Whether you have skills in coding, databases or social media platforms, there are roles out there waiting for what you have learned over the years.

Opportunities include: IT consultant, Video editor, Social media officer, Digital marketer, Charity back office support.

8. Numeracy skills

Good with numbers and happy to keep crunching them? There are openings depending the level of responsibility you’d like to have and how sociable you wish to be.

Opportunities include: Book keeper, Maths teacher, Credit controller.

Now for some final words of wisdom from RestLess – who did this thinking and have lots more resources to help. They say, ‘Always remember employers are looking for talented individuals first and foremost. And many are happy to offer training for those with the right transferable skills and attributes’.

For links to a mass of opportunities and wisdom on working in later life see the website RestLess.

You’ll also find ideas and resources on the AfterWorkNet webpages under Opportunities and Serving.

If you have found this helpful do please share it using the links below.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.

What 1,000 retirees said about their life after work may shock you.

The assumption is that life after full time work will be one of bliss. No longer needing to set the alarm. More time to travel, relax, socialise, and ‘get things done’.

But a survey of 1,000 UK retirees tells a very different story. Indeed, it’s a wakeup call for those heading for life after fulltime work or already drifting through it.

Above all, it highlights the dangers that come from not replacing the two key things that are lost when work ends – purpose and companionship. Otherwise, as the research shows, retirees can be left longing for the benefits that came from the career they left behind.

The eye-opening research, conducted for Home Instead Senior Care, speaks of those –

Retired to disappointment

Feelings of being deeply disappointed by their retirement were expressed by 1 in 5.

Prodding deeper, a quarter put this down to now having no real routine in their day-to-day life. And a third saying retirement had left them feeling they had lost their purpose in life.

Missing the workplace

Asked what they missed most about the world of work, almost half said this was spending time with their colleagues. With a third saying they missed the workplace banter.

For almost 4 out of 10, missed was the income their job had provided as they were no longer able to afford the things they wanted to do.

And, for almost a third, there was a yearning to have an active mind. In fact, well over half agreed with the statement that ‘work is good for mental health’.

The desire to still have work in one form or another was also highlighted. More than a third expressed the belief that it’s important to have something like part-time work or a hobby after retiring.

Missing the fun of work

Over half of those surveyed said they had found working fun and they missed it. With an almost equal number saying a problems with not working is they miss being around people.

Wished they had kept working longer

Perhaps the most revealing finding of all is that a quarter of the retirees surveyed believed they had quit work too soon. The average respondent said they would have happily continued some kind of work for another seven years.

That finding encouraged those behind the survey to launch a campaign encouraging people to UnRetire and so reap the benefits working life brings.

Lack of support for retirees

Also revealing was the perceived lack of support from employers to help people make the transition. Two in 4 said they had received too little. And a third saying they had received no support at all.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Wise retirees know that to flourish in their new era means doing more than making the most of their new freedom. It also involves actively seeking to replace the purpose and companionship they have left behind.

If that matters to you, check out the following AfterWorkNet web pages on Opportunities and Serving.

Do you an experience of how you replaced the purpose and companionship of your workplace in your retirement? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.

 

Susan didn’t expect her retirement years would involve doing crafts with homeless women. This is her story.

When I retired, I knew I wanted to do some sort of voluntary work. Maybe something like tidying the countryside or signposting at a health centre. But three years ago, I went to a London City Mission supporters’ coffee morning.

There Lynne, one of the missionaries, spoke about her work with women living in hostels. Afterwards we talked and she invited me to a craft session at the women’s hostel. And I’ve been involved ever since.

The room we meet in has a toaster, kettle and fridge so we can provide drinks and snacks. Usually around half a dozen women join us – quite hungry it seems as all the food disappears.

On the women’s birthdays, we’ll sing happy birthday and give them a cake and a card. Then we move on to our craft activities.

We sometimes use adult colouring books – it’s relaxing, calming, and the women seem to enjoy doing that. Some particularly like making cards which is great as I like doing crafts and hand-making cards.

Recently we’ve been doing a lot of painting in different forms. They have really enjoyed this and have been encouraged and surprised at what they can do. Last year the women exhibited their work at a cafe and are hoping to do so again this year.

The women are in the hostel with a view to moving on to independent living, but some of them have been there for years.

Many don’t have much in their lives. They tend to keep things hidden and seem to find it difficult to build relationships and to trust people.

I’ve learned I need to be quite thick-skinned – quite a few women have been vicious with their tongue or in other ways. I once asked a lady something I thought was friendly, but the answer she gave was quite hurtful. But it wasn’t just me she was attacking, other people got the same treatment. I think she just couldn’t cope with kindness.

Lynne and her colleague have a bubbly, positive attitude – I wish I had more of that. But I know even the missionaries can be discouraged at times because seeing fruit takes a long time.

Many are happy to hear about Jesus and God’s love, and to look at scripture. We’d like to see results more quickly than we do. But the problems these women face have often been years in developing, so change will not happen overnight. They need lots of love and encouragement.

People’s stories are often surprising. Some of the women have run their own businesses, until something went wrong. One of the ladies recently told me how she’d given her life to the Lord. She said she was a new person and now had a reason to get out of bed each day. That is why my being there for them on a regular basis is so important.

Volunteering has helped me see people differently, especially people sleeping on the streets. Christians should be the quickest to give people a second chance, and to show love that others may never have been shown before.

It’s taken me out of my comfort zone, as I’m not a particularly outgoing person, usually happy quietly helping out in the background. But I’m learning that if God is behind you, you can do things you never thought you could.

If me, why not you? Step out in faith and have a go!

Susan McGowan

Susan’s story first appeared in Premier Christianity magazine. To read four testimonies from Christians who’ve proved you’re never too old for mission, request a free sample copy of the latest print issue at here.

To explore a host of volunteer opportunities, see the AfterWorkNet web pages on Serving. And if you have an experience to share please do so here or with our Facebook Group. Thank you.

Having a dog could save your life. Here’s why and how.

When it comes to dogs that save lives you probably think of a St Bernard braving the snow. Or a sniffer dog finding those trapped under wreckage. But please think again.

Be they Crufts champions or the lowliest mutt, every dog is a potential lifesaver and life extender. That’s what researchers have discovered on analysing data from almost 4 million people.

To put it simply – they found those who own a dog likely to live longer than those who don’t. How much longer?

The review, bringing together ten studies and published for the American Heart Association, reveals dog owners were 24 per cent less likely to die over a ten year period than sans-pooch people.

Why does owning a dog have such a protective effect on our health – especially for people living alone or recovering from heart disease?

According to this research, published in the journal Circulation, dog owners are likely to benefit from lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol and a lowered stress response.

Those behind the study point to three main reasons–

Exercise: People with dogs move about more – walking and playing with them. And, unlike non-dog owners, have a built in ‘nagger’ to make sure this activity happens.

For more on the value of exercise see the AfterWorkNet blog Do the washing up to live longer.

Fresh air: It seems the human body does better when able to fill its lungs with fresh air and let sunlight fall in its skin. And that’s what happens when people go ‘walkies’

Companionship: Loneliness is a killer, science has shown. It can do as much harm to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

As Dr Dhruv S Kazi said in a commentary on the research findings, ‘Dogs offer companionship, reduce anxiety and loneliness, increase self-esteem, and improve overall mood.’ All of which improve mental health and reduce stress-related wear and tear on our body and heart.

For more on the impact of loneliness see the AfterWorkNet web pages on The Lonely.

All of this points to the two great lifesaving outcomes a four legged friend can deliver. These being –

Better overall health

Dog ownership was associated with a 24 percent risk reduction in dying for any reason compared to those who don’t own a dog.

All that walking, fresh air and companionship adds years to life.

Better recovery

Another dog-related study, reported in the same issue of Circulation, looked at the impact of pet ownership on stroke and heart attack survivors. Using data from more than 300,000 Swedish patients together with that from the national dog registr, it showed –

  • Heart attack patients living alone and owning a dog were a third less likely to suffer another heart attack than those who were canine free.
  • Stroke patients living alone with a dog were more than a quarter less likely to suffer another one.

Dr Tove Fall of Uppsala University, who was behind the research said, ‘If this was a drug, it would make a pharmaceutical company very rich.’

Returning to the major study, the message is ‘don’t hang about – get a dog’. Its lead author Caroline Kramer points out, ‘The overall understanding of cardiovascular health is the earlier we implement healthier behaviours the better.’

To sum up. If you have a dog, be thankful for the extra years your companion is likely to bestow on you. Which is what ‘best friends’ do.

No dog? You have three options.

  1. Get one.
  2. Borrow one – offer to do the walking, or dog sit.
  3. Make sure you experience those things a dog would contribute to your life in some other way.

It may be a dog’s life. But there can be more life in the old dog yet – if you have a dog.

Have you an experience of your life being richer and more healthy thanks to having a dog? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance. He doesn’t have a dog.

I’m 78 and refuse to retire—here are 7 things about happiness and money we’re often taught too late

I am 78 years old, have been married to the same woman for 50 years and am a proud parent of two daughters. My wife and I are also grandparents, of two children.

Of course, there have been ups and downs, including being diagnosed with two forms of cancer. But I look back on my life, and on my career as a publisher and writer, and feel reasonably successful and happy.

Now I’m nearly 80, I’ve learned 7 important lessons about success, money and happiness.

1.Remember to be kind to yourself

Kindness can be directed inward as well as outward. Being kind to yourself isn’t self-indulgence; it’s validating your own worth.

We are probably our own harshest critics, and we certainly know our limitations better than anyone else. So when things don’t turn out as you intended, it’s sometimes a kindness to remind yourself that your intentions were honourable.

Not everything that goes wrong is your fault. And while you might be good at taking the blame for the sake of a peaceful life, being kind to yourself means sharing the burden of guilt that, from time to time, cripples us all.

2.Money won’t make you happy

Money allows you to enjoy life if you have enough — and maybe a bit more than ‘enough.’ But it won’t significantly boost your happiness in life.

Your happiness and well-being comes from taking care of yourself, the good things you’ve experienced – like love and laughter –  and nurturing relationships with people who make a positive difference in your life.

3.You’re never too old – or too young – to make mistakes

Mistakes are signs of vitality, inventiveness and adventurous intelligence, at least when you’re the person making them.

You’ll never try or discover something new if you’re afraid of getting it wrong. Mistakes are an unavoidable part of progress, so don’t be afraid to make the leaps, no matter how frightening they may seem.

Of course, there are limits.

Incompetence or malpractice deserves punishment. But people – especially the younger ones – should be aware that generally when we make mistakes, it’s a sign that we prefer to experiment, rather than be cautious to the point of cowardice.

4.‘Retirement’ is a nonsensical term

I am self-employed and still working in my late-70s – and don’t plan or want to retire anytime soon. I’ve just finished writing a novel and even have another one planned. In a world where so many dream of early retirement, this must sound like a shocker.

But ‘retirement’ is a nonsensical term: to call yourself retired is a totally inaccurate description of all the activities and anxieties that fill your waking – and often your sleeping – hours. Just because you’re no longer in full-time employment doesn’t mean you have withdrawn from the world, or that you have nothing more to contribute.

Giving up your active work life just because you have reached an arbitrary age is ridiculous. If you’re still alive, active, capable and taking pride and pleasure in what you do, you should be encouraged to continue.

5.Keep your ambition engine running

Without something to aim for, you risk getting bored, and boredom can destroy you. An ambition should be just – but not too far – beyond your reach. At my age, I still have the ambition to do my daily walk a bit quicker or cook a dish I’ve never tried before to impress my wife.

Also, the greatest ambitions don’t always have to be career-related. They can be things you’ve never gotten around to doing, like playing jazz piano or mastering mahjong.

Then, once you’ve acquired the basics, you should play to win because you never really lost the competitive spirit that kept you going in the first place. Ambition means looking forward, and that’s always better than looking back.

6.There’s no point in trying to escape change

Change is difficult and uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. It can be forced upon us by unexpected circumstances: an accident, a job loss, an illness or malfunction in a machine we rely on.

The odd thing is, the older we get, the more we grumble about change. Yet so many of us have already faced the greatest change of all: going from independence to dependence, with little or no preparation at all.

I suppose it’s because it’s something we don’t want to think about too much, as we’re secretly confident we’ll cope when we have to.

7.You can be a hypocrite without even knowing it

Hypocrisy isn’t when you tell an actor they were wonderful when they were terrible. Or when you tell a friend they look terrific when they’re deathly ill. That’s being well-mannered for the sake of a quiet life and because we all want to be liked.

Hypocrisy is when you promise you’ll go see someone you have no desire or intention to visit; when you say you’d love to have lunch with someone you’ve successfully avoided for months; when you add to an email: ‘Please let me know if there’s anything more I can do,’ when you’ve plainly washed your hands of the matter.

Hypocrisy is lying, and you may be guilty of it without even realising it. And it’s nonetheless reprehensible when you do it at a distance. Don’t fall into the trap of getting so used it to that it no longer bothers you.

This blog first appeared on CNBC Make It. It has been adapted and is used with permission of the writer.

Do you have some wisdom to share about life after fulltime work? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Peter Buckman

Peter has written books, plays and scripts for film, TV and radio. The first book he took on as a literary agent turned into Slumdog Millionaire. Peter’s eighth book, Still With It!, published by The Experiment, is a collection of life-changing lessons for readers of all ages.

Worried about dementia? Then here’s some very good news.

If you live in the UK you are likely to worry more about developing dementia in your retirement than those in any other country. That’s according to research by the global insurance company AEGON.

To put it in numbers, two in five in the UK have anxieties about developing dementia compared to one in three globally.

But why such a high level of worry?

Perhaps it has it has a certain Job-like resonance. If you remember, Job sat on a refuse tip, scratching his skin with pieces of broken pottery, when he said, ‘What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come true.’ 

Why had he been in such dread? Nothing in his life beforehand had justified his worrying. He was a successful businessman, a leader in the community, and a patriarch of a large prospering family.

His worrying was all based on ‘what if…’ Perhaps he was influenced by what he saw happening to people around him. And perhaps that’s how it is in the UK regarding fear of developing dementia.

Though not so much what we see but, rather, what we read and hear. And we’d worry less if we could see our way past so much myth and misunderstanding about the condition. So let me give you some good news.

It’s not as prevalent as you may think: You may have read there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. However, that figure is not based on evidence: Rather, there are currently ‘only’ 537,000 people diagnosed with dementia in the UK according to dementiastatistics.org.

Why is that number so wrong? It’s because the inflated figure comes from 1980s projections when dementia was thought to be rolling in like a tsunami. It’s a supposition, not a fact.

The numbers are falling and not rising: Studies quoted in the New Scientist Live show the number impacted by dementia has dropped by a fifth over the past two decades. To quote, ‘Four out of five large studies in different European countries have now suggested our chance of getting dementia by any particular age is less than that of previous generations.’

Though the number impacted in the UK has stayed the same, the percentage is less due to the increase in population. This is probably due to the growing focus on healthy living and preventative measures. These include dealing with loneliness, depression and stress, with studies showing that depression slows blood flow to the brain and people who suffer chronic stress in midlife are more likely to develop dementia.

Indeed, a 35 yearlong study of men living in Caerphilly showed those who stuck to healthy living guidelines saw their risk of dementia more than halved.

So this could be a good time to stop worrying. Especially as research increasingly shows that people with a negative view of being old are more likely to be unhappy, have more health issues in their later years, and have earlier deaths.

So beware of being a Job. And keep in mind those words from the Bible’s book of Proverbs, ‘Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of all of life’s consequences.’ Proverbs 4:23 CJB.

The answer seems to be – take the Scriptures seriously; eat and live sensibly, and watch what you are thinking and reading.

Louise Morse

For some wise advice on heath take a look at the AfterWorkNet webpages on Health and Fitness. And if you have insights or questions on the issue of dementia do share them here or with our Facebook group.

Louise Morse is a popular speaker and writer about old age, including dementia, and follows current research on the issues. She’s media and external affairs manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society, a Christian charity giving practical and spiritual support to older people.

The 3 key ‘growing older’ lessons from the life of St Paul you won’t want to miss

Growing old in the best way can be a challenge – amid the changing circumstances, pressures and difficulties that can often go with it. This can be true for us. And it was also true of the Apostle Paul and has much to teach us.

Paul is one of the few people in the New Testament whose life journey we can trace. Through the record of Acts and Paul’s letters we can examine the life of someone who had journeyed with Christ and was growing older in Christ.

What we discover is, in his advancing years, Paul did three things we would be wise to take on board – all of which spring out of his letter to the church in Philippi.

1. Paul met changing circumstances head-on

Change is often a challenge as we make the transition from fulltime work into and through the retirement years. It may involve a new home, lower income, fresh responsibilities, the loss of old relationships and status. And also adjusting to a life that allegedly offers more time and greater choice.

Paul, too, had to respond to huge changes as his life progressed.

We meet him first as a zealous young Pharisee, standing by impassively at the stoning of Stephen. Then he met Jesus and his world was turned upside down.

What followed involved a variety of experiences as he travelled: violent opposition, shipwreck, imprisonment, disappointments and, surely, times of loneliness. But nothing shattered Paul’s resolve to follow his Lord by preaching the gospel, teaching young believers and praying for them day and night.

What was Paul’s secret to keep going no matter how dramatically his situation changed? It was this. He didn’t ask ‘God what are you doing to me?’ Instead, he responded with the question ‘God what are you doing in this situation?’

He expressed it to the church at Philippi like this; ‘I will rejoice, for I know through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as is my eager expectation and hope…’ Philippians 1.18 – 20.

To do the same, you will need to call upon the determination to trust that God is all-powerful, and truly cares about you. And, even if the present looks bleak, he is inviting you to play a part in building his kingdom in some way.

Note that Paul acknowledges the importance of others’ prayers and the help of the Holy Spirit. We need these too as we journey through life’s changes and the challenges they can bring.

2. Paul cultivated the right attitude

How do you find yourself responding when difficulties come into your life and things do not go your way? Paul knew he must practise what he preached.

And what he preached was the need for the kind of attitude Jesus had. He wrote of the way Jesus ‘made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.’ Philippians 2.8

More than that, at the time Paul was writing to the Philippian Christians, he knew death was not far from him. Perhaps you too are facing a major crisis that threatens your future.

Paul’s response was to submit himself to God, saying ‘If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but is more necessary for you that I remain in the body’. Philippians 2. 22 – 24

Now there’s an amazing attitude to be emulated – one of not seeking our own way but being humble seeking to serve others.

3. Paul resolved to do everything without complaining

Grumbling can all too easily become our default response to life. It can happen without us realising as we face situations and circumstances not of our choosing. Sadly, the accumulation of long years of experience doesn’t make complaining or arguing any less likely.

