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Retiring in the UK

When people retire in the UK they are often encouraged to remain active.
A common habit is to become embroiled in ceaseless activity. This can take many forms.

"I'm busier now than when I worked"

Many retired people say this. Who is it pitched at? Younger people? Other retirees? It sounds somewhat implausible doesn't it? Consider what is being said. Retiring is to cease work.
By contrast, a younger person must work to financially support a mortgage/rent, pay for children's education/upbringing, a car etc. They have no choice but to work.
The retiree usually does have a choice. And they have chosen to fill they days with activities. Pretending to be at the mercy of fate is simply a transparent ploy intended to convey significance.

Continuing to work

The most unimaginative solution to retirement is not to retire. Many retirees admit that they do not need the money.
They have various reasons for continuing to work but few are honest enough to admit the truth. Some people cannot face the prospect of letting-go, of stopping.
They feel irrelevant, unimportant.


According to Rolfe Dobelli (in his bestselling book The Art of Thinking Clearly) volunteering is actually far worse than continuing to work.
Volunteering sounds great but it is intrinsically non-Capitalist and we live in a Capitalist economy. Work involves getting paid. Voluntary work is essentially a contradiction in terms.

Jobs pay

People might argue that volunteers do a great job. Of course they do. That is not the issue. The issue is pay.

Working for free

By volunteering you negate the need for a company/charity to allocate funds for the job/position. In a Capitalist economy somebody who works should at least receive the minimum wage.
To work for free is to deny someone the opportunity to do that same work for pay..

If you really need the money...

Some people retire and find that their pension is insufficient to cover the cost of living. So they work. This is understandable and reasonable.

The next generation

When a retired person continues to work or does voluntary 'work' they are stealing from the next generation.
fight is over: they have a house, a pension, a family, healthcare. What about the next generation?


Have some foresight here. How are young people expected to attain all the things the older generation has gained when retirees refuse to step aside?
The situation is self-perpetuating.

Step aside graciously

The young person is still struggling to attain the material means of life and the retiree has taken their job. Why? Because they are bored? Selfish?
It takes dignity, humility and integrity to step aside, to acknowledge the situation.

Who are you?

The great questions in life are always so very simple. Who are you when you are not working? When you are not active? When you are not busy doing something?
Many people have no idea. They are defined by their capacity to work. They hide behind some excuse such as the 'Protestant Work Ethic'. (Oh really?)

The world will go on without you

We all reach a stage in life where it is time to let go and step aside. Let others have their chance, their turn. The world will not stop.
Even if your contribution is enormous, do not be enslaved by the image of yourself. Let go and walk away.

Mental health

Some people identify so strongly with their jobs and responsibilities that they have no idea who they are without their familiar activities.
Have the courage to go find out. Staying in your comfort zone may be a fast-track route to dementia.

Beyond work

Retirement is the ideal time to do all those things you never got around to doing when working:

  1. Fall in love

  2. Discover another culture

  3. Join a club

  4. Read classic literature

  5. Write poetry

  6. Stop feeling stressed out

  7. Join a choir

  8. Thank somebody sincerely

  9. Tai chi for health

  10. Sew

  11. Achieve and maintain your ideal weight

  12. Learn to play a musical instrument

  13. Dance

  14. Swim

  15. Eat healthily

  16. Rest

  17. Crochet

  18. Massage

  19. Stop bragging/boasting/seeking acknowledgment

  20. Detox

  21. Discover nature

  22. Clear out your old belongings

  23. Do something kind and meaningful just because you felt like it

  24. Walk more leisurely

  25. Learn a new language

  26. Have meaningful visits to countries rather than a checklist of destinations

  27. Read spiritual books

  28. Get a University degree

  29. Woodcraft

  30. Pursue hobbies

  31. Become sincere

  32. Go camping

  33. Hike

  34. Stop competing

  35. Knit

  36. Cultivate a spiritual life

  37. Start really listening to people when they speak to you

  38. Cycle

  39. Sing

  40. Get a dog

  41. Make a quilt

  42. Decorate

  43. Perform a kind deed without expecting anything in return

  44. Shed the past

  45. Cuddle

  46. Become 'eco'

  47. Qigong

  48. Paint

  49. Try new experiences

  50. Read poetry

  51. Learn to slow down

  52. Draw

  53. Organise

  54. Pursue your passion

  55. Build

  56. Make a difference in someone’s life

  57. Invent something

  58. Perform constructive rest every day

  59. Socialise

  60. Gain emotional balance

  61. Get used to long, relaxing baths

  62. Meditate

  63. Discover loose leaf green tea

  64. Write

  65. Apologise to somebody you have wronged

  66. Say what you mean

  67. Switch off the TV

  68. Explore history

  69. Try new recipes

  70. Join a book club

  71. Have sex regularly

  72. Make new friends

  73. Help someone in need

  74. Social networking

  75. Clean up your computer

  76. Give to charity

  77. Put together a scrapbook

  78. Let go of anger and frustration

  79. Play chess

  80. Laugh

  81. Share

  82. Make your meals from scratch

  83. Go on a road trip

  84. Stop following fashions, trends and societal whimsies

  85. Think for yourself

  86. Drink a lot more water

  87. Play go

  88. Photography

  89. Be kind to strangers

  90. Become wise

  91. Discover lost places

  92. Breathe more deeply

  93. Sleep 7-8 hours a night

  94. Eat healthily

  95. Write letters

  96. Let people that matter in your life know that you love and value them

  97. Watch birds

  98. Clean the house

  99. Do something uncharacteristic/unexpected

  100. Don't be greedy

  101. Chew for longer

  102. Give up alcohol

  103. Make and paint a model

  104. Be more loving

  105. See all those movies you fancied but never had the time to watch

  106. Take a genuine interest in people you know

  107. Go outside more often

  108. Read ancient philosophies

  109. Plant and grow a tree

  110. Recycle

  111. Bake your own bread

  112. Challenge yourself

  113. Give away everything you don't actually use

  114. Calligraphy

  115. Be at ease with yourself

  116. Grow your own vegetables

  117. Ignore the phone

  118. Find out what really interests you

  119. Go sailing

  120. Watch the stars (astronomy)

  121. Get a pen pal

  122. Value quality of life

  123. Decorate a cake

  124. Golf

  125. Become graceful

  126. Explore ceramics

  127. Let go of regret

  128. Compose music

  129. Have a picnic

  130. Look after the environment

  131. Learn something new every day

  132. Live in a different country

  133. Chill out

  134. Become ambidextrous

  135. Discover patience

  136. Conquer your fears

  137. Find peace

The list is potentially endless and different for each of us.


Say YES to new experiences. Be willing to feel lost, awkward and confused. It is good to be uncertain.

Fearing the unknown

The novelty of new experiences is initially exciting. But this passes and the individual is left with the intimidating realisation that they don't really know anything.
This fine. Just don't quit. Persevere.


One avenue that many retirees pursue is exercise. This can be great if done is moderation. You may feel like you are 40 but your body is not invulnerable to injury. Just be careful
A marathon may sound great in conversation but lying on the tarmac having a heart attack is nobody's idea of fun...

Religion is belief in someone else's experience.

Spirituality is having your own experience.

(Deepak Chopra)

A spiritual alternative

Traditionally, in