23 March 2018

National Conversation Week #2: Planning Positively for Later Life

A second blog from Ali Hawker, Senior Evidence Manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, on positive planning


Many of us find it hard to imagine our retirement positively. The Centre for Ageing Better’s recent survey  last year showed that only around half of UK workers planning to retire in the next five years are looking forward to it (56%), with worries including managing money, feeling bored and missing social connections.

I spoke to Margaret, a senior manager, about her experience of the lead up to this transition and how she turned her fears around. At the end of last year, Margaret’s retirement date was only several months away, yet she found it incredibly difficult to think about. She was caught up in a demanding job which she loved and it was easy to avoid thinking about the future. When she did, she imagined “waking up on the first day, and wondering what to do with myself now”.  If that had turned out to be the case, she would not be the only person to find it hard. Our survey also showed that 1 in 5 of people who retired in the last five years found it difficult.

At the suggestion of her manager, Margaret reluctantly took part in “Changing Gears”, a three-day course by Age and Opportunity in Ireland which helps people reflect in a comfortable environment on the changes ahead and to think about them more positively.

The course is part of the Transitions in Later Life Programme, funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch). It is supporting organisations such as Age & Opportunity to deliver short group-based interventions that focus on building the emotional wellbeing and resilience of people in mid-life, so they can more easily manage the changes involved in later life.

Arriving on her first day at the course, Margaret felt resistant and wary of the discussions ahead.  Three days later, she left the course with a “complete turnaround… a different frame of thinking”. So, what had caused her turnaround?

For Margaret, the course “created a safe space and structure to stop and stock take in the company of others”. She heard from a mix of people from different walks of life who had alternative perspectives and experiences to her own. Through a mix of facilitation, group discussions and reflection, Margaret had time to think about previous transitions and events in her life and how she’d successfully managed them. And that made her feel more confident about how to make choices around what to do in her retirement. Examining her skills, she realised she would still have these even after her job ended. She realised that “Life doesn’t need to stop at the point of retirement. The question is how to make that transition”.

Over the three days, she felt more and more positive. She described her view of retirement as “like a closed door, which pushed open easily once the course started”. Leaving the course, she felt more confident and in control, and ready to take positive steps to ensure that retirement looked the way she would like it to.

Margaret has since put back retirement for a year to give herself more time to prepare for it. She’s started to make contacts so that by the time she stops work she’ll have set up roles and activities which she’ll find meaningful. And her attitude has shifted so that she feels ready and able to take on this next stage of her life.  Her only regret is that she didn’t attend the course sooner.

*Name has been changed to respect privacy


We are publishing this blog as part of National Conversation Week  

Margaret’s course was part of the Transitions in Later Life Programme, funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) with our partner the Centre for Ageing Better. Organisations such as Age & Opportunity deliver short group-based interventions that focus on building the emotional wellbeing and resilience of people in mid-life, so they can more easily manage the changes getting older can bring.

 You can hear from more participants in Transitions in Later Life here.