Paul’s words to the church in Philippi were not specifically aimed at its older members but they were included in his exhortation to ‘Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights…’ Philippians 2.14 -15

In our later years we are not called so much to be perfect as to be different. And Paul’s own experience is a shining example as to what that could look like for all of us.

These thoughts were inspired by insights from Rob Merchant, Director of Dispersed Learning at St Mellitus College, Chelmsford.

Are there other ways in which the life or words of St Paul are a guide to you in your days after fulltime work? Please share them here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook Group. Thank you.

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently moved from office-based to working from home. She writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. Celia also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

 

Once – catching international drug runners. Now – using what God has put in his hands. Paul’s story.


I’d always assumed there would be ample time to plan for the moment my fulltime work ended. Instead, thanks to the austerity measures of the then Chancellor, I had only six weeks before my role in the Serious Organised Crime Agency came to an abrupt end.

My career – with its focus on covert intelligence – had been pressurised and, at times, stressful. Lots of long working days, time away from home, operational out-of-hours decisions, life-threatening risks and the rest.

I know many have similar working pressures of their own. And it’s only on leaving we realise there’s life outside the bubble we call work. Which, too often, defines us and is where we derive our self-esteem.

Early on in my career I adopted a favourite Bible verse of my Dad from Micah 6 v 8 – ‘What does God require of you, but to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God’, and this became my watchword. Of course, to be honest, I didn’t and couldn’t live up to it. But I strived to apply it in my work chasing the bad guys.

So, there I was at 57 – which I knew to be the new 47 – about to take an early bath. And knowing I needed ways to stimulate my grey matter if I was to retain my sanity, keep my marriage alive, and use the skills God has given me.

But first I did something I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone entering their after-work years. It was to take six months doing nothing.

In reality it was not actually ‘nothing’. Having always enjoyed whittling pieces of wood, I spent a stress-free and politics-free few months designing and building a bed from scratch. Be careful if your wife/husband asks you to make the bed.

It proved to be the perfect way to detox. Easing me away from the past pressures and free to contemplate the ‘what next’ issue – other than the plan to learn some proper woodworking skills over the years to come.

It was during that time Moses’ experience at the burning bush, recorded in Exodus chapter 4, came to mind. Here God asks Moses ‘what is that in your hand?’ referring to the staff or crook Moses used as a shepherd.

Moses’ staff was a fundamental tool in his work and helped to define him and identify him. The point for me – and perhaps for you – is God can use what each of has in our hands.  Our skills, knowledge, expertise, finance, influence, creativity, etc.

Over the coming months I was to discover how God would do that for me.

With the bed only just finished, I was asked to join an EU project bringing skills to countries along the maritime cocaine trafficking route. That’s Colombia to Europe via West Africa.

The aim was to help them understand how the bad guys operate and encourage them to share intelligence with ports along the route to. This was a perfect fit regarding what was already ‘in my hand’. And a challenging and satisfying – though at times frustrating – project.

In parallel, I had become coordinator of a £2m building project at my church. Though I lacked any experience of construction, this used my strengths at bridge-building and forging relationships.

And it was in this capacity I was later approached by a Canadian software company wanting to open doors in Europe – specifically in Spain. Having once spent four years working in Madrid, this put to use my fluency in Spanish. And earned some useful some pocket money along with the ‘hardship’ of many visits to Madrid!!

My passion for justice, forged during my years fighting drug crime, then led to me also becoming a trustee of East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service. Here I learn daily of the awfulness of the home-life some are forced to endure.

The same passion, together with my knowledge of intelligence-led investigation, took me to contribute to Stop the Traffik. This great organisation seeks to understand how modern slavery works – the routes, the hot-spots, the pinch-points, etc.

Then came my greatest surprise of all – the encouragement to accept the role of church warden at my Anglican church. ‘Not me’, was my first of several replies. But the God of Moses who asked those penetrating questions while the bush burned was also on my case.

And I finally realised my gifts and background had a part to play here as well. Like the reluctant Moses, I finally gave in.

That’s my story. What’s yours? How is God using what is in your hand? To put it another way, how are you going to use the rest of your life?

For inspiration on ways God can use what is in your hands see the AfterWorkNet webpages on New Opportunities.

How is God using what you have ‘in your hand’ in your days after fulltime work? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Paul is a former senior manager in what is now-badged the National Crime Agency. Married to Alison (Ali) with three married children and heading for seven grandchildren. He co-ordinates a men’s ministry entitled MoMENtum at his church St Paul’s Church in Dorking. For fun it’s driving, F1, carpentry and anything to do with Spain.

Want to keep working – at least some of the time? Here’s how and some smart ideas

There are good reasons many want to keep working – full or part time – beyond their official retirement age. For some, it’s about wanting income to top up their pension. For others, it’s all about keeping active and engaged with others.

Whichever it may be, there are lots of opportunities and even an organisation dedicated to helping people find the right one.

The organisation is Rest Less, with a mission to help those 50-plus make the most of the years ahead in the area of employment. That includes helping people identify suitable jobs, highlighting age-friendly employers, and campaigning to promote age diversity in the workplace.

In support of their mission is a comprehensive website and a regular email updates on thousands of vacancies and opportunities. For the big picture see their website Rest Less.

On offer too is a free career guide for those usually deemed to be towards the end of their working life – full of tips and resources. You can find it at career guide.

Meanwhile, if keeping going is on your agenda, here are some job opportunities you may never have thought of, which all come from Rest Less.

Doula

If you have an abundance of compassion and empathy then working as a Doula could be ideal – helping those facing either birth or death feel secure and supported.

It may involve holding the hand of a woman in labour, cooking and cleaning, offering words of support or sharing in someone’s favourite hobby as they make the most of their final months of life.

No academic qualifications are needed to get started. And training courses can teach you all you need. Doula’s tend to be self-employed and offer services in their area, charging a price per hour.

Interested in working with women and families during pregnancy, birth or just after? Here’s a link to training courses. Or interested in becoming an end of life Doula? Here’s a link to training courses.

Prison Officer

A prison officer has a part to play as a role model, negotiator and educator – including motivating prisoners to make good decisions for themselves and others. No previous qualifications or experience are needed. But you’ll need to be fit, with and have basic maths and English skills.

The application process involves tests online and in person. If successful, you get a prison tour and a 12-week paid training programme before commencing the role. Interested in finding out more? Then go to Prison Officers.

Film or TV Extra

Here’s a flexible way to get paid just for turning up. And, at the same time, seeing behind the scenes and meeting a wide variety of people.

As a Film or TV extra you are paid just to be an extra body in film and/or tv productions. Check out casting agencies like Extra PeoplePhoenix Casting and Mad Dog 2020 that recruit extras around the country.

Food Taster

Fancy getting paid to taste and give your opinion on different foods? Then you can. Waiting for your taste buds are chocolate for some of the world’s leading brands through to a supermarket’s own-brand product.

No experience is needed as sensory training is provided. But you’ll need to be allergy and intolerance-free. You’ll also need good communication skill. As the next step check out food taster.

Chauffeur

Here’s a flexible role driving individuals or groups in a car, van or limousine, making sure their ride is as smooth and pleasant. Each day can be different and usually very interesting as you engage with clients leading a range of lifestyles.

Required are a clean full UK driving licence and calm and confidence behind the wheel. Training is also available through the British Chauffeurs Guild. To learn more go to chauffeurs.

However, if you would rather volunteer rather than take on a paid role, check out the AfterWorkNet web pages on Serving. The cover everything from volunteering and using your skills in your church, your community and internationally. The link is serving.

What’s your experience of working on after your expected expiry date? Or being marginalised for your age? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.

Heading for retirement? Here’s 4 wise first steps to doing it right.

No one should let retirement sneak up on them. To assume ‘it will all be alright on the night’ is not the wisest approach – especially as most who hit this major life-change know when it will happen.

Based on my own experience and that of others, there are some simple guidelines to help plan for the season when fulltime paid work ends.

Draw up an agenda

Take time to nail down the things you’d like to do and to avoid. And be sure to talk this through with your partner if you have one. It’s no good planning days on the Costa Brava if they have a priority to be with grandchildren in Birmingham

Of course, you may not even be free to make exactly the plans that you wish. Being needed to care for an elderly parent of sit grandchildren. But, even then, an agenda will help clarify what can and can’t be.

Be clear on the kind of life you want

When it comes to having an agenda, the more profound parts are what you might call ‘spiritual’ goals. Not so much about what kind of things you wish to do but what kind of life you desire to lead.

Given the opportunity, are there ambitions you would love to have the chance to fulfil? Things like –

  • Learning a language
  • Compiling your family archive
  • Signing up for voluntary work
  • Visiting the Holy Land
  • Taking up a new hobby
  • Finding old friends and renewing old contact

If you are someone with apprehensions about retirement, such a list can make it seem more appealing. And for some inspiration on the possibities ahead see the AfterWorkNet webpages on New Opportunities.

For many, what is of greater importance than all of this is to ask ‘what might God want from these precious years of retirement?’ The gift of extra time can offer space for prayer and reflection, space which we may well have missed in the busy-ness of pre-retirement life.

Freed from responsibilities, we can take on new ones – in church, in our community or among our own circle of friends and neighbours – a new kind of ‘calling’ or vocation in our later years.

There are so many opportunities for which age is not barrier. Again, for inspiration, see the AfterWorkNet webpages on Serving.

Things you may want to avoid

As you think ahead, it’s worth considering what you might want to plan to avoid. Are you happy to be drawn into running things – clubs, groups, courses. Because you can be sure the invitations will come.

Those newly parted from the daily grind are rightly seen as a marvellous resource of untapped energy. Ask yourself if you are ready for this and what your response should be if you are approached.

Fight mental rust

On my own agenda was the need to avoid boredom and mental stagnation. Having kept my brain pretty busy at work I didn’t want it to rust in my retirement.

Some people use a daily crossword or Sudoku, or learn how to explore the internet. For me it has been regular Bible reading, challenging radio programmes, books, the theatre, an interesting daily newspaper and enriching conversations.

Take these steps and you are on your way to a retirement that’s a positive and exciting new chapter in your life.

David Winter – adapted from his book The Highway Code for Retirement (CWR)

Found this blog helpful? Then please share it using the links below. And if you have suggestions for someone nearing the end of fulltime work please share then here or our Facebook group. Thank you..

David Winter has retired three times from different settings, including as a Parish Priest and as the BBC’s Head of Religious Broadcasting. He was a regular contributor to Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ for more than 20 years.

In sickness and in health –keep this in mind should you become your partner’s carer.

Life in later years can have its shocks. With one being to realise your partner’s declining health is moving you into the role of carer.

That’s not the plan but it can become the reality – whether all of a sudden or gradually.

Is there wisdom that might help us now or in the future? I’ve spoken to a few who have their own story to tell and able to share what they’ve learned. And hope their wisdom might help others – even you if that moment comes.

Understanding the issues

For example, I can tell you about Janet and Ray – not their real names of course – who had always worked harmoniously together. They’d been like ‘two wheels’ – raising their kids, running the family business and taking on various roles at church. Everyone agreed they complemented each other perfectly.

‘At first I didn’t notice,’ Janet told me, ‘but bit by bit Ray was losing ground and no longer the strong man he’d always been. Little things I had to do because he no longer could, his mind slowing down, me feeling anxiety I never had before.’

A year later came the blow of a Parkinson’s diagnosis. With Ray becoming increasingly dependent on Janet. How did she adjust and what helped?

She told me, ‘My emotions were hard to cope with. Part of me was – unreasonably – angry with him. I felt bereaved. I sometimes resented it all and then felt guilty.

‘My doctor was supportive, and I managed not to fall into depression as some do. Sometimes being allowed to escape for a while made a difference, to do something just for me. And the understanding of others was a huge help. Sometimes we could laugh about it all, which was a relief actually.’

Janet found having a daily routine essential but hard to achieve. On difficult days they just got through the jobs one by one and ate their meals until thankfully it came to bedtime and hopping the next day would be easier. Which, sometimes, it was.

She also found they needed things to look forward to. To break the monotony and trial of living with pain and disability – which, in their different ways, they both were. As Janet explained, ‘Ray loved Sundays; to go to church and enjoy the singing, hear the message, see his friends. And my weekly Zumba session saved my sanity sometimes.’

Practical action

From someone else I gathered this list of ‘Random notes to a friend whose spouse is terminally ill’. They are in not in order of importance and include both practical and personal thoughts. Only some will apply in any given situation and you may want to add your own.

  • Learn how the boiler works and find out about the many other tasks they have always done
  • Get copies off all their online passwords.
  • If you have separate bank accounts transfer any cash at the bank from the one who is soon to ‘be promoted to heaven’. Otherwise that money will be frozen until after probate.
  • Check they are content with their Will – any legacies to add? Talk about any personal items they would like to go to family members, friends, godchildren. Specified items mean so much to the recipient – ‘She wanted you specially to have this.’
  • Children and grandchildren. Are there things to be said, or letters to write while health permits? Say or write deep things, thanks, and reminiscences while you can.
  • Go through significant papers together, check you understand what is needed for the future.
  • Think ahead and avoid ‘if onlys’
  • Share your fears, sorrow and grief if given the time
  • In the later stages get the extra help you need – try to take breaks from being the carer.
  • Enjoy what you can together while you can. Spend time
  • ‘Just being there’ is a great comfort to the one who is coming to the end of their life. Give ‘permission’ to your loved one to let go, if need be.

Use the available help

The temptation is to soldier on – sometimes out of pride and sometimes because it seems easier than involving others. But that can be a recipe for disaster. It is vital that you look after your own health and wellbeing while being a carer for someone else.

That means, when offers of help come, take them – and don’t feel guilty.

Also, see what support is available through your church and your local care service. And grab it with both hands.

What experience of being your partner’s carer do you have that could help others? Please tell us here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook Group. Thank you.

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

It’s time to get bolder about getting older

It was realising he was the oldest player at a hockey tournament that shook Carl Honoré to the core. And it caused a stream of questions.

Though playing well, Carl wondered –

‘Do I look out of place?

‘Are people laughing at me?’

‘Should I take up a more gentle pastime?

Above all, Carl recalls, ‘It got me thinking about how we often feel ashamed and afraid of growing older. And how we imagine it’s all about loss, decline, decrepitude and sadness.’

That was underlined when Carl discovered ‘age’ is the number one answer on a Google Search when you type in ‘I lie about my…’

The shock at that hockey tournament spurred Carl, an author of several best-selling books, to research and write. His motivation – to see if there was another, happier, story to tell about ageing.

The result was his book ‘Bolder – making the most of our longer lives’. Which, he confesses, ‘was really about helping me feel better about my own advancing years.’

What did Carl discover? That, ‘So many of my own downbeat assumptions about ageing turned out to be wrong. And because – and this is the really exciting bit – so many things can get better as we grow older.

What are some of the positives about aging that Carl identified? He would tell you –

People are generally more contented in later life.

Across the world happiness seems to follow a U-shaped curve, bottoming out in middle age and then rising again thereafter.

Carl points out even Pete Townshend confessed to feeling more cheerful in his 60s than he was when he wrote one of the most ageist lines in the pop music canon: ‘Hope I die before I get old.’

We becomes more comfortable in our own skin and less worried about what others think of us. We tend to form stronger, more fulfilling relationships as we age. Ageing also makes many of us more altruistic and eager to serve the common good.

The things that happen to our bodies and brains are not as bad as we may fear.

That’s because, these days, we have more and more levers to pull – nutrition, technology, medicine, exercise – to slow the physical decline. All of which opens the potential to go on doing amazing things with our bodies deep into later life.

The evidence that this is true seems to be in the media almost every day, with stories of those considered ‘well beyond it’ kitesurfing, climbing mountains, running marathons, cycling long distance, and swimming competitively.

Today, the average over-65-year-old is in better shape than ever before. And, as Carl notes in his book, Japan is even toying with moving the age when someone is deemed rojin, or old, from 65 to 75.

Our brains do a great job compensating when we lose some cognitive zip.

That’s why creativity can carry on right up to the end of our lives. Carl notes some experts think ageing alters the brain structure in ways that make us even more creative.

Older adults also tend to be better at seeing the big picture, embracing compromise, weighing multiple points of view and accepting that knowledge can only take you so far.

Carl enthuses, ‘When tackling problems in a familiar field, older brains are quicker to spot the patterns and details that open the door to finding a solution.

He also cites researchers at Harvard University who concluded that four key skills do not ripen fully until around the age of 50: arithmetic, vocabulary, general knowledge and a grasp of how the world works.

Social and emotional smarts often improve with age.

We get better at reading people. Our richer vocabulary helps us speak, write and communicate better and our capacity to co-operate and negotiate improves.

We also get better at putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, finding compromises and resolving conflicts. As we age, we become less prone to wild swings of emotion and better able to cope with negative feelings such as anger, fear and envy. In other words, as Carl puts it, ‘We find it easier to keep our heads while all about us are losing theirs.’

With Carl having said he wrote the book to meet his own needs, you may wonder if it has worked. Has it changed him? Carl’s answer is, ‘Yes, profoundly. It has made me feel so much more at ease with the idea of growing older.’

And what does he hope ‘Bolder’ will do for those who read it? Carl’s answer is, ‘To see ageing in a completely new light. To move from fear and dread to the kind of understanding and optimism that will help them make the most of their lives – at every age.’

To get the big picture read Carl Honoré’s book Bolder: Making The Most Of Our Longer Lives published by Simon & Schuster.

What makes you feel good about your advancing years? Please tell us here or share with the AfterWorkNet Facebook Group.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

The number of over-70s still working has doubled – in just 10 years. What’s going on? And why does it matter?

A very significant change is happening in our society. And those still working in their 70s are at its heart.

What’s significant is how many more of them now work full or part time. And, with the numbers growing year on year, even if you have yet to hit 70 it points to what is likely to be ahead.

Why is this ‘significant’? I’ll get to that. And also what’s good and bad about it all.

But first, here come the facts.

The number of people aged 70 and over still working full or part-time has more than doubled over the past 10 years.

We know this thanks to new data from the Office for National Statistics. It highlights that 10 years ago only one in 22 of those 70 and over were working. But now it’s boomed to one in 12.

This means almost half a million of us who are, or will be, in our 70s earning a crust either full or part time.

But there’s more.

The research discovered more than 53,000 over 80s are still working in the UK, with a quarter doing so full-time. That’s something unheard of in previous generations.

Why is this happening?

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less which commissioned the research and generates work opportunities for the over-50s, was quoted in The Guardian as giving two reasons. He said, ‘Many are looking to top up their pension savings while they still can. But there is also a growing understanding of the many health and social benefits that come with working into retirement.

Both of those reasons are worth exploring because of what they reveal.

Working to top up a pension

For many it is just a nice bonus to be able to add a little income in later years. However – for too many – doing so is an absolute necessity and is about much more than topping up pension savings.

According to Catherine Seymour, head of policy at Independent Age, ‘One in every six people – nearly two million – of pension age are now living in poverty and every day, another 226 people join that number.’

Sadly, this fact may have escaped the attention of affluent suburban retirees. However, Catherine notes, ‘Many now working in their late sixties and seventies are doing so out of necessity to pay the rent, heat their homes and afford their weekly shop.’

Should that not be a wakeup call to many, including Government?

And should it also add a perspective to those like me. Those able to top up our pensions through work because we can and not due to driven necessity.

If that extra income is important to you, check out some great ‘add to my income’ ideas at our recent blog 20 Ways to Earn More Money in Your Retirement.

Working because it’s good for us

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less also speaks of ‘the many health and social benefits that come with working into retirement.’ He could not be more right.

Whatever the motivation for someone working beyond the official retirement date, there’s good news in it all. To put it simply, the longer you keep your body and brain active the longer you are likely to live.

With this in mind, work – paid or voluntary – has a major role. It’s a way to have a purpose, be socially connected, and keep the brain and body on the go. And its benefits are backed up by solid research including –

  • A study by the University of Exeter discovered helping others on a regular basis could reduce early death rates by 22 per cent.
  • Researchers at Oregon State University warn retiring early could be a risk factor for an early death – with working even one more year likely to extend life.
  • A fifteen-year study of 83,000 older adults published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, suggested those working past 65 were about three times more likely to say they enjoyed good health and about half as likely to have serious health problems, such as cancer or heart disease.

For more on how keeping active contributes to the quality of life, see our blog The 6 keys to a longer and healthier life.

If you are interested in finding ways to keep working – either paid or as a volunteer – see the AfterWorkNet webpage on Opportunities.

There’s also help through the Rest Less initiative – the research sponsors. This helps retired people find a part time role and those over 50 change career.

They also list thousands of jobs from age-friendly employers including –

Metro Bank, looking for those with flexible hours to deliver their commitment to 7 days a week walk-in banking.

After-school nannies, an initiative of Koru Kids making it easier and more affordable for families to enjoy high quality childcare.

Now Teach, which creates a route for those with decades of experience to become teachers.

Financial Coaching, provided by Hatch and helping people manage their money more effectively.

A final warning

Beneath these new statistics on the multitude now working longer lurks is a very significant fact. It’s that men are twice as likely as women to be working in these later years.

Although the research doesn’t spell out why, it seems reasonable to make a simple and concerning assumption as to what’s going on.

The men are enjoying the benefits of ‘significance’ and ‘companionship’ that the workplace brings. Meanwhile, the women are most likely experiencing the very opposite – with their time taken up isolated and pressured delivering child care to their grandchildren.

We should not escape the stark difference that may be involved and the implications this has for the need to cherish the women involved.

What is your experience of working – full or part time, paid or voluntary – beyond the normal retirement date? Please share it here or with our Facebook Group.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.

Want to make most of your transition to retirement? Here’s the 4 must-dos.

The biggest life-transition you will face, other than marriage, is probably retirement – with its huge psychological, emotional and practical challenges. But there’s no guarantee this will happen to your greatest potential.

Indeed, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity offers possibilities for personal growth; through learning, retraining, sharing your life-skills and using them, travelling and friendship. Yet, like many others, you may struggle to adjust.

And there’s a reason.

When it comes to marriage – that other major life transition – there’s plenty of books, or preparation classes to help people make the best fist of it. But there’s much less on hand for those making the huge step to life after full time work.

So roll out the red carpet for an excellent resource on exactly that agenda. It’s a new five-star-rated book by Celia Dodd – Not Fade Away: How to Thrive in Retirement

It’s full of wise insight and practical advice, with Celia Dodd understanding fully why many find retirement surprisingly hard. ‘Part of the problem’, she said in an article for Mail on Line, ‘is the image of retirement feels out of sync in a world that places a high premium on being purposeful and busy – and where being stressed out is not only the norm, but a marker of success.

That means, for those heading for retirement, or already in that ‘promised land’, a new way of thinking is needed. To help people navigate it, Celia blends her own insights with that of experts in their fields.

For Celia that means 4 essential things at least and all set out in detail in her book. They are –

  1. Make the change at the best time and in best way.
  2. For past generations, the age of retirement was mostly set in stone. Now, due to new legislation, we are free to ‘carry on till we drop’. However, as Celia points out, this means retirement today offers a wide range of possibilities – from hitting the buffers to a gradual slowdown and everything in between.

    Celia notes the increasing popularity of ‘a mixture of part-time work, paid or unpaid consultancy and volunteering — which hopefully leaves time to have fun, too.’

    However, she believes some of the best retirement decisions are not entirely rational, saying, ‘With years of experience, we’re in a good position to trust our instincts.’

  3. Make plans in advance
  4. At a time of huge change, having a clear and realistic vision of what you want to get out of the next few years helps you be in control. And that involves nailing down expectations that include your health, relationships, leisure, well-being, voluntary work, possessions and more.

    This could be by shelling out for one of the ‘planning for retirement’ courses. Or taking a ‘do it yourself’ approach involving serious and focused conversations with those most impacted by what is going to happen next.

    Specific ideas are more useful than vague ambitions’, stresses Celia. Her challenge is to be clear as to where you’ll spend most of your time and what you’ll be doing, Who you’ll spend most time with and what new experiences are waiting for you.

  5. Manage the transition process
  6. In her book, Celia quotes the latest research which suggests the best way to cope is not to treat retirement as the end of the road. But as a transition on an equal standing to with leaving home or facing up experiencing an ‘empty nest’.

    This need not be overwhelming she stresses. Because, by this time of life, we should have learned lessons from past transitions. In her Mail on Line piece Celia quotes psychology lecturer Dr Oliver Robinson who says, ‘Many of the same issues come up in major life crises, such as identity, meaning, purpose. If you navigate through a crisis successfully and grow out of it, it should mean you’re well prepared for the next one.

  7. Create a new ‘you’
  8. For years you’ll have been defined by your role – book keeper, banker, builder, nurse, or whatever. With retirement, none of that fits. Gone is your role identity and the self-esteem and status that went with it.

    As someone Celia quotes in her book says, ‘Everything you’ve built up throughout your career disappears, and suddenly you’re just another old lady looking to do a bit of volunteering.’

    All of which means that finding a new and meaningful role and identity is key to keeping a smile on your retirement face. Celia even recommends that some need to start working on this well before the P45 is in their hands.

    As she says, ‘Playing in a band, taking an evening class, working on an allotment, being a member of a sports club or a book group can all form bridges between the old you and the new you.’

To be honest, what you’ve read here only skims the surface of a valuable book that runs to almost 300 pages. It’s wise advice for anyone determined to not fade away.

Celia Dodd’s book Not Fade Away: How to Thrive in Retirement is published by Green Tree at £12.99.

For more on the way the move from full-time employment can impact us see the AfterWorkNet website on Status.

What advice would you give to someone heading for the end of full-time work? Do share it here or with our Facebook group.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Your life-skills and experience. Here’s how not to waste them in your active retirement.

Do you remember the story Jesus told – about a servant who buried what had been trusted to him? And how his master reacted? How might that play out, I wonder, if applied to our time in active retirement?

Just think, for a moment, of the ‘talents’ you’ve accumulated during your many working years. Most likely they represent a treasure trove of valuable skills, knowledge and experience.

It was what kept you afloat back then. But what about ‘now’? Because the call to be faithful stewards of the talents we have doesn’t end with our last pay cheque.

Of course, not everything gained in your years of work may be directly relevant to serving God now. You might even be crying out for a change from what used to fill your days.

But that still leaves the challenge of ‘stewardship’ and what you have the opportunity to do with who what’s ‘in your hands’.

Brush yourself down and talk yourself up

It’s possible you are not even aware of the workplace skills and life experience that could so enrich your church.

So, with that story from Jesus in your mind, think of what you have brought from your working life into your retirement. Might it match any of these examples –

Customer service skills     Personnel management     Maintenance/building knowledge
Marketing     Team building and coaching     Research     Negotiation     Strategic planning
Commercial writing     IT and social media     Change management     Budgeting     Making things happen     Communication and presentations     Managing people     Conflict resolution Mentoring     Fundraising     Etc, etc, etc

But now what? You’ve identified your ‘talent’, but getting it used in the context of your church may not be that easy.

Help church leaders understand

Sometimes it can be hard work to help church leaders understand the way ‘non-spiritual’ gifts can be used to build up a church. Sometimes they may even feel threatened by the workplace skills and experience others have accumulated.

On the positive side, those who lead churches do tend to understand their church needs to use the spiritual gifts of all their members. But when it comes to engaging the practical skills, insights and expertise of those actively retired it can be a different story.

They are likely to see what ex-accountants can do as having a role. And then consider everyone else suitable for committees or rotas. Because of this you may well need to take action by –

  • Sharing with them the content on our web page What Church Leaders Should Know
  • Pointing out, in a one-to-one, the skills and knowledge you have, together with an example of where it could be used.
  • Being proactive and offering to contribute to an area of church life that would be enriched by using your workplace skills and experience.
  • Setting the pace by encouraging them to initiate a ‘Skills Directory’ or something similar. This involves those with time available – so not restricted to retired people – to identify the skills they could offer.

Walk humbly

Just a word of caution. Using what you have gathered in your past life in the context of your church can lead to ‘I know and you don’t’.

That may well be true – especially if you’ve had sound experience in commerce and your church leader did not much before ‘vicar school’. But the attitude behind it, and the way it is communicated, can do damage unless humility and a servant attitude are at its heart.

So keep the words of St Paul to the church in Ephesus in mind- ‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love’.

Remember too, that being a church leader is rather like herding cats. And may be being done by those lacking the same experience from the wider world as you. So cut them some slack.

At the same time, it is our talents that God has placed in our hands and our responsibility and opportunity to use them.

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Do you have an experience of using your workplace skills to serve your church? Please share them here or with our Facebook group.

More time to pray? It’s not that easy. But here’s some encouragement and practical help.

Person praying

In these uncertain times, prayer seems more important than ever. And I guess it’s not unreasonable to expect that those of us who are no longer working full time with perhaps the added daily responsibilities for children to use our time and head and heart space to pray more.

To be honest, most of us feel we’d like to do better with our praying. After all, our life experiences have built much wisdom and faith into our hearts and minds that we can invest. And we know James in his letter says, ‘The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.’ James 5.16.

But let’s be realistic. It’s not that easy. What’s needed is some encouragement and some practical help. So let me offer you some of both.

First, the encouragement. To put it simply, prayer works.

At moments of impending peril during the Second World War, days of prayer were held – for the evacuation of Dunkirk for instance. The King and Parliament called the nation to pray and a series of miracles meant that 338,000 Allied soldiers trapped in Normandy – my father among them – were rescued in heroic circumstances.

The God to whom we bring this needy world does things like this when we pray. The circumstances now in 2019 may be different but we have the same prayer-answering God.

Now for the practical help.

  1. Decide when and how. God is always with us, so prayer is a moveable feast. But as with enjoying food and drink, there are different times and ways to do it. Does this new season in your life offer the opportunity to do things differently? Is there an alternative time or place to meet God by yourself? Are there new people who you could join to pray with? Or is what’s needed a fresh commitment to stick with what you’ve always done?
  2. Remember ‘ACTS’ I’m sure you know the well-worn acronym of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication which serves as a helpful guide to the order of our prayers. Perhaps it’s time to dust it off and give it another go. If so, do work at getting a balance. Too much introspective repentance at the expense of remembering others’ needs isn’t good. How will you include worship in these prayer times?
  3. Find your focus. The reality is that we can’t pray for everything. So try to sense where your own focus should be. Family? Friends? Church life? Community? Nation? International? You’ll not want to go overboard by praying exclusively for just one area. But don’t take the whole world on your shoulders either. There are apps to help you organise your prayers in this way. Check out Prayer Mate or the new Inner Room from 24/7 Prayer.
  4. Get clued up. There are many helpful resources to give you up to date information for your prayers. My favourite – because I write it! – is CARE’s quarterly Prayer Diary with its wide range of topics. To receive it by post or online follow this link – CARE Prayer.
    With Brexit on the horizon as I write, you’ll find helpful information and opportunities to pray from the following –
    National Call 2 Prayer. This is encouraging informed prayer, especially on March 28th, Brexit Eve.
    Christians in Parliament is a cross-party organisation with a vision for bringing faith into the heart of politics.
    The Evangelical Alliance which has brought together some helpful prayer resources.
    24-7 Prayer is at the forefront of intercession around the world and this link is to their section on the UK.
    World Prayer Centre is a national hub for prayer throughout the UK.
  5. Don’t be downhearted. What a relief that prayer isn’t just down to fallible human effort. The Holy Spirit is the composer and conductor of this extraordinary global orchestra we’re in.

The needs are great. Our God is greater. What an opportunity we have to bring a broken and needy world to the only One who can truly make a difference.

What approach to prayer have you found helpful and what prayer resource would you recommend. Please share here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook Group.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Retirement is hardest for a certain kind of person. Is this you? If so here’s 9 ways to flourish.

Old senior business man happy working in office

For some people, the years following full-time work fit like a glove. Yet others really struggle in their new skin. And the difference can have a lot to do with the way they’re made.

Those who are finding it hardest to adjust are what psychologists label Type A personality people. Unlike easy-going Type Bs, they are driven, competitive, organised, concerned to make things happen, ambitious, and desperate to use their time well.

Type As are easy to spot in the workplace – taking charge, aiming for perfection and getting wound up by the incompetence of others.

Of course, there are degrees to which this description is true. Not all Type Bs are so relaxed they’re horizontal. And not all Type As want to rule the world. But – and here’s the bad news –

Those with a tendency towards a Type A temperament face the greatest challenge in retirement.

Why? Because, when Type A people move on from fulltime work, the way they prefer to do life doesn’t change. And that can make for a very bad and highly frustrating fit for them and those around them.

On the personal front, retirement for a Type A means they’re now living in a world offering little challenge, responsibility or opportunity to ‘deliver’. That can result in feeling lost and abandoned due to the lack of a big reason to get up in the morning, a structure to their day and having responsibility on their shoulders.

This can show up as anything from a major attack of the grumps to frustration and even emotional illness. What’s more, Type As can be bad news for those close to them – particularly their spouses who may end up being treated as a surrogate employee.

I heard of one woman whose Type A husband was now demanding she folded the towels differently. He’d never cared about it for the past 50 years and this was not going to work!

So, if you’re a Type A personality what can you do to make your retirement years fulfilling rather than frustrating? Here are 9 positive actions to take.

  1. Build a new network: Social interaction and stimulation might be one of your biggest losses when exiting the workplace. Make sure the gap gets filled. Find stimulating, like-minded people to spend time with
  2. Identify new goals and challenges: Most Type A people have worked in settings where they thrived on having goals and achieving targets and matching performance metrics. If no longer having them leaves a hole then create new ones that fit into your new life.

    Perhaps it’s how far you’ll get down your domestic to-do list, how often you take a walk, the rate of progress in some new skill. For a mass of ideas regarding new challenges to face see the AfterWorkNet webpages on New Opportunities.
  3. Get out often. Fight boredom by doing things to burn off energy and reduce your stress levels. This is going to take more than endless rounds of golf.
  4. Volunteer: Countless worthwhile opportunities await your skills, experience and desire to make a difference in the lives of others. It may take some adjustment if you were once a top dog and now find yourself a small fish.

    Indeed, with that in mind, look for an opportunity that takes account of your Type A qualities. To consider the options and for wise advice see the AfterWorkNet webpages on Serving.
  5. Work at changing your behaviour: The fact is you will always be a Type A personality, but you can at least recognise what this means and try to make adjustments.

    Could you, for example, try to be more patient and less demanding? Could you try to take a back seat in the new circles you become part of rather than defaulting to an ‘I’ll do it’ approach?
  6. Be less time-driven: For someone used to having life dictated to by a schedule of appointments and meetings that can be a shock. Although time will always be precious for you, now it can be used differently. It’s no longer about how much you can cram in to the hours available.

    By all means put structure into your day. But give yourself permission to be more spontaneous and flexible. You could even write ‘time to chill’ in your day-planner and treat it as an appointment that has to be kept.
  7. Learn something new. Everyone who retires will benefit from learning a new skill or developing an old one. But this is especially important for Type A people. Studying, going to classes, joining an interest group, completing tasks and assignments, all have a positive role to play in making life more satisfying.
  8. See retirement as having a new job: You could even write yourself a job description – perhaps with a vision and mission statement. Define in words a role that has joy, relaxation, renewal, discovery and service. Then make plans to do it.
  9. Back pedal your competitiveness: A classic Type A person plays tiddlywinks with a four year old and cheats to win! When in competitive situations try to modify your behaviour by putting less emphasis on the score and outcome and more on simply enjoying the company.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. Most definitely a Type A, he’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

After a life of deadlines how is a retired journalist still making headlines? Here’s how.

When my retirement came – after a lifetime as a journalist working on newspapers, magazines and public relations – it was something of a shock to wake each morning without any pressing deadlines.

Yet now, 14 years after hanging up my green-eyeshade and editorial responsibilities, I seem busier than ever. And, like many retirees I guess, happier for it.

My transition to life in my afterwork world revealed there are some things that just have to be done. For me this included a move to be near a daughter and her family – from Oxfordshire to Lancashire. This also involved changing churches.

But then there are the choices and mine was not to vegetate either in mind or body.

As a result, my writing skills, allied to an interest in photography, led to gaining space in local newspapers to make our new church more visible. On one occasion this led to worldwide publicity for the local Street Pastors.

This came after I wrote an article on an 87-year-old member of our church who was still out on the streets in the early hours of Friday night and Saturday mornings. Her picture graced most national newspapers. And she was later a recipient of the Queen’s Maundy money in nearby Blackburn Cathedral, and appeared on the New Years Honours list.

To extend my social circle I joined a weekly writer’s group meeting in a local pub. One member came when I was invited to speak at a local Baptist Church – and the following week entertained the group with a potted review of the sermon in glowing terms.

I also knew I needed to do something to retain some semblance of fitness. Though our move had taken us to walking country I’m not a keen walker. So I joined the walking football sessions run by Burnley in the Community, the charitable arm of the football club.

It has proved to be great fun – despite most of the guys having lots of football experience and me having little. This being despite covering most of the London Clubs as a journalist for a Sports Agency and getting to know legends like Bobby Moore and Glenn Hoddle.

At 79 I am the second oldest on our team and can still manage one hour sessions on Mondays and Fridays each week.

My eyes have also been open to new opportunities. For example, having enjoyed the full colour magazine – Northern Life – covering life in Yorkshire and Lancashire I now write a couple of features in most editions and do the book reviews.

This is a great way to be involved with local people, including some of whom come to our small church.

More recently I have had the great pleasure of joining forces with a former magazine colleague, Steve Goddard. Steve had been press officer for the Christian Resources Exhibition for many years and when it was about to close he and his wife bought it up.

I was persuaded to become the press officer and it has been great fun – meeting many faces from the Christian past and being able to publicise many Christian organisations doing a valuable work for God.

I can look back at a life that has included shaking hands with a Pope, having an audience with another, spending time with the late Billy Graham, and interviewing many sporting, political and literary personalities. I have even been sworn at by the Duke of Edinburgh

Yet what has been an exciting life has continued in my new phase of active retirement. Each day I wonder what God has in store and there is always something worthwhile.

And to think that I could have settled for just pruning the roses.

Dave Hall

Dave Hall spent his working life as a journalist on local newspapers, Christian magazines, and was the press officer who helped launch the Good News Bible. Married with two adult children – one living in Spain and the other close to his home near Burnley. At his village church Dave preaches and helps at Little Stars, the mums’ and toddlers’ group, and Messy Church.

Retired? It’s not just about growing older, it’s more about growing up!

Couple looking over the hill

I imagined the only way my life would change after I moved out of full-time employment would be that I would have extra time freedom to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle!

And that, meanwhile, my values, beliefs and outlook would keep flowing in the direction they always had. In other words, though my circumstances would change that would not be true of me as a person.

I guess that’s an expectation shared by many. But should it be?

I ask because that’s not the way it’s been for me. Instead, my eyes – and my mind – have been opened to something very different. What I’ve discovered is that life can come in two very distinct phases and best expressed as –

Phase 1 – The earlier years, during which we establish our identity, build a structure of beliefs, education, relationships, career, values and so on. This has been designated as ‘climbing, achieving and performing’.

Phase 2 – The later years, which is when we allow the structures we’ve built in phase 1 to be shaped, changed and filled by new challenges, loss of control, failures, doubts, questions, brokenness, broader horizons.

This description of an upwards and expansive progression perfectly fits my pre and post retirement world.

In short, it’s an acknowledgement that the past – including its tough times – should shape us and equip us to be the kind of people who are useful in a totally different kind of way. By becoming more realistic, more accepting, more sensitive, more relational, more inclusive, more tolerant, more loving, more hopeful, more peace loving, having more time for people.

It is just as well that I made this discovery.

When I came to retirement it took me about 6 months to stop being pretty fed up. My wife’s assessment extends that timescale considerably. But what slowly dawned on me was the extent to which my values had insidiously developed to being mostly about ‘what I was doing’ and ‘how much others valued it – or didn’t’!

This was not what I’d taught others as a pastor and preacher. But it was what I found I’d tended to become and was in direct conflict with those now well-worn words ‘God made us human beings, not human doings’.

But now it’s time for confession. The penny did not totally drop as the result of my own grey matter. If only I were that bright!

Although I had begun to address what was increasingly a tension deep in my soul, the real revelation came from the writings of the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. They’ve had a radical and refreshing impact on my thinking about life, holistic spirituality, God’s Grace and all things related.

And that’s where the main insight about two stages of life comes from. It’s wrapped up in Rohr’s book ‘Falling Upwards’. Here he encourages us to see there to be an upwards and expansive progression to our life – as set out in the two dimensions I’ve described.

Of course it can be somewhat unnerving to realise that change in our later years can – and perhaps should – involve more than our appearance and energy levels. Yet, rather than feeling threatened at such change, why not embrace it.

After all, isn’t this reflected in the words of St Paul – ‘But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely – Galatians 5v23,24 The Message.

Should it not be, as we travel through life, that we find different, and perhaps more age related values emerging? That we move from rigidity, through structure, and onwards to a more fluid and ever expansive way of doing life? To a maturity which tends towards a much more integrative, inclusive and holistic life. One that’s as generous towards others and ourselves as God is towards us.

So, here I am, in my 70’s, and knowing I can no longer ‘do’ all I did. Indeed, I have deliberately stepped away from a lot of my previous ‘doings’. But there are things I want to be focused on in all the situations I find myself in; and in truth I’m no less ‘busy’ than I ever was….which you’ll understand well I’m sure, especially if you are blessed with grandchildren!

I long to ‘be’ more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more tolerant, more open to fresh thinking, more expansive in my theology, more gentle, more marked by humility, more disciplined in my ‘retirement’ than ever I was earlier in my career. And because of Gods outrageous grace, I find I can be! Which is fun, and fulfilling despite my well recognised flaws.

My invitation to you is ‘please join me if you are not here already’. And whatever, be blessed in your own journeys of discovery . . . . .

Stuart Pascall

Stuart has been a Christian communicator, trainer, pastor and more since his early career in the motor trade. His focus has been mostly to challenge churches to think creatively outside its ‘boxes’ and to get more involved in the wider community around them. He sees his expanding family as a joy and privilege. He loves classic cars, astronomy, coast walking and supports Man Utd with a renewed enthusiasm.

Heading for the end of full-time work? You need the Ten Planning Commandments for Retirement.

Is retirement heading your way? If so, it’s far too big a transition to drift into. And, if that’s what you’ve already done, now’s the time to play catch up.

The way you normally ‘do life’ will impact the extent to which you’ll be ready in good time. If you’re a ‘lists’ person – who shops for Christmas at Easter – it will come naturally.

But, if you’re more of an ‘I’ll worry when it happens’ type, you’ll need what you are about to read more than most. So, whatever your style, here’s wisdom inspired by David Winter’s book The Highway Code for Retirement (CWR). In it he offers –

Ten Planning Commandments for Retirement

  1. Plan for it
  2. Check your pensions
  3. Thank about a part-time job or retraining
  4. Consider a pre-retirement course
  5. Consider the lifestyle in retirement that’s right for you and your loved ones – keeping in mind what God may have in store
  6. List those things to avoid
  7. Fight mental and spiritual rust
  8. Plan for the transition
  9. Consider a Gap Year or time out
  10. Use the final months of work to wind down rather than get wound up

That’s the bones. Now let’s add some flesh using David Winter’s thoughts from his book mixed with some of my own. And in no particular order.

With retirement on the way, make sure you –

Define the kind of life you seek: Ideally, make a written list of what would you love to achieve or experience. Learn a language, see the Northern Lights, take up a new hobby, explore your family history, or more?

This should include considering what God might have in mind for you. And this might involve using your time and talents in the service of others. Indeed, there are many voluntary roles crying out to be filled by those in their afterwork years.

The God-dimension could also encompass using your newly-released time for the kind of prayer, reflection and even theological study not possible in your past. Or see you pitching in on some short term church project.

What goes on your list may come readily to your mind. But for inspiration, look at the AfterWorkNet web pages on New Opportunities.

Identify the things to avoid: You are not the only one with plans for your retirement. In the wings will be those ready to ask you to run things and do things – from clubs to courses to rotas and more.

Some might fit your bill perfectly. However, saying ‘yes’ to one thing could mean having to say ‘no’ to something else. And that ‘something else’ may be on your treasured to-do list. Which means it’s wise, ahead of time, to set your priorities.

Plan to keep your mind active: As they say, ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’. So include a commitment to keeping the grey matter from freezing. There’s big stuff – like joining a chess or bridge club. And smaller stuff like doing a daily crossword, playing Scrabble against the iPad app, or reading a serious newspaper.

Take account of the reality: Leaving full-time work can be like a bereavement. And it’s as well to be aware of the emotional impact that may come your way. In particular, consider the issues of –

Loss of status – when the pass to the company door is no longer valid, and there is no one for you to give instructions to or take them from.

Stress – due to change of circumstances and leading to many finding themselves unwell either physically or emotionally.

Consider a Gap Year: Your kids may well have had a ‘year out’ between school and university eras. So what about a similar approach for those between the years of ‘work’ and ‘afterwork’?

There could be no better opportunity to take on a short term community project – including one overseas. To explore what this could mean see Serving.

Check where the money will come from: Hopefully you have not left the need to provide for your afterwork years until the last moment. But either way, it’s important to have everything in order for the sake of others as well as yourself.

For insight on getting it right check out Money.

Get the best help you can: It’s possible your employer will run or fund a Pre-retirement Course – covering the emotional, physiological and practical implications of retirement. If so, grab it. If not, ask them to arrange one.

Alternately, check out what’s available through organisations like LaterLife. As a result you’ll tap into specialist and wise advice that has already been the help to many.

Coming your way is the opportunity – and responsibility – to invest some precious years wisely. Plan now and enjoy the adventure when it comes.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Don’t fall for this ‘best before’ nonsense – about food or yourself.

Recently there’s been an outcry over how much food is wasted because of the unrealistic ‘best before’ labels on its packaging. Mountains of good food is being needlessly dumped – costing the UK some £600 million per year.

Scandalous. But so is another kind of waste that’s also down to unrealistic ‘best before’ labelling. It’s all about the equally false notion that people of a certain age are no longer fresh and valuable enough to have anything to offer.

This faulty labelling is also inflicting cost – in terms of missed opportunities, experiences, richness of life, contributions to society and more. So if we are to kill off ‘best-before’ on food, which is a plan of the government, let’s kill it off for people too.

Does such a label on people really exist? Indeed it does.

Mainly it’s down to how the past shapes our expectations of the present. Once, most people ending full time work expected little more than to hang around in God’s waiting room.

But today most come to their afterwork season with years of potential ahead, in better health than those in the past, and with a lifetime of experience to invest.

Yet the past keeps whispering in our ears. As a result, instead of feeling exhilarated about the bonus years, society – and ourselves – have the underlying fear that ‘age’ is not our friend. The risk is to settle rather than pioneer. To play safe rather than explore and discover.

A valuable response to this kind of thinking can be found in a new and insightful book by the Scottish-born journalist Carl Honore – Bolder: Making The Most Of Our Longer Lives. Its content can be neatly summed up as –

‘A call for society to become less ageist and for individuals to stop worrying about the process of ageing and wring every drop out of whatever time is allotted to us.’

In his book Carl highlights how much society would have missed if those like Michelangelo, Verdi and Frank Lloyd Wright had all removed themselves from the refrigerator of life on the date society expected.

That’s because, among the many other late achievers, as Carl points out – ‘Michelangelo finished painting the frescoes in the Pauline chapel at the age of 74; Verdi premiered his finest comic opera, Falstaff, at 79; architect Frank Lloyd Wright was 91 when he finished the Guggenheim Museum in New York. And Kant and Cato produced their finest philosophical work in old age.’

Yet today, Carl reminds us, if a young or middle-aged person forgets where they left something it is of no significance. But if it’s an older person then the assumption is ‘his memory is going’.

To rub it in, Carl notes, ‘since the Brexit referendum, some commentators have even suggested stripping the over-65s of the vote.’ That’s what some would wish to do with perfectly usable goods!

Okay, we’re not all Michelangelos or Frank Lloyd Wrights. But that’s no reason to get sucked into the lie that ‘you’re too old to be of any real use’. Indeed, as the first generation of the ‘young old’ it’s up to us to pioneer the way for those coming up behind us.

How can we do that? Carl Honore’s highly-readable book has a lot of practical advice. To pick out just three examples –

  1. Make the most of who you are: To quote Carl, ‘Stay physically active. Eat a healthy diet. Drink alcohol in moderation and don’t smoke. Form strong social bonds. Have a purpose in life that gets you up in the morning. Be less materialistic. Laugh a lot’.
    So nothing hard there then. And for some instant areas to explore see the AfterWorkNet web pages at Health and Fitness.
  2. Mix across generations: Don’t just engage in social connections within your own age group. Instead, keep tabs with those both younger and older. True, inter-generational contact may not be easy but it has benefits for us and society.
  3. Keep on learning: For sure, it’s harder to learn new things with the passing of the years. But, to quote Carl again, ‘The chief obstacle to learning in later life is not the ageing brain. It is the ageist stereotypes that erode our confidence and put us off trying new things’.

And to make his point, Carl reminds us Marie Curie learned to swim in her 50s, Tolstoy to ride a bicycle in his 60s and Jens Skou, a Nobel Laureate in chemistry, mastered computer programming in his 70s.

So don’t go claiming that learning the ukulele is beyond you – or anything comparable come to that. And for a large bundle of inspiration check out our webpages on New Opportunities.

To get the big picture do read Carl Honore’s book Bolder: Making The Most Of Our Longer Lives published by Simon & Schuster.

And from now on, each time you check those ‘best by’ dates, take them with a pinch of salt. And treat the way others may feel about your age in the same way. Remember, there’s lots of shelf-life left in you yet.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Next year is like a new country – and these 5 wise ‘travel tips’ are not to be missed.

Going into a new year is a lot like taking a journey to another country. In both cases you don’t know exactly what’s ahead. And there are some wise things to keep in mind to make the very best of it.

So, as you voyage into 2019, here are 5 rather obvious ‘travel tips’ to make the journey as worthwhile as possible.

1.Be realistic about it.

When it comes to holidays, the brochures tend to make it all look far better than the real thing. After all, that’s their job. But we too can wrongly imagine the land of New Year will be significantly different to the one that’s gone before.

In reality, nothing magical happens when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. There’s no Cinderella in reverse to be experienced. And this is one of the hard truths to learn about travel. That, wherever we go, we take ourselves with us.

If we’re tetchy, ungrateful, easily irritated, and self-centred, that side of us will still be with us as we journey on. A new country won’t fix it and nor will a New Year. Which means the need to take a realistic account of who we are and what we are like – and doing something about it.

2.Check your baggage weight.

I hate that awful moment at airports when the unsmiling check-in person tells me with unwelcome glee that I’m a little overweight. Sure, it’s a relief when I realise this is not personal and is about my luggage.

But what excess baggage might you be taking into the year ahead? Bitterness, hatred, shame, regret, jealousy? Or some other unhelpful emotions that will way us down when we are across the border of 2019?

These are the weights to leave behind – by forgiving others, forgiving yourself, by recognising that God loves us for who we are.

3.Choose the right travel companions.

There’s nothing worse than discovering that someone who’s great for an occasional coffee is a nightmare as a full-on travel companion. So who would we best have at our side in the New Year journey?

Will they enrich your life – and give you opportunities to enrich theirs? Will they speak the kind of truth you need to hear and be open for you to do the same for them? Will their positive outlook spur you on or their negativity drag you down?

Or think of it this way, who are those you can invest time in, celebrate with, and express love and appreciation for? And how can you make sure they are traveling with you and you with them.

4.Check your destination.

There’s the classic story of the airline passenger who ended up in Istanbul when they had bought a ticket to Torquay. (Think about it!) You’ll only have one opportunity to explore 2019 so make sure you get have a ticket for the right destination.

This is where having a few simple but clear goals come in. Not overwhelming ones that, in your heart of hearts, you know you’ll flunk in the first few weeks. But a fresh commitment or two on how to make the most of one more precious year in your afterwork stage of life.

For a little inspiration, here are three possible areas to explore –

Your new possibilities

Your health and fitness

Your service to others

5.Pack wisely.

To be honest, what you take with you may be the least of your worries. That’s because, over the years, you’ve accumulated a storehouse of knowledge, skills, know-how, experience and wisdom. As they say, ‘It’s in the bag’.

In which case, having packed it, don’t keep it all to yourself. You can make the coming year more rewarding for you and others by making sure what you’ve packed is put to good use.

Ahead is a new land waiting to be enjoyed, explored and enriched. Bon voyage.

Jeff Lucas

Jeff is still some way from his afterwork years. His passion is to equip the Church with practical bible teaching, marked by vulnerability and humour. And he does so as an international author, speaker and broadcaster. Check him out at Jeff Lucas.

Warning. Three things not to miss this Christmas.

 

Never mind the Twelve Days of Christmas, beware of the Twelve Daze of Christmas. Because that’s what it can all too easily become.

A blur of advertising messages, busyness, and meeting the expectations of others can swamp us. And ‘it’s all over before you know it.

This can be especially true for those of us who’ve been around long enough to now be active and retired. Automatic pilot kicks in. Been there. Done that. Bought the Christmas jumper.

So here’s a little check list of three things we ought not to miss. Or, to put it another way, here’s some opportunities to grab with both hands.

1.Don’t miss those who are lonely

You’ll be hearing it on the radio and in the shops –that big past Christmas hit –‘Do they know its Christmas time at all?’

One of the most evocative lines of any Christmas number one reminds us that far too many will be adrift from the joy and friendship that’s wrapped up in the Christmas season.

Indeed, Christmas is the time the reality of loneliness can be painfully magnified when, seemingly, everybody else is having the time of their lives.

All of which provokes the question, ‘What small part can you play to reduce the experience of loneliness for just one person?’ The answer will be different for each of us. But can we do something?

For my own family, some of the best times have been when we have had an unexpected visitor with us. Like the Moroccan student who understood little of the meaning of Christmas and was even more confused when we went outside and threw snow at each other.

2.Don’t miss those who are hurting

Christmas has a way of stirring up painful memories for those now missing someone they love. If a bereavement is recent then this is understandable and we’ll be taking account. But it can equally be true for anyone facing a stark reminder that someone dear to them is not round the table.

It takes older and wiser heads to look out for the signs of pain. And a caring heart to come alongside and ‘be there’ for them. Who better than an after-worker – with their eyes and listening ears open – to respond.

However, a loved-one’s absence is not the only possible cause for hurt during the Christmas season. My most poignant Christmas memory was at our Christmas market when a man in a wheelchair said ‘I’m here to buy my wife her last Christmas present I’ll ever buy’. Knowing he was terminally ill, he wanted his wife to have a memory.

We took time to talk and pray with him. And now we see him as a constant reminder of the people to look out for.

Of all the wonders of Christmas, the most important thing for me is the people. And it is surely a time to look beyond the comfort and security of our homes and realise there is still a huge world of need out there.

3.Don’t miss the meaning of the season

This brings me back to my ‘automatic pilot’ concern. Those in the early stages of retirement can often have more responsibilities to distract them rather than less – children, grandchildren and even their parents.

That makes it hard – but even more important – to find some space to reflect. What better way than to wrap our minds round that profound Charles Wesley carol which has a sermon in every line.

Here it comes –to mull on and enjoy for the wonderful truths it carries. I’ve made some suggestions as to thoughts and responses you might have.

Hark the herald angels sing

Glory to the new born king

Worship is due to the son of God

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled

Pray for peace and new life for those who do not know Jesus 

Christ by highest heaven adored

Christ the everlasting Lord

Late in time behold him come

Offspring of the virgin’s womb

A brilliant description of the real Jesus

Veiled in flesh the godhead see

Hail the incarnate deity

Jesus is both man and God

Pleased as man with man to dwell

Jesus our Emmanuel

The living Word came and dwelt among us

Mild he lays his glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

            From glory he came to give us new life in him

Here’s to a happy, caring and Christ-centred Christmas.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

What way have you found to make Christmas special for others? Please share here or with our Facebook group.

Think the personal pain from abortion is nothing to do with you? Think again.

One in 3 UK women will have had an abortion by the time they are 45 – experiencing the emotional impact that can go with it. But why should this concern those in their after-work years? After all, doesn’t abortion mainly impact those much younger?

If that’s in your mind, please think again.

The 1967 Abortion Act is now 50 years old. This means many now in their later years will have made this choice – and some will be in our churches, possibly including your church. And they may well still be carrying a deep sense of guilt, failure, grief.

Even worse, due to a fear of rejection and being judged, they may never have felt able to tell anyone and so receive the loving care they need.

It’s because of this I have a longing for every church. It’s that they should be where those who’ve faced an abortion or other baby loss, can receive grace and compassionate understanding.

This is why OPEN exists, as an initiative of CARE. It’s also why your own prayerful wisdom could have such a part to play.

Is the post-abortion experience something to mention in church?

Over the years, Christians have spoken out to protect unborn human life and challenge efforts to make abortion law ever more liberal. But this doesn’t mean we should not whole-heartedly support women who’ve had abortions.

Keeping the two in balance is not easy. But, for Christians, both baby and mother matter.

In our churches, some may have come to terms with their abortion experience. They have no need or desire to open up about it. But there may well be others still feeling deeply affected, and who resist being open for fear of the reaction of others.

This means they’re left dealing with the hurt and pain on their own. This can also be the painful experience of women who’ve had a miscarriage or still birth.

I know this to be true.

Almost without fail, when I’m speaking for OPEN in churches, people confide in me of experiences which often have taken place years before. And they tell me how they’ve never spoken about their abortions, especially not in the setting of their church – and how the pain was still very real.

I’ve learned that being open, non-judgemental, and truly caring can have an amazing and transforming impact on those living with the experience of abortion.

For example I think of the woman who said she was ‘free’ for the first time in 30 years. For all that time she’d carried silent grief and pain, and a sense of unworthiness. This burden was lifted when she heard God understood this grief, and he forgives.

Here’s what you can do

With some extra time on your hands and years of wisdom at your disposal, here’s 6 simple but valuable things you can do to support those who have experienced abortion.

  1. Be aware: Start with an understanding that there may well be those in your circle of friends and contacts who are carrying pain from a past experience of either abortion or miscarriage.
  2. Be open: Sensitively include this reality in conversations or in the context of preaching and teaching.
  3. Be alert: Look for signals and be open to caring and affirming conversations with those who might find it helpful.
  4. Be praying: Pray for good conversations with those for whom this might be an issue.
  5. Be proactive: Get the issue on the agenda of your church by having a speaker share how a compassionate response can be made in your church and community.
  6. Be practical: One of the most helpful things you can do is recommend one of the OPEN Healing Retreats.

To learn more, do visit the We Are Open website. It’s a rich resource for you and your church. Or email me at open@care.org.uk

Jenny Baines

Jenny’s background as the mother of a large family, her own miscarriages and being a Pastor’s wife, drew her to respond to the needs of those impacted by pregnancy loss. She’s now a consultant for OPEN, an initiative of CARE, helping churches create an environment where these sensitive issues can be shared with grace and compassionate understanding.

Busier than ever? Here’s all you need to know about saying ‘no’.

An older woman writes a day plan on a calendar. Next to it is a cup of tea. Business concept. Close up.

It’s probably the thing I’ve most heard from those no longer in full-time paid employment – ‘I’ve never been so busy’. But it is seldom said with relish and joy.

What’s going on? Why are so many of us saying ‘yes’ to demands on our time when the opposite is what we really have in mind? And what can we do about it?

Here come my six rules to help you say ‘no’ and the four big reasons why it’s so hard to do so.

Six simple rules to help you say ‘no’

A fresh request for your time or help can come in one of three different ways. So be on the lookout for the ‘ask’ the ‘nag’ and the ‘ambush. The ‘ask’ is simply a ‘please’. The ‘nag’ is a ‘please, please, please’, and the ambush is when you are totally distracted and they sneak it in while off guard.

Parents go through this with their children. It can also happen to us in our adult afterwork life – from family, friends, church and more. Which is why you need to be clear, no matter how the request comes, that –

  1. You have a life to live too: This means you have as much right to say ‘no’ as they have to ask. You are under no obligation. And that even extends to caring for grandchildren. Love them though you do, you did not choose to have them and have every right to make your own decisions about them.
  2. It’s okay to ask for time to think it over. If the delivery of an outright ‘no’ seems too much, take the heat out of the situation. Try a response something like ‘I don’t think that’s going to be possible but let me check and get back to you’.
  3. Offer a trial run. Sometimes a request for a seemingly never-ending commitment can leave you unsure – with a ‘no’ being too definite and a ‘yes’ the same. So, reply along the lines of ‘Can we give it a try for a few weeks and then review it on both our sides?’.
  4. Never fudge. If you know the answer should be ‘no’, have the courage to say so for the sake of all concerned. You don’t have to justify your decision and the more you try to the deeper entrenched you’ll get. All that’s needed is an ‘I’m sorry but much as I’d like to that’s not going to be possible’.
  5. Having said ‘no’, leave the area. When you deliver your answer then either change the subject or move away – fast. The longer the ask is part of the conversation the more confusing it is for both of you and more likely you’ll recant.
  6. Offer a compromise. Perhaps you can’t go the whole hog but could still do something and would wish to do so. Then try ‘Sorry, that’s not possible. But what I could do is . . . . ‘. However, be sure that’s really what you want to do.

Why is it so hard to say ‘no’?

Having read the above you may already be saying ‘if only’ it was that easy. I understand. There are solid reasons why saying ‘no’ can be daunting – and here are some of them.

We fear the reaction of the other person. By saying ‘no’, will the other person like us less or even feel we don’t like them? Will we come over as selfish, thoughtless or unkind? There’s no reason for any of this to be true. Saying ‘no’ is only refusing a request and nothing more.

We wrongly believe our value is in what we do. That could have been how it was in the past – in our workplace, whatever that may have been. And it’s easy to carry such wrong thinking into our new afterwork era.

Much of our busyness – and failure to say ‘no’ – can stem from a subconscious need to feel loved and valued. In the new ‘free-grazing’ world of afterwork this can be even more so. And that can have the outcome of us trying to fill the gaps by saying ‘yes’ too often.

That is why we need to discover a greater confidence we are cherished and appreciated by God and others. This would deliver us from the pressing need to ‘do’ in order to gain approval.

We fail to recognise saying ‘yes’ to ‘this’ means saying ‘no’ to ‘that’. Time does not expand to accommodate each new commitment we make. If only! But it’s a reality we too often deny – like good old King Canute trying to hold back the waves.

Each day remains twenty-four hours long, no matter how many extra promises tumble from our well-meaning lips. Time is one of the most precious resources at our disposal and every new ‘yes’ can mean having to say ‘no’ to something else.

We have not nailed down what we will say ‘yes’ to. Think of it this way – shouldn’t Jesus have been the most overworked person to have walked the planet? So many were in desperate need of what only he could deliver. Yet he never seemed to canter or break out into a sweat.

How come? After all, think of Jesus making his way steadfastly to Jerusalem. It takes little imagination to reconstruct the possible words of his disciples walking the same road. ‘Master, there is a village close by where many need to be healed.’ ‘There is a distraught family, Master, where you could bring such a change.’

Yet Jesus kept going to Jerusalem. How was that possible? Because he knew what he had already said ‘yes’ to. And the clearer we are about our own ‘Jerusalem’ the freer we will be to say ‘no’.

What do you do that helps you say no? Please share it – here and on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Want to get closer to your grandchildren? Try these 5 simple ways.

Grandchildren come in all shapes and sizes. And you want to build the closest possible relationship with them. But how?

Here are 6 simple ways to bridge the gap without sounding like you know it all or come from planet Zog. Try them. You have nothing to lose.

  1. Ask the right questions. We all enjoy talking about ourselves and kids are no exception. But you need to ask questions that go beyond the bland ‘So how’s school?’ to get below the surface.The ‘right questions’ lead to understanding what makes them different and special. And mean they know you’re genuinely interested and care.Do it well and in answer to your questions you’ll discover information about their best friend, their favourite room, their first memory, what frightens them, which children’s tv character they’d like to be, their favourite meal, what makes them happy – and sad, what makes them laugh, what they think they are best at, if they had a shop what they would sell, what’s the best food ever, what superpower they would like, their best joke, and more.Of course, this all involves making time to listen – which is one of the greatest gifts anyone can offer to a person of any age. And such conversations should never be forced or rushed. The child chooses whether to tell you stuff and it may take patience to wait for that privilege.
  2. Listen in depth. Don’t fall into the trap of asking questions and then not truly listening to the answers. That’s the listening equivalent of turning several pages over at once when reading to them!Grandchildren will know you are listening if you repeat back what you have heard them say and then dig a little deeper. Sometimes the very best next question is ‘why’ because it can take the conversation to a deeper level. And be prepared to listen to a lot of chatter that may bore you but enthrals them!
  3. Tell them your story. Getting closer is a two way process. So offer them the opportunity to ask their questions about you. And take the opportunity to delight them by telling then your own story.They’d love to know your own answers to the questions that you asked them; especially tales from your childhood and teenage years. Better still, dig out some very old photographs to bring it all to life.
  4. The role of grandparents is not the same as for parents. That gives us extra leeway to be understanding of their faults and mistakes – though not in a way that undermines the discipline and standards of their parents.What you may be able to contribute from time to time is a story of something from your past that relates to the child’s experience. These times might offer opportunities to talk about the virtues of courage, honesty, forgiveness, creative problem-solving, kindness and hard work.
  5. Believe in them. Praise and encouragement are priceless gifts to any child. It’s good to be positive about what they achieve – but even more so if that reinforces qualities you admire about them.Keep your eyes open for the positive things they do, asking God to make you aware. And then, over time, you can sow seeds and nurture the precious potential that lies within them. Be sure to express this genuine appreciation wherever you can. It will help to build the confidence that is supremely important for children, especially those who lack a strong sense of self-worth or have particular difficulties or disabilities.
  6. Hang on in there. Life has its ups and downs and grandchildren will have their own experiences of that – as will you most probably will in your relationship with them. There may be times when it’s not possible to see each other so often, situations they get into that make you feel anxious, disappointed, let down.But whether all is going swimmingly well or there are tensions don’t give up on your responsibility to be an example of faithful unconditional love – whatever that looks like for each child at every stage of their lives.

And, of course, above all else, pray for them.

For more practical insight on being a grandparent, see the AfterWorkNet webpages at Grand parenting.

What questions have you asked your grandchildren that have opened your eyes and deepened your relationships? Please share them here.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Have you joined our Facebook group yet? It’s a great way to share the journey with other after-workers.

Sex in your 70’s – really? Perhaps, with these 6 things in mind.

Even if we’ve hit a certain age and stage in life, sexual intimacy can still happen for many married couples. It need not be just be something to look back on with a nostalgic smile.

If that sounds like a challenge or even offers some hope, here are six encouragements about having a fulfilling sex life into our seventies… and beyond!

1.It doesn’t have to be like it was.

A woman asked her husband to come upstairs and make love. With a sigh, he replied, ‘Darling these days I can do one or the other, not both!’

Now you’re no longer in the fresh flush of youth and sexual intimacy, think about focusing on gentle affection rather than passion and incredible physical and emotional experience. Romantic words, touching, kissing, and other intimate contact can be fulfilling and rewarding.

2.Physical affection is good for your health

Apparently, an active sex life can increase life expectancy. It’s good exercise, releases endorphins and reduces anxiety. If it involves emotional wellbeing and closeness that’s good too. Touch is very important to our sense of wellbeing and hugs make us all feel better.

3.If one of you used to be keener on sex than the other, have the courage to gently raise this issue

It’s not unusual – perhaps for women more than men – to quite honestly feel relieved if their spouse is winding down on wanting to make love, for one reason or another. But sex in later life could be a whole new departure, maybe less focused on needs and more about appreciation and enjoyment of each other’s love.

4.It’s OK if parts of you no longer work as well as they used to. Enjoying sexual intimacy doesn’t have to include intercourse

Feelings of inadequacy and not believing we’re sexy any more should be thought through and openly shared – with as much humour as possible.  Aging means our bodies change in many ways – both men and women may find physical intimacy and climax a challenge.  Talk about it!

There may be remedies to discomfort and disfunction. Or alternative ways to express your physical love to one another.

5.Making love well ideally starts way before you get to the bedroom

Two songs from the past: The Beatles ‘Will you still need me when I’m 64?’ They thought 64 was impossibly old in those days! And ‘You don’t bring me flowers any more’. Why not? It is such a sure way of making your wife feel good and there are plenty of male equivalents too, if your husband’s not that bothered about flowers. And there will are so many expressions of affection and tenderness whether its simply holding handsor some other gesture to make the one we love feel cherished.

6.There’s loads of confidential, understanding help out there if you need it.

The good news is that there’s ample help available for both men and women who have issues about sexual activity, physical or emotional . Google is often the first resort.

A good GP also knows what can be done about a whole range of difficulties; illness, disability, the effect of medicines, too much alcohol, anxiety over ‘performance’, surgery, low self-esteem and concerns about body image. But the first step is an honest acceptance of need and some equally honest conversations with each other.

In a nutshell

The key to resolving or at least finding a level of intimacy you can both live with is to talk about it – first with each other and if necessary with a qualified counsellor. It can be a difficult subject to broach, even after many years of marriage. But it is nothing like as difficult as living with an increasing sense of distance and even resentment.

Be kind – if things are not the way one of you would like, remember that ‘for better for worse’ line. A little understanding and TLC can go a long way.

Get help if there is a problem in this area. Sex is an important part of marriage and we need to try to understand how our partner is feeling. And there are many couples who have rediscovered a sexual relationship that they assumed was gone forever.

And perhaps the best bit of advice is something that’s relevant whatever age we are and however long we have been married. It is that that love-making starts with expressions of affection a long way from the bedroom.

For more on marriage in your active years of retirement do see AfterWorkNet’s webpages on the subject. Just go here.

Dianne Parsons – Care for the Family

Dianne has been an integral part of Care for the Family’s ministry over many years, alongside husband Rob, and speaking and writing with great empathy for women about marriage and family life.

Do you have something to share on this sensitive subject? Do share it here.

 

So what’s wrong with acting your age?

We almost certainly said it to our children – maybe not always helpfully, ‘Act your age’ perhaps adding ‘not your shoe size!’ But at times I feel the need to give a similar message to some active retired people.

In my days in youth ministry, it was sad when my 50-year-old colleagues were dressing like teenagers. They may have felt they looked cool but the reality was they looked more than slightly strange.

In much the same way, I now meet those in their 70s who claim they are far too young to rock up to anything for designed for retired people or even to hang out with them.

True, age can be as much to do with your attitude and state of mind as it is the level of your body’s decay. But, it seems to me, there are those who cannot bear to be designated ‘old’.

My message is ‘face up to reality and embrace the age you are. Put your birth certificate above your mantelpiece and reflect what it says in your choices and attitude’.

God brought me into the world in 1943 – definitely a vintage year! Where’s the problem with living with that reality? This is who I am – how God made me and the best thing I can do is to serve Him as I am, not how I wish or imagine myself to be.

For our parents’ generation retirement meant resting after years of working. But now people are asking what to do with their lives. Their answer is sometimes limited to golf, short tennis, walking football, line dancing or Saga cruises.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those. It’s great that the retired and active have the health and income to engage in a great variety of activities for many more years than those retiring in the past. Bit this means there’ll be a peer group around to share their lives for the next few decades, including sharing the relevance of Jesus.

In which case, as the old fashioned Wayside Pulpit asks, ‘What on earth are you doing for heaven’s sake?’ Act your age – join up with your fellow retirees and do something that grows God’s kingdom. What is wrong with being 74 and hanging out with other 74 year olds?

Those who are retired and active are one of a church’s greatest resources. But that’s only true if they make themselves available – as those committed to being part of God’s plan for themselves and for others.

We really can’t say ‘I’ve done my bit’. Retirement – what’s been called ‘my time to be selfish’ is a social construct not a biblical norm. No! Let’s accept the challenge ahead – rejoicing in the opportunities.

This is no time to sit in an armchair wishing you were young again but it is your moment to ask God to shape your new world as you work with others in your church and community.

When I watch cricket I get itchy fingers, wishing I was on the field again. I can still hit a ball but the challenge of a quick single over 18 yards is beyond me. But that’s no reason to retire from activity completely. So I’ve turned to golf and am enjoying accepting my limitations and re-adjusting my expectations. I hope you’re doing something of the same – by joining in with the glorious band of your fellow retirees and serving God together.

So if you are up for acting your age and need some ideas there’s a huge amount of ideas and resources waiting for you on our website at here.

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have a ‘now I’m acting my age story’ to share? Then please do so in response to this blog or on our Facebook page.

Would a little extra money help your retirement? Here’s 20 simple ideas.

For most people, the end of fulltime work means running a tighter ship where the purse strings are concerned. Which means a little extra income would go down well – to get by, spoil yourself or spoil others.

That’s why you might want to check out ways to add some income to your pension that don’t take you back to fulltime employment. And it’s worth keeping in mind that keeping active is likely to contribute to your health and wellbeing too.

Of course, what you can do depends on your age and state of health. But here are a few ideas to get you going, most of which come from the experience of those known to me.

  1. Delivering the local free paper
  2. Dog walking for those at work all day
  3. Light gardening maintenance
  4. Ironing – friends tell me this is in great demand
  5. Childminding – which will need complying with regulations so check with your council’s Child Care Officer
  6. Shifts at a supermarket or DIY store
  7. Catering for parties and events
  8. Book-keeping and/or tax returns
  9. Home tuition
  10. Music lessons
  11. Secretary to the parish council or local charity
  12. School lunchtime supervisor
  13. Take in a lodger
  14. Make money on eBay – clear your own ‘junk’ or unwanted items or pick them up at car boot sales
  15. Mind pets for those going on holiday
  16. Become a mystery shopper – check out the Mystery Shopper Providers Association
  17. Be a television or movie extra
  18. Teach English as a second language
  19. Be a doula – ladies only of course
  20. Self-publish a book

To explore any of the above just head for Google and search. There’s lots of help out there and also excellent advice from those who are already doing what you are thinking about.

If these seem a bit lightweight to you, you might explore something more demanding. Something like becoming a consultant or mentor, sharing your skills and experience with a new generation or to train as a life coach or counsellor.

You could even start your own online business. There’s lots of good advice out there and the tools to build your own website with automatic order taking and processing.

Remember, if you earn extra income it is likely to have tax implications. So keep not of the money you receive and any expenses involved. Possibly you many need to register as self-employed – to check with HMRC. And the Tax Office can make sure you receive the right tax-free allowance.

David Winter – adapted from his book The Highway Code for Retirement (CWR)

David Winter

David has retired three times from different settings, including as a Parish Priest and as the BBC’s Head of Religious Broadcasting. He was a regular contributor to Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ for more than 20 years.

Do you have your own experience of adding to your income? Then please share it here or our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you.

It’s an epidemic it would not cost a penny to solve – loneliness. And you could be the medicine.

I’ve blogged before about the ‘Elinor Rigby’ epidemic of loneliness that’s doing such damage today. It’s the cause of millions of mostly elderly people being deprived of human contact for days on end – leading to poor health, depression and shortened lives.

In the past I’ve focused on the opportunity for churches to respond. But churches are made up of individuals – like you – who could do so much to bring joy and warmth to someone who is lonely.

Who are those in need?

Official UK figures say some 9 million people are lonely. This includes –

  • About half a million people are often going for more than a week without seeing anybody.
  • About 200,000 older people have not spoken to a friend or relative in more than a month.
  • Many of those receiving regular visits from care workers get no more than 15 minutes of their time – with a survey showing 500,000 pensioners received visits so brief that staff didn’t even speak to them.

All it takes is a little of your time

This epidemic would not cost a penny to solve. It just needs the time of those who care – even just an hour a week.

The need is for troops on the ground. Those who care enough and with time enough to each play a part. And those no longer in fulltime employment have a God-given opportunity to step up.

If every ‘retired and active’ person found just one lonely person to visit, the love of Christ could be shared with many who are feeling that life has lost a lot of its meaning.

How to get started? Here are 5 simple ways –

  1. Seek out a lonely person in your street or nearby
  2. Talk to your church leaders about elderly church members in need of visitors
  3. Contact nearby retirement homes, asking if there are those who seldom have visitors
  4. Check with your local services to see what needs you could meet
  5. Contact agencies like Age Concern and offer to visit those known to them

Simple ways to get it right

To make the most of your time that will mean so much to a lonely person here are things to keep in mind –

  • Relationships take time to develop trust and openness. So don’t be surprised if your Initial approaches may be tense and difficult.
  • The person you are visiting may be depressed as this can result from a lack of human contact.
  • No two elderly people are the same. Some may find conversation difficult. Others could talk for England.
  • If they are expecting a visit, make sure you turn up.
  • Get them to tell their story.
  • Don’t expect them to remember every detail of your last conversation – or even your name.
  • Take your grandchildren with you. A recent TV documentary revealed the benefit of elderly people being with children regularly.
  • Be careful about what you offer. An occasional cake is fine but don’t be over-lavish and so create wrong expectations.

There’s something in it for you too 

Our faith is built on relationship to God – and also on relationships with others. It’s easy for our circle to become closed – the faithful who gather with us every Sunday.

Here’s the opportunity to open it out – and be enriched yourself in the process.

For an overview of the loneliness issue please see our web page on The Lonely.

David Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have an experience about visiting someone who is lonely? Do share it here or on our Facebook group.

You could be the listening ear a child needs.

You only need to think back to how books enriched your young life to get an inkling of what a little of your time could do for some children today.

Recent reports suggest many children who lacked an ability to read in their early years end up struggling to keep up with peers in the years that follow. Many just needed someone to listen to them read.

And that’s your opportunity, fuelled by your own delight in the books that shaped your own young live.

Perhaps, as a child, the books that fired your imagination were those like The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Stig of the Dump by Clive King.

I know this was true for me – a delight to read and, unbeknown to me, they began to shape my values and were even an early signposts in my search for faith. Not bad for children’s books.

It was Clive King’s his own childhood that inspired him to write Stig of the Dump in 1963. If you are a Baby Boomer like me, you probably remember it’s the story of a boy who falls into a chalk pit at the bottom of his grandparent’s garden and discovers a new friend from the Stone Age.

It’s a reminder of the adventures children used to have, imagined or otherwise, when allowed to roam free in the countryside, discovering bits of ‘this and that’, which could be turned into something enhancing whatever game was being played. I now live in a village but have never seen children playing in the countryside. What’s happened? Have they lost the freedom we once enjoyed?

Imaginations however still need feeding and encouraging. CS Lewis recalls how a miniature garden made by his brother on top of an old biscuit tin evoked an early image of paradise, and how the talking animal stories they invented in the attic at their childhood home became the basis of the Narnia adventures he wrote in later life.

There may not be a children’s book in you waiting to be written, though you never know until you try, but you could be a listening ear to children who need their imaginations stirring.

Could you give the vital gift of being a listening ear to a child – as a number of actively-retired people from my own church are doing and finding it very rewarding? If so, here are the easy steps to take –

  1. Contact the Head Teacher at your local primary school. This could be done through the local church minister or pastor if a few of you are going in, which helps build stronger links with local schools, but it is not essential.
  2. Offer an hour a week, or more if able, to listen to children read.
  3. Go along a meet the Head and find out how to proceed
  4. They should need a Safeguarding Check (DBS) which they can organise.
  5. They will have their own books, but you can offer to take or donate books, though please do check with the school if it is ok with them.

Reading changed my life, and it’s never too late to be an agent of change for someone else.

Chris Harrington

Rev Captain Chris Harrington is a Church Army officer and Rector of Heckington and Helpringham Group of Parishes. He has a special interest in reaching the retired and active generation and author of the Grove Booklet Reaching the Saga Generation.

Once – a Company Director.  Now – supporting a prison chaplain. Steve’s story.

First, I need to come clean. ‘Steve’ is not my real name – which I can’t reveal for reasons of security. It’s a funny world.

As to ‘my story’ I didn’t see it coming. That, in my days after work, I’d be looking to do what I can to support a prison chaplain at a time when we seem to hear about the ever-increasing pressures on prison life almost weekly.

Yet, perhaps I should not have been so surprised.

For a dozen years or so I’d been ‘in prison’ four or five times a year as part of a team helping at chapel services. This was all during my very busy days as Director of a modest-size engineering business.

Then came the time when this period of my life was now coming to an end, with a younger and very able colleague ready to take the reins.

However, I could see it would be a bad idea to completely stop dead. I’d heard of those who had done so and not fared well. More than that, I could see the value of a planned a gradual withdrawal, initially with one or two days off in the week, plus some weekend days that were less crowded. But how should this extra time be spent?

Looking back at what I’d enjoyed and was good at, those occasional visits into some of Her Majesty’s Prisons came to mind. More than that, they had given me an insight into how pressured a prison chaplain’s role can be, and how much value an extra pair of hands would be from time to time.

Because of this I made contact with the chaplain at the prison near me, making the offer to do ‘whatever was needed’.

A few weeks later found me simply helping out in the chapel services – handing out hymn sheets, switching on the lights, plugging in the microphones, praying with a couple of prisoners at the end. A couple of times, when they were short of a musician I stood in on that as well.

It has been fulfilling, rewarding and worthwhile – leaving me with a sense that the more I could offer, the more opportunity I would have to do something really meaningful and appreciated.

And so has come the next possible step. I don’t have to wind down activities – I can step up a gear!

God has used my past to show what I can do in the present to make retirement more fulfilling for me and more valuable to others.

Steve

‘Steve’ has to be anonymous due to security issues relating to HM Prisons.

Do you have a story to share about using your past skills and experience in your after-work years? Do share it here or on our Facebook group.

You could be the listening ear a child needs.

 

You only need to think back to how books enriched your young life to get an inkling of what a little of your time could do for some children today.

Recent reports suggest many children who lacked an ability to read in their early years end up struggling to keep up with peers in the years that follow. Many just needed someone to listen to them read.

And that’s your opportunity, fuelled by your own delight in the books that shaped your own young live.

Perhaps, as a child, the books that fired your imagination were those like The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Stig of the Dump by Clive King.

I know this was true for me – a delight to read and, unbeknown to me, they began to shape my values and were even an early signposts in my search for faith. Not bad for children’s books.

It was Clive King’s his own childhood that inspired him to write Stig of the Dump in 1963. If you are a Baby Boomer like me, you probably remember it’s the story of a boy who falls into a chalk pit at the bottom of his grandparent’s garden and discovers a new friend from the Stone Age.

It’s a reminder of the adventures children used to have, imagined or otherwise, when allowed to roam free in the countryside, discovering bits of ‘this and that’, which could be turned into something enhancing whatever game was being played. I now live in a village but have never seen children playing in the countryside. What’s happened? Have they lost the freedom we once enjoyed?

Imaginations however still need feeding and encouraging. CS Lewis recalls how a miniature garden made by his brother on top of an old biscuit tin evoked an early image of paradise, and how the talking animal stories they invented in the attic at their childhood home became the basis of the Narnia adventures he wrote in later life.

There may not be a children’s book in you waiting to be written, though you never know until you try, but you could be a listening ear to children who need their imaginations stirring.

Could you give the vital gift of being a listening ear to a child – as a number of actively-retired people from my own church are doing and finding it very rewarding? If so, here are the easy steps to take –

  1. Contact the Head Teacher at your local primary school. This could be done through the local church minister or pastor if a few of you are going in, which helps build stronger links with local schools, but it is not essential.
  2. Offer an hour a week, or more if able, to listen to children read.
  3. Go along a meet the Head and find out how to proceed
  4. They should need a Safeguarding Check (DBS) which they can organise.
  5. They will have their own books, but you can offer to take or donate books, though please do check with the school if it is ok with them.

Reading changed my life, and it’s never too late to be an agent of change for someone else.

Chris Harrington

Rev Captain Chris Harrington is a Church Army officer and Rector of Heckington and Helpringham Group of Parishes. He has a special interest in reaching the retired and active generation and author of the Grove Booklet Reaching the Saga Generation.

Retired, active and…trapped. For some, life after work is not the Promised Land.

I always thought the move to retirement would be one more happy transition on life’s journey. Pastures new would offer freedom to travel, indulge the grandchildren and, in every way, enjoy a new phase of life.

If only!

Now I’m wondering how many others are feeling trapped rather than released; burdened rather than freed. Because, for my wife and I, instead of enjoying a world of choice we are faced with life-restricting and choice-robbing limitations – at least for the time being.

I’ve discovered I’m one of the many who, far from being free to ‘make plans’, has a responsibility for four generations.

First there’s the responsibility to meet our own needs.

After many years of self-employment and, to be honest, insufficient preparation for the financial side of retirement, clocking off at 65 was not a realistic option. On the positive side, I love what I do but the need for additional income means a significant limit on choices.

Then there’s the responsibility of our three adult children. Though they are well and truly adults, that doesn’t end the parent child relationship and concern to care for them. And like many of their peers, the road has been much harder for them than it was for us at their age.

Our elder daughter has chosen to invest her time raising her son during his pre-school days rather than return to work. That means she and her husband are in no position to buy a home and do not have a car. As a result, we are needed and help where we can.

Our son, due to the shortage of affordable accommodation, lives with us. As a shift-worker he sometimes sleeps in the day or evening, so limiting our opportunities to offer hospitality.

Then there’s the responsibility for our grandchildren – a delight of course. I just love being involved in their lives. But there’s more to it than that.

Our younger daughter and husband live near us but their jobs are at a distance with an early start. For the past year our granddaughter has been dropped off at 6.30 am each weekday so we can take her to school.

Then there’s the responsibility for my parents, now in their nineties. Having supported us through each phase of our lives, they are increasingly dependent on us.

Mum, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago, now has little capacity to remember events of even ten minutes ago though has strong memories of her Welsh childhood.

Dad, diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, also has a condition requiring regular blood transfusions. My sister and I take turns sitting with Mum while Dad is taken to hospital for his treatment. Neither Mum nor Dad are now very mobile.

Because of their age and lack of family living close by, Mum and Dad have almost no social circle – making frequent visits vital.

And then there is the responsibility for emergencies.

Recently Dad phoned in desperation. The fridge freezer had broken down – they had no food. I drove the four hour round-trip to take basic groceries, picking up a hot meal on the way and have been with them almost daily ever since.

On a recent visit I found an ambulance outside their home. Mum had fallen getting out of bed. Dad lacked the strength to help her up. He called an ambulance but the paramedics could not get into the house as my dad is profoundly deaf and did not hear the doorbell. He’d even accidentally left the phone off the hook so they could not phone him.

Putting it all together – and knowing I’m not alone in this – I’m finding retirement to be far from the ‘Promised Land’ I’d anticipated.

It leaves me asking how a church could and should support those in similar situations. Those like us, seeming to be coping on the outside and presumed to be enjoying their new freedom. But, in reality, retired, active and trapped.

Our own experience of church in this respect has been largely positive. But are churches in general and their leaders always aware? Do they factor this into their pastoral care? Do they recognise the need for practical support? Do they help those in similar situations ‘find each other’ for mutual support and to compare notes?

More than that, how do they help those of retirement age balance their desire to remain active in the church with the often unseen tensions of family and finance?

We are all living at a time when life expectancy is increasing and support from Social Services and the NHS is stretched to the limit. A time when there are unprecedented pressures on successive generations.

This is surely a time for churches to reach out with support for those of retirement age doing their best to hold it all together.

Chris Gander

Chris Gander is a freelance graphic designer, married to Mary, with three adult children and two grandchildren. He’s a keen photographer and an occasional blogger at Sauceforthegander.

The inside story: How our body changes with age – and how to fight back.

Retirement isn’t the only thing that happens when you reach a certain age. Our body also undergoes some interesting – and not always helpful – changes too.

And, as these changes impact our health and the length of time we’ll live, they are not to be ignored.

First the bad news!

As we age our skin gets looser and drier, muscles become smaller and weaker, the speed at which our body burns calories slows down so we more easily gain weight, hearing may fade, and eyesight becomes less sharp.

On top of that, memory might fail us in a variety of ways. And sleep can become more elusive.

This natural process can’t really be avoided, but there are ways to slow it down if we make lifestyle changes and adopt healthy habits. Even if we should have taken action sooner, it’s never too late to begin.

Here are three ways to keep the impact of aging at bay and so make the most of your after-work years.

1. Fighting back through exercise

When we were younger we were more physically active, even without thinking about it. Just keeping life and a family going gave your muscles a great workout without going near a gym. If we played sport, even better.

However, age has changed all that. We are now less likely to have reasons to be physically active and maybe less able to be sporty.

What can we do?

 Getting fitter through a regular activity – ideally one we enjoy – is the most effective, youth-giving, medicine we could ever have.

Even just 15 to 20 minutes of activity each day helps stave off a multitude of health conditions as well as aches and pains, gives us more energy and makes our body and mind more efficient. And it will do wonder for our heart, the engine room of our body.

There are so many ways to exercise: walking, cycling, swimming, jogging, dancing, fitness videos and classes. Many offer clubs especially for those no longer in the flush of youth and working out with others is proven to be good for us mentally.

Even choosing to walk and not ride, and use stairs instead of the escalator or lift, can play its part. Every little helps!

2. Fighting back through weight loss:

We may not be eating very differently in our retirement but our body now burns fewer calories and we are moving about less. That’s why putting on pounds is almost inevitable unless we take action.

Indeed, right now you may be walking around carrying extra weight that’s the equivalent to a holiday suitcase. Lose it and you’ll feel years younger very quickly. You’ll also be healthier by taking pressure off your joints and vital organs – especially your heart.

What can you do?

There’s no shortage of weight-loss plans out there. Find a method that suits you as an individual but go for one from a reputable source – nothing gimmicky – and stick to it.

Why not have a look at my The Stay Young Diet created especially for those beyond middle-age. Check it out on the AfterWorkNet website at The Stay Young Diet.

This eating plan is distinctive because of the foods it’s based on – those rich in antioxidants which is key to fighting the ageing process. Antioxidants are found in those fruit and vegetables that are bright in colour and are bursting with life-enhancing vitamins and minerals.

3. Fighting back by being accountable

There’s evidence to show those setting out to make lifestyle changes do better if someone else is watching out for them in some way.

That’s a major key to the effectiveness of weight loss clubs – someone else will know how it is going. The thought of applause at weigh-in spurs you on. The reality of falling short is an encouragement not to say ‘just one more’!

Being accountable doesn’t have to involve joining in with others. One way is just to tell one or more of those closest to you what you are going for.

Even better is also to have a fitness or dieting buddy. Someone who’s as committed as you are to living healthier and longer.

Go for it.

Rosemary Conley CBE

Rosemary has helped tens of thousands to achieve and maintain a healthy life, through her diet and exercise programmes. At 65, she took up skating for ITV’s ‘Dancing on Ice’ and still skates 6 years later.

Have you found an approach to health and fitness that works for you? Do share it by commenting on this blot or by joining our Facebook group

Don’t let retirement scupper your marriage – the 3 top tips for staying afloat.

It’s a massive step to move from hardly seeing each other most daytimes to now being under each other’s feet.

Indeed, legions of women – please forgive the stereotype – have been known to mutter between clenched teeth ‘Is he never going out?!!’

That may not be the whole story behind the growing divorce rate among the over 65s. But the very existence of such a trend indicates the challenge retirement can bring to a marriage.

That means, when it comes to your own experience of retirement, you dare not be blind to its impact on others. Which is especially true of your life partner.

This is no time for a solo voyage, oblivious to the way your new role may be creating waves for our most significant ‘other’.

As the saying goes, ‘no man – or woman – is an island’. Our lives are entwined. That’s why those closest to you will have expectations, like – ‘she’ll have more time to spend with me’. And fears – ‘he’ll be under my feet all day’.

With so much at stake, here are 3 top tips to help you sail rather than sink.

1. Talk it through!

Some couples find situations like this – when major change is involved – fairly easy to work out. Meanwhile, others only get there after an explosion of built-up frustration.

Whichever it may be for you in your relationship, a planned ‘let’s talk this through’ session – perhaps over a meal – is where to start.

On the agenda would be items like –

Smaller stuff:

  • How are changes in my life going to impact you?
  • What hopes do you have for us when/now I’m retired?
  • What concerns do you have – and what would you like me to do about them?
  • What might we now be able to do together that we couldn’t before?
  • How best can we both find our space, how much time do we want to be apart?
  • Which household chores and responsibilities should now be reassigned?

Big stuff:

  • How best can we look out for each other?
  • What new adventures/experiences could we share?
  • What should be on our bucket list?

2. Give each other space

The biggest issue to impact your relationship is likely to be the ‘getting under each other’s feet’ one. When something like 200 days a year of being apart comes to a sudden or even a gradual end, readjustment can be a challenge.

Of course, what the Bible says is true; ‘It is not good for a man or woman to be alone’. But that’s not meant to be every waking moment.

Because of this it would be wise to:

  • Work at developing and enjoying your own individual interests and friendships as well as those you share. Having your own identity is good for you both and will enrich your marriage.
  • Establish separate spaces for each of you at home. There is great wisdom in having the equivalent of a man-shed – for both of you. This can be for anything from hobbies to TV watching.

3. Maintain communication

You may well find your retirement impacts you in unexpected ways. There may be the emotional issues linked to stress or your loss of status having left the workplace behind. For more see our website under Stress and Loss of Status.

When our emotions are hit, the temptation is to bottle it all up – especially for man. But that can then have an impact on your partner.

These things can be hard to talk about or even own up to. But your other half deserves to know what’s going on and have the opportunity to love and support you through it.

So honest conversation is vital for a safe and enjoyable voyage into the future.

Dianne Parsons – Care for the Family

Dianne has been an integral part of Care for the Family’s ministry over many years, alongside husband Rob, and speaking and writing with great empathy for women about marriage and family life.

Have you found a way to enrich your marriage in retirement? Do share it by joining our Facebook group and signing up for our inspiring blog  

Once – in the oil industry. Now – running Alpha for retired people. Chris’s story.

It started with a simple prayer, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ Where it ended has taken me completely by surprise.

Several months before that simple prayer my paid employment had ended.

I’d been CEO of two London-based, jointly administered, charities. Before that, a bursar – looking after the business side of a school. Before that, had been many years in the oil industry.

The first months of after-work saw me catching up with jobs around the house and garden, visiting family and going to places of interest with my wife Linda. But I knew retirement had to be about more than ‘me’.

That was the reason for the prayer. And God answered – within a week. Doing so through the Vicar of my Egham, Surrey, church who said ‘Chris we have been praying and we want you and Linda to run an Alpha course for retired people’.

Though never having been on an Alpha course, I realised my past business and church experience made leading one something I could do. More importantly, this seemed to be something God wanted me to do.

Of the team I pulled together, almost half were also in retirement’s early and active years – as were about half of the 20 who attended.

What surprised me was not just how many retired people wanted to attend. It was also the number of questions and issues people raised. Some were wanting to know what Christianity was all about. Others admitted their faith had grown cold and needed to re-examine the basics.

All this proved something very important to be true. That God could wonderfully use my experience from the past in my new era of life.

This past experience had included selecting the right people for a job, building teams, planning events and a lot public speaking. My church life had involved leading Bible Studies and some preaching. And the Alpha course brought all this into play.

Indeed, this has proved to be one of my life’s most fulfilling and rewarding experiences. It was truly amazing to see God changing lives, watch faith being rejuvenated and see people’s questions answered.

Equally wonderful was what this meant for those at the same stage of life as me and serving as discussion group leaders and helpers. They too had the awesome experience of seeing God at work.

When the request came for the team to run a second course, our ‘yes’ was without hesitation. We called it Daytime Alpha – making it available to anyone free during the day.

Again, we saw people coming to faith and others whose faith came alive again.

In particular, I think of John and Joyce. This lovely couple in their late 60’s were steadily moving through retirement with no live relationship with Jesus. And their daughter had long been praying for them.

God opened their spiritual eyes and their lives were transformed. Soon after they moved to the South Coast and now have their own ministry among retired people in their new church.

This is how, in the first year of my retirement, I discovered what great blessings God gives us when we make available the past experience and abilities he has placed in our hands.

That is also the way it has continued and – ‘please Lord’ – may it do so for many years to come.

Chris Matthews

For more on using your own workplace skills and experience in your retirement visit our web page – Serving

And to share your own experience join our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Probably the only book about retirement you’ll ever need to read.

Is the end of full-time work heading your way? Or are you already there – and wondering what kind of fist you are making of your new ‘freedom’.

Either way, there’s the perfect book to help you. An uplifting, positive and practical guide that’s right on the mark. An absolute gem.

Do you remember when you started to drive, all those years ago, and how important the Highway Code was? Well now, as you navigate the highways of life after fulltime work, there’s the equivalent.

It’s David Winter’s ‘The Highway Code for Retirement’. And there should be no surprise this book is so practical and easy to read.

First, it comes from someone who has retired three times, from different settings. So he knows a thing or three about what’s involved – including from his own mistakes on the way.

Added to that, the author is a first class and seasoned communicator. David was a regular contributor to Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ for more than 20 years.

At the heart of the book is a piece of good advice. ‘Retirement is something that is better planned for and looked forward to than an event that suddenly overtakes. Like adolescence, marriage, the arrival of children and grandchildren, and getting older, it’s simply a part of life for most people’.

With that in mind, David encourages a positive view of the future. And offers inspiration including that –

  • John Glenn flew into space aged 77
  • Winston Churchill was a war-time Prime Minister at 66
  • Mother Theresa was still leading her work among the poor in Calcutta at 68
  • Michelangelo was still designing churches at 88

Then it’s on to practical help that can lead to being better prepared for retirement financially, emotionally and spiritually. With content on Planning for Retirement, Making the transition, The impact on others, How to find extra income, Should you move home and more. Plus some case histories to add the cherry on top.

Throughout, the book is shaped by David’s own Christian perspective. And neatly summed up in his reference from the Psalms: ‘They will bear fruit in their old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming: “The Lord is upright, he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him”’. Psalm 92.14-15.

For an example of the charm and insights this book offers, try this for size –

The Ten Commandments for Growing Older Gracefully

  1. Face facts – your birth certificate doesn’t lie
  2. Be your age , not someone else’s
  3. Slow down but not too much
  4. Take regular exercise – minimum 30 minutes a day
  5. Try to do a word-based puzzle, like a crossword, every day
  6. Cultivate friends of all ages, including younger ones
  7. Live positively
  8. Consider the spiritual aspects of growing older: explore issues of faith if you never have
  9. Come to terms with the present – and the future
  10. Be grateful: count your blessings – your life is a precious gift

If you know someone heading for the end of their working days this is the ideal gift. Better still, buy two so there’s one for you.

The Highway Code for Retirement’ (CWR) by David Winter £6.99

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Want to make the most of your extra after-work years? Then do explore our website and join our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you.

Retirement is no longer ‘one-size-fits-all’. Of its 4 categories, which is you?

A generation ago, life after work was much the same for everyone. Job done. Perhaps a gold watch to mark the moment. But with little ahead other than a few years in God’s waiting room.

But how that has changed.

Today’s baby boomers meet retirement with perhaps 20 – or even 30 – years of life ahead. And, most likely, are in better health and with more money to spend than their parents’ generation could have dreamed of.

Unlike in the past, today there’s a lot of active years to make the most of. Research points to this longer, healthier and more affluent era as involving 4 distinct categories – according to American author and retirement specialist Cathy Severson.

These categories have been defined as –

The Clueless. They are the ones who have done the least planning for their big life change and make up towards half of those no longer in fulltime work. They are often bored with their free time choices, can experience loneliness, depression and feelings of being disconnected from those around them.

The Aimless They are still looking for a sense of satisfaction in retirement and make up about 1 in 5 of retirees. They express feeling neither positive nor negative about their new stage in life. But, like the Clueless, gave little thought as to what it might offer and are now trying to figure it out while in the midst of living it out.

The same research revealed less than 1 in 5 had made plans for hobbies post-work. And only 1 in 3 had worked out how much money they would be needing.

The Directionless. They are happy to adjust to a more relaxed and, hopefully, less stressed lifestyle – and make up about 1 in 5 of retirees. But their agenda has no place for learning or experiencing new things, finding meaningful part-time work either paid or voluntary.

Content to potter around home and engage with family and friends, they lack any great aspirations. But at least, as a result, don’t experience much  disappointment.

The Motivated Redirected are at the other end of the spectrum, having prepared for retirement both by way of their plans and how they can fund them. Surprisingly, they make up only 1 in 5 of those coming to retirement.

For them, this new period is one with fresh challenges, adventure and personal fulfilment. They are engaged in meaningful work that may be paid, or unpaid with challenging hobbies, or other leisure activities.

For them, there’s no ‘keeping busy’ for the sake of it or just letting their new diary space get swallowed up.

What separates the Clueless, Aimless and Motivated Redirected, points out Cathy Severson, is the time taken to think about the future and plan for the life you want.

So why does it seem so few plan ahead and think things through, including those who should be seeing these years as a gift from God – to be richly enjoyed and wisely invested?

Why? Let me suggest two possible reasons –

Our parents didn’t need to do this kind of planning and thinking because their options were so few. As a result, we’ve had no role models and no wise parents who had travelled this way and could help us do the same.

In the main, churches fail to see this as an issue. As a result they lack plans and programmes to help those who are approaching retirement get ready for new adventures and to seize new opportunities for service.

That being the case, each of us who is heading for retirement – or are already there – needs to take responsibility ourselves. This is not the time to be among the Clueless, the Aimless or the Directionless. After all, life after work is not a rehearsal but the real thing. We’ll only get to do it once.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

For more wisdom, ideas, and resources for your ‘after-work life go to afterwork.com

Your community needs people like you – and the opportunities may surprise you.

Now that every day is a Saturday – except Sundays – could you invest some of your new-found time into your community?

There are crying needs out there and a vast range of opportunities– from simply ‘helping out’ to using your professional skills.

Finding the right niche may take some searching, patience and a little trial and error. But the outcome will be more than worth it – for them and for you.

Where to find a volunteer role

A simple first step to finding a rewarding volunteer role is the website of your local authority – look under ‘volunteers’. It reveals what they have available and, most likely, has links to local charities seeking help.

You could also look around and keep your eyes open. Notice boards in your library, doctor’s surgery and so on my have something. Or one of the many charity shops.

There are also two goldmines for you to explore:

Donate your professional skills through Reach: This ‘clearing house’ links those with skills in management, IT, finance, communications, mentoring, fundraising, accountancy, marketing, HR and more to charities desperate to use them. This can be from a few hours a week to full time.

Search a register of volunteer roles at CharityJob: At almost any time there are up to 3,000 volunteer posts here, searchable on post code and the kind of activity you are interested in.

Examples of volunteer opportunities

From the myriad of possibilities, the following are illustrations of ways your time, talents and experience can be used to serve others:

Childline: This lifeline for children and young people needs volunteers 24 hours a day, every day of the year. And can take volunteers for as little as 4 hours a week. They even offer an email counselling role.

Good Neighbours: Organised by the Royal Voluntary Service, this gives practical help to elderly people. From small household tasks to running errands. It also offers a way to spend time with a lonely older person either face to face or on the phone.

The Samaritans: There are vacancies for volunteers to listen, support or fund-raise.

Support a school through Scripture Union: They have identified many ways a volunteer can serve schools including –

  • Supporting class trips, as a teacher assistant, in the library, setting up displays etc. And helping at a breakfast or homework club, or at an extra curriculum group – sports clubs, drama groups etc
  • Joining a parent-teacher association or ‘Friends of the School’ or become a Governor – and so becoming a vital link between parents and school
  • Mentoring students – with students needing good role models who are prepared to listen
  • Support the staff who often feel stressed – praying for them, listening, offering practical help and showing appreciation
  • Pray, and set up a prayer support group.

Share your story

Already ahead of the game by volunteering in your community? Please use our FaceBook page to share your story – good or bad – to inspire and help others.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

For more wisdom, ideas, and resources for your ‘after-work life go to afterwork.com 

10 great ways to achieve great grand-parenting

 

There’s something wonderful about being a grandparent. But, just like parenting, there’s a shortage of wisdom on how to do it right.

So let me share with you some wisdom from Rob Parsons’ brilliant book ‘The Sixty Minute Grandparent’. It includes 10 great insights on making grand-parenting a success.

But first, some context. Being a grandparent today can be tougher than for our parents’ generation. Our kids tend to have their off-springs later in life than we did. So we are older when the grandchildren are younger.

That can be a challenge to energy levels as well as finding the knack of constraining a wriggly infant in a car seat. Or working out how to collapse a baby buggy that needs a degree in engineering to do so.

You may also be one of the so-called ‘sandwich generation’. At one and the same time, committed to caring for your own elderly parents, supporting your ‘adult’ children and seeking to be a hands-on grandparent. It’s a challenge few in past generations had to face.

The world has changed too. When I was little my 70-year-old granny sang me Scottish folk songs and we played Snap together. Today, the average grandparent has to cope with the mysteries of the virtual world as well as being looked to for practical support by a working mother.

In fact, 1 in 3 UK families depend on grandparents for a degree of childcare. This can be both a blessing and a stress-inducing burden. It’s no joke looking after a toddler who wanders from one accident prone zone to the next. And with, everything needing to be done as the parents say, not how you used to do it.

So what about some wisdom to see you through? Here comes those 10 suggestions, thanks to Rob Parsons. The thinking is his but some of the words are also mine.

  1.  Try not to interfere with or criticise your children’s parenting. No matter how you would choose to do things, affirm and encourage. Because that’s what they need most.
  2. When they are old enough, find ways to connect them to the past. Help them to know ‘where they came from’ by telling them about their family and its history. Hang on to old photos and other reminders and share them.
  3.  Develop traditions – activities, things and events they associate with you that happen on your watch. It might be a special game, an ‘in’ joke, a regular surprise, or something else.
  4. Make sure they know your love for them is without conditions. That they cannot earn your love or lose it. Tell them and show them – often..
  5. If asked to help with childcare don’t feel compelled to rush into a long term regular commitment. Just because our offspring has chosen to have offspring of their own doesn’t make you obliged, and sometime not everything is possible. So set a date to review the situation – how it’s working for all parties.
  6. Agree a joint policy on bedtimes, rules for TV, iPads and sweets etc. And confirm them in earshot of the grandchild to save the ‘but Mummy says’ ambush. Bute reserving the right to have your special rules when the grandchildren are in your house.
  7. Keep your eyes open for little ears. They hear more than you can ever believe. And, especially, never speak negatively about their parents in children’s hearing.
  8. If you live at a distance Skype and WhatsApp are wonderful things to keep in touch and abreast with news.
  9. Praise them for their qualities and not their looks. In our image conscious world they don’t need more reinforcement that the way they look matters the most.
  10. If you have more than one, look for opportunities to spend time with them as individuals. Their own special time with Grandma or Grandad can be more special to them than you imagine.

For of course, in no time at all these ‘little ones’ will grow and present a whole new set of needs and pleasures as teens and beyond into adulthood. Meanwhile, we can add your prayers and the example of your life. And enjoy.

For more insights on you and your grandkids, see our website on Grand-parenting. And if you have thoughts of your own, do please share them on our Facebook.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

 

The 6 signs you need help with your hearing – and what to do

It may be that those nearest and dearest to you have started to mumble. Or, more realistically if you are saying ‘pardon’ more often, that your hearing has taken a down-turn with age.

Indeed, it’s not only your body can start to show signs of wear and tear, It can also happen to your hearing. In fact, that’s true for most people by the time they reach 70 – even if their hearing has been pin-sharp in the past.

What can especially go missing is the ability to hear high-pitched sounds such as whistles, most bird song and some speech sounds.

How can you know if this is true of you? There are 6 simple signs that point the way.

  1. You need the television or car radio volume on a louder level than other people than those you are with
  2. You miss that the sound of your car indicator is still on – though may be able to hear loud and clear the honking of those letting you know.
  3. You are saying ‘what?’ or ‘pardon’ more often – or trying to guess what people say
  4. Have you missed callers at the front door and it’s not just a delivery driver who’s dumped a package and scooted off
  5. You notice that other people are starting to mumble – or, at least, that’s how it seems
  6. It’s hard to hear conversation when there’s a lot of background noise or when you are with a group of people?

If any of these apply to you, it’s very likely you’ve reached the point of needing some help with your hearing.

And the good news is that there’s lots of help at hand.

Devices to help you hear better, or to alert you to sounds you might otherwise miss include:

  • Hearing aids, TV listeners, phone amplifiers,
  • Alerting devices for the doorbell, alarm clock, smoke alarm, phone

Hearing aids don’t give you perfect hearing but you will almost certainly benefit from them. And they are provided free on the NHS and can also be bought privately.

My advice is to try the NHS hearing aids first, as privately bought ones are expensive and NHS aids are suitable for most types of hearing loss.

It’s much easier to get used to a hearing aid when you first discover that you have a hearing loss, so don’t wait until you’re struggling.

Other devices such as TV listeners and alerting equipment may be supplied by your local Social Services. In addition, all these devices can be purchased from suppliers of equipment for people with hearing needs.

If things are serious, consider a lip reading class. Here you will meet others who also have a hearing loss, as well as learning strategies to help you in social situations.

Special opportunities for service

If your hearing loss is significant, you are ideally placed to serve others in the same situation. Because deafness is invisible it is a largely misunderstood disability. Many deaf people feel isolated and upset that nobody seems to understand why they are retreating from social situations.

You can offer:

  • Advice on how to get the most from their hearing aid and other devices
  • Encouragement to return to social situations and relieve isolation
  • Prayer and understanding of the challenges of hearing loss

Where to find fellowship

A great resource for Christians with hearing loss is Open Ears – an organisation specifically for those who have hearing loss.

Open Ears runs a weekend or short holiday event every year which has full communication support. They also produce Hearing Eye, a quarterly magazine written by and for people with hearing loss. And membership is free.

Marylin Kilsby

Marylin Kilsby is severely to profoundly deaf and Chair of Open Ears. She’s a keen musician, playing clarinet and recorder in local groups. And is part of her church’s deaf group.

The 6 keys to a longer and healthier life

Why may some of us live longer and heathier than others? Once we could have put it down to our genes. And, to some extent, it still is.

But it‘s also about the life-style choices we make, according to Dr Roger Landry, author of Live Long, Die Short.

The differences between older adults who are healthier in later years and those not, says Dr Landry, are physical and intellectual. With it boiling down to 6 key issues that determine how well and how long we will live.

Here they come. The headings and medical info are Dr Landry’s and the application and examples are mine –.

  1. Having a purpose: This is about choosing to do things that matter rather than vegetating or drifting. For many this means volunteering – something that’s associated with reducing risk of blood pressure and heart disease, improving memory and brain function, and slowing down physical disability.To explore your options, see our website on
  2. Being socially connected: Although mainly an issue for later years, the lack of interaction with others can impact even in the early after-work years. Loneliness can lead to depression, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more. Taking steps to stay connected with family and friends, and finding new social connections is good for your health.For more on the issue see our website on Loneliness.
  3. Keeping the brain healthy: There’s evidence that maintaining a healthy brain contributes to overall good health. And this is not just about doing a daily crossword. Contributors to brain health include eating healthily, managing stress and regular exercise. But it also means keeping the brain active and challenged – perhaps through volunteering or taking up a new hobby or skill.For some brain-activity ideas see our website on New Challenges.
  4. Staying active: Being physically activity, even for less than an hour a day, has great health benefits – fighting off heart disease, strokes, Type 2 diabetes and more. Those who live longest often have daily lifestyles that include gardening, walking, swimming, hiking and biking.
  5. Feeding the spirit: This can be about more than having an active faith in God – though this is certainly part of it. It is also about feeding and nurturing our ‘inner-life’. Activities such as art, woodwork, gardening, journaling, listening to great music, and more can all nourish the spirit. This eases stress and the physical impact it can have on your health.
  6. Eating healthily: The right kind of food and good eating habits have a significant role to play at every stage of life. But even more so as the years advance. A poor diet can weaken the immune system – leading to a greater risk of illness and infection. In contrast, the right diet can fight off the impact of aging.For wise eating advice see The Stay Young Diet.

If these 6 keys are the way you are living then you are likely to live more healthily and for longer. And, if they are not? It’s never too late to make changes.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

For more wisdom, ideas, and resources for your ‘after-work life go to afterwork.com

If retirement today was a foreign country, it would be one no previous generation had ever visited.

Our parent’s generation would hardly believe what life after work offers today. Because, between then and now, it has changed so dramatically.

For a start, would your mum have shopped for the latest fashion, joined an aerobics class or had a ‘night out with the girls’? Would your dad, in his 60s, have jogged, gone to a music festival, or made plans for international travel?

Come retirement, would either have been anticipating fresh discoveries, challenges and experiences? A wider world beyond work and family?

The answer to these questions is almost certainly ‘no’. Because in just one generation, when paid work comes to an end, there have been incredible changes to how we live and how we approach things.

Wrap your mind round this:

Health and expectations: For most of us, our parents were already feeling old, and classed as old, by the time their pension beckoned. Not only old in body but old in mind-set too. After all, why have a bucket list if your knees are gone, your pension is minimal and the clock is ticking fast?

Yet in only a generation, 65 has become the new 55. And 70 the new 60. Even though we are now retiring several years later, we are still younger in mind, body and outlook.

Social conditioning: Unlike us, our parents’ generation lived through World War 2 and may well have fought in it. Their three score years and ten were mostly about survival. About having enough income to pay the rent or mortgage and put food on the table. About ‘getting by’.

Unlike us, many lived, worked and died in the town where they were born. For some it was even the same house. To travel far was rare. To travel often, even rarer.

Unlike us, education was all about listening, obeying, writing and remembering. While ours tended to be about discovering, questioning, reasoning and enquiring.

Unlike us, work was mostly graft and the long haul. Often with one trade, and even one employer, for the whole of a working life. While, for us, our working life may have been one of change and development.

Cultural influences: Unlike our parents, we – the ‘baby boomer’ generation – were the first to be raised with television in the home, a source of constant entertainment, fun, possibilities and a window on a different world.

Unlike our parents, for us the economy boomed and so did our opportunities in a world of growing change and choice. In great contrast, they had lived through post-war austerity and high levels of unemployment. Eating out? Forget it. Just be sure to eat everything that’s put on your plate.

Our generation were the rule breakers, the innovators and the protesters – be it The Beatles, Jasper Conran or Ban the Bomb. The sedate tea dance became the free-form disco. The three piece suit became smart casual or jeans and tee shirts.

We experienced a land of new opportunities. This included something called ‘leisure’ – time for ourselves. And travel – to places our parents had never gone and for longer than they would ever believe possible.

It is these life experiences that have shaped our retirement expectations. What else should we expect other than even more years of change, choice, experiences, and prospects?

We are privileged to have opportunities undreamed of in the past. And with privilege comes responsibility. First, we should never take for granted what we now have in view of the price paid by so many in the past to make it so.

Second, we should face the challenge to make the most of it. That will mean something different for each one of us. But it must mean something.

And if you’d like a simple rough guide to this new country that few have visited before you, do check out AfterWorkNet.com

Peter Meadows
Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

To share your own thoughts on how different your parent’s retirement was to yours, do join our FaceBook page and share.

Your money – 4 top tips for life after work

Along with the certainty of ‘death and taxes’ comes the other one – that our lives after full-time work are likely to mean having less to spend than in the past.
The best way to allay those fears is to take control of our finances, rather than just hope for the best.
More than that, we should also remember the words often used in church when the offering is presented, ‘All things come from you O Lord’. And the Bible’s wisdom that, ‘Whoever trusts in his riches will fall’ (Proverbs 11.28). Whatever financial resources we have, they are not primarily ours.
With that in mind, here are my four top tips when it comes to your money and your life after work.

1. Maximise your income: Have you had several employers during your working life. Then be sure to track down all your pension entitlements. Also, use the advice of an Independent Financial Adviser about consolidating your pensions – there’s admin costs and fees to save here – and making the most of them.
Recent changes allow the flexible drawdown of pensions. However, this is a complex and specialist area that calls for qualified and independent advice.
If you have little private pension income, investigate the benefits and help that may be available to you. Citizens Advice is a useful source of information on things like:

  • Council Tax Reduction, and Housing Benefit.
  • Utility companies that may offer special rates to those on a low income.
  • Disability benefit.

2. Think it through: With the help of your spouse or partner, if that is relevant, work through:

  • Where your income and savings should be kept, how they are accessed (sole joint accounts and passwords) and what the survivor’s financial position will be.
  • How long you may stay in your current home. Will it be easy to run as you get older? Will it always offer easy access shops and services? Will there be a time when you need some of the capital from your property?
  • Do you need the car or cars you have at the moment or are there savings to be made?
  • Splashing out or penny pinching – your early after-work years are when you are likely to be fittest and able to get reasonably priced travel insurance. So is now is the time to take adventurous trips or visit distant relatives.

3. Look for savings: Check out the concessions available to all ‘seniors’. Things like:

  • Free bus pass and reduced travel on Network Rail and via Senior Coach cards
  • Entrance to theatres, cinemas, sporting events and other attractions – it never hurts to ask
  • Retailer’s special discounts such as B&Q Diamond and High Street Opticians

4. Pay off debts: Take all possible steps to pay off any high interest rate credit cards, store cards, overdrafts, and personal loans.If your debts become seriously out of hand, seek the help of specialist Christian charities such as Christians Against Poverty , Community Money Advice or the charity I work with Frontline Debt Advice. All offer wise advice and practical help in circumstances like these.

Of course there’s more to money issues in your after-work life than these four key issues. To explore more see the AfterWorkNet web pages on money.
And if you’ve found a way to be wise with money please join our Facebook community and share.

Malcolm Lemon
Malcolm worked for 40 years in local and community banking. He has been Treasurer of a large church and for 6 years was Chairman of Trustees for Frontline Debt Advice, where he continues as a trustee and adviser. He enjoys baking cakes with his granddaughter, and eating them even more.

Time to face the challenge of decluttering? Then here’s some ideas.

My lovely husband once gave me ‘The Life-changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo? What was he implying I wonder!? This Japanese best-seller with its intriguing title actually became quite a page-turner for me, particularly as we downsize our home.

In these after work years there’s going to come a time when decluttering can’t be put off any longer. Several decades of acquisitions need sorting out. Possibly tens of thousands of objects!  Oh my!

Motivation.

You’ve got to want to do this! List your reasons. Think of the rewards.

  • Some are positively energised at the thought of reorganising, trips to the dump and lugging bags to the charity shop.

For others it’s an overwhelming prospect. If you’re in the second category do you know someone in the first who’d find a cry for help irresistible? Provided they promise not to be too militant about it, ask them round.

Method.

Marie, my Japanese tidying author advocates sorting things by narrow categories. Place all your shoes on the floor and decide each pair’s fate. Then do it with china or bed linen until you have gone through everything.

Others suggest tackling cupboard by cupboard, room by room.  Or there’s systems whereby you discard a number of items each day. Look online for inspiriation.

  • Get four boxes and label them: Chuck. Recycle. Sell. Keep.
  • The internet is groaning under the weight of good advice. Find sites that will pay you for unwanted clothes, old phones and other devices, magazines… Hold a car boot or garage sale.
  • Local authorities and community groups like Freecycle can help. Old spectacles, tools, computers, furniture – there are charities that want them. Make-up and toiletries – women’s refuge centres can use them.

A bit of research could result in the satisfaction of knowing your unwanted stuff has another life. And many of the items bound for the dump are recyclable and shouldn’t be sent to landfill.

  • Prepare to act on today’s decisions – place bags for charity shop and the dump by the door or into the car straightaway, ready to drive them away!
  • Even after a major purge there’ll still be stuff left! With more storage space you may want to put things away in better places

Physical decluttering makes you feel lighter. It’s the same with other unwanted baggage.  Perhaps we can apply similar principles to our emotional and spiritual lives…

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Downsizing – sizing it up –  three things to measure!

You’ve lived in the same place for decades – maybe raised a family in it, run a small business, created a place that’s really you. And now it’s time to move.

Lyndon and I are going through this after 32 years – we’re planning to downsize to a two-bed terraced cottage in the same locality. Believe me, it’s complicated and we’ve had lots to think about before taking the plunge and, putting our beloved home on the market with a mixture of sadness and anticipation.

Location, location, location!

Is the world your oyster? Does the south of France appeal? A Highland croft, a city mansion, a rural roses-over-the-door cottage…?  Is God calling you to a far-flung mission field or asking you to get stuck in at the church you’ve always attended? Your choices might be fairly restricted – or impossibly wide. It sounds obvious, but before sticking a pin in a map it will help to create a wish list that matches how you see life unfolding in the afterwork years.

Money

You may have more financial flexibility than ever: with the mortgage paid off, various pension options, fewer outgoings, reduced responsibilities. Or not – money might be tight. In any event professional advice is key as you probably have way more choices than you realised. New opportunities for financial management are coming out all the time targeting the baby-boomer generation. Provision for possible future fulltime care, wise ways to leave your money after you die, freeing up money now to live fulfilling lives are all vitally important to think about as you plan to downsize.

Ideal Home?

What’s your wishlist? Believe that God will provide just the right place for you and pray in faith for specifics. Your new abode will probably fulfil different purposes now. Do you plan on being super-hospitable or fancy a smaller space just for you? It’s not just a question of how many bedrooms but the layout of downstairs living space too. Open plan or secluded spaces to cook, eat, study, relax? What about the outside – do you plan growing your own veg or fancy a small patio with the odd pot of geraniums?

This process will take time and its wise to seek the wisdom of others you trust and who know you well.

And even if you’re not planning to downsize soon – its never too early to start decluttering!!  Watch this space.

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

What will you count as ‘success’ in your retirement?

Danger. Danger. Danger. Are you at risk of repeating the same mistake that you made in your working life?

What mistake? The one where how good you felt about yourself all depended on your professional achievements and how you were seen in the eyes of others.

Who, you? Strongly, probably, likely. Because it can happen to the best of us. Subtly and almost unknowingly. And it should be no surprise because that’s the way it is ‘out there’.

The society we are part of works with some very wrong assumptions about what’s ‘success’ and what makes you and me valuable. For example – that a university education means someone is smarter than those who didn’t go. That a stay-at-home parent is of less value than someone making a mint.

To navigate life based on such wrong assumptions can be damaging says the author Emily Esfahani Smith in her book “The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters.”

In her book, Emily shares stories of many who based their self-worth on their level of education and their career achievements. For them, she says, ‘When they succeeded, their lives felt meaningful, and they were happy. But when they failed or struggled, what gave their lives value was gone—and so they fell into despair, and became convinced they were worthless.’

Writing her book taught Emily that ‘being a successful person isn’t about career achievement or having the most toys. It’s about being a good, wise, and generous human being.’

In other words, it is not about conventional ‘success’ but about the kind of person we are or are becoming. This is the basis on which we should measure the success of our lives.

However, if we’ve used the wrong criteria as the basis for our self-worth during our working life, what’s to stop it rearing its ugly head in our after-work years? And if it does, the likelihood of doom ahead is great, because the level of conventional achievements open to us in this new stage of life offers little promise as a means to bosting our ego.

Which is why our only hope is to measure our value by what kind of person we are. And that offers the wonderfully unlimited potential to be good, wise and generous. Be that with our time, our relationships, our possessions and resources, and more.

There’s also another perspective. It’s what God thinks about you – which is always going to be more accurate than what you think about yourself.

Our sense of self-worth ought to be wrapped up in the God who had us in mind before anything existed, who loves us unconditionally and paid the ultimate price to restore our relationship with him. Indeed, our true value can only be measured in the price he was willing to pay for us – the life of his own son.

We matter not because our achievements tell us that we do. But because God tells us so. It might help you to mull on these amazing facts and let them sink in. God would have you know –

You are unique Psalm 139.13, You are loved Jeremiah 31:3, You are special Ephesians 2:10, You are precious 1 Corinthians 6:20, You are important 1 Peter 2:9, You are chosen John 15:16, You are mine Isaiah 43:1.

By living as though loved and valued by the God who made you, and seeking to be good, wise and generous will do more than just help you feel better about yourself. Think of the impact it could have on those closest to you – including the generation following in your footsteps.

To explore this subject more, take a look at the page on our website that looks at Status in more depth.

Peter Meadows

Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids inheritance.

Do you have thoughts on what ‘success’ means in your after-work life? Please join the AfterWorkNet Facebook community and tell us.

Is Your Retirement Killing You?

Your retirement may be killing you. Here’s a survival plan.

You would expect the end of full-time work would bring a guarantee of inner health and happiness.

That saying ‘goodbye’ to the daily grind could only be a positive experience.

If only.

Instead, large numbers entering the joys of ‘after work’ find themselves unwell either physically or emotionally. The reason is stress.

And stress can be a killer.

Yet isn’t stress what we think we’ve escaped from? No longer being driven to do more with less, bombarded with constant information, while surrounded with life’s constant pressures.

Yet the very act of moving from work to after-work – with all the changes involved – can be a major stress inducer.

And the outcome for too many is an increase of everything from high blood pressure to heart disease, panic attacks to depression.

What is stress?

A useful definition of ‘stress’ is –

‘The changes that take place in your body and mind when a demand seems greater than your ability to cope’.

At the centre is what’s known as ‘fight or flight’. Faced with such a challenge, our bodies automatically spring into action. Muscles tense, the heart pumps blood to where it is more useful, and a wide range of hormones shoot into the bloodstream to give the added energy, strength and resources that may be needed.

Of itself, that’s good news. The bad news – when stress becomes distress – is when there is a constant stream of perceived threats to our wellbeing. And the result is an overload of reaction to ‘fight of flight’.

Believe it or not, this is what entering the world or retirement can do to some of us. Something that can lead to both physical and emotional illness.

Retirement and stress

Research shows the more ‘life-changes’ we have during a short period of time, the more likely stress will take its toll. Such life-changes include the bad – like the death of a loved one, divorce and financial difficulties. And the good – like marriage, a child leaving home and taking a holiday.

Up there with the rest of them is ‘retirement’. That’s because this major, and mostly welcome and happy, event presents a large number of threats to our perceived ability to cope.

The familiar has gone – replaced with the arrival of new routines, relationships and experiences. Together with the loss of many of those we enjoyed in the past. All inducing stress.

More than that, retirement can create a very real sense of bereavement.

The associated loss/death of purpose, friendships, routine, and reward can have an impact much like the death of someone we love.

In fact, though the impact of retirement may not be as great as being made redundant, it can come close. And if other life-change events are happening around it – children getting married, having babies, ill health, downsizing, etc – the life-changes are multiplied – and so is their impact.

How will you know you are a victim?

The symptoms of stress can be physical, emotional and behavioural. A few examples are –

Physical: Indigestion/heartburn, waking up tired, racing heartbeat, chronic constipation or diarrhoea, persistent headaches.

Emotional/mental: Feelings of futility or low self-worth, ‘blue’ moods, unreasonable fears, panic attacks, forgetfulness or confusion.

Behavioural: Insomnia, avoiding people, irritability, loss of sense of humour, irrational anger, difficulty in making decisions, misuse of alcohol/coffee, lack of concentration.

What can you do to fight back?

First, own up to stress as being an issue – either potentially or at the moment. Then pick from these few simple ideas and also check out health sites on the internet for a more comprehensive suggestions.

To keep stress at bay

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Establish sensible sleep habits.
  • Do something enjoyable on a regular basis
  • Take time to be still each day

To combat stress when it comes

Do all the above, plus –

  • Practise deep relaxation
  • Watch TV that makes you laugh
  • Listen to music
  • Reduce clutter
  • Don’t let decisions hang over you
  • Don’t go it alone but be honest with those close to you

Finally, if things don’t get better, seek medical advice – and take it.

 

Peter Meadows

Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

For more wisdom, ideas, and resources for your after-work life go to afterworknet.com

 

Recently retired? 5 Smart ways to be wise with your time

 

Do you ever find yourself saying, ‘Now I’m retired I’m busier than ever’?’ If so, perhaps you could do with some help to make the most of your after-work life.

Here are five simple and smart suggestions on how to be wise with your time.

1. Start right – or retrace your steps if you need to

Managing transitions – like moving away from full time work – are rarely straightforward. That’s what Michael Watson says in his book ‘Your First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter.’

In it, Michael stresses how important it is to nail down your expectations, goals and dreams as soon as you can. And he recommends some kind of timetable as to when you hope to see them happen. Its all too easy for your time to just be taken over with other people’s expectations.

2. Decide what’s most important

Be specific on your priorities. For example –

  • Nurturing your relationships
  • Keeping healthy and fit
  • Financial security
  • Fun
  • Helping others
  • Starting something new or rekindling an old hobby

If you are stuck for inspiration, there’s lots of suggestions for you on our New challenges webpage.

3. Create habits that’ll result in these things actually happening

Moving from one way of life to another calls for working out some new routines to replace the old. Perhaps things like –

  • Adding regular dates to your diary to spend with your partner and planning time with friends
  • Starting a realistic regular exercise plan
  • Keeping track of money and working out your budget
  • Having an adventure once a week
  • Committing yourself to activities at your church or some local volunteering opportunity
  • Joining a choir, signing up to a course, learning a language…

If that might mean doing something fulfilling as a volunteer check out the AfterWorkNet webpage on Serving.

4. Manage your time rather than letting your time manage you

If time management is second nature to you then skip this one. But if you are like most of us it is worth heeding the wisdom of the ‘retirement analysist; Bob Lowry.

Bob tells how he first started his retirement by making extensive ‘to do’ lists. He’d programme 15-30-minute time blocks for various tasks and activities, including his afternoon nap. But the pressure to deliver on his made-up schedule was too much and was he found he was doing most of it just to tick it off the list!

When he tried the opposite – just going with the flow and planning nothing – there was no structure and he didn’t know what to do.

Finally, Bob found a happy medium, using schedules and lists when that helped but feeling free to change his plans – because now his time was his own.

5. Keep things under review

Consider putting a time limit both on those things other people ask you to commit to and the ones you decide yourself to give a go.

Situations change. You may find you don’t like what you’ve got into. You may prefer to do something else with your time. There could be new responsibilities, health challenges and opportunities that face you.

That’s why agreeing on a specific date to review the situation when making a commitment is a wise move.

And think about a personal six-month review of how your time is being spent – maybe with the input from someone close to you.

 

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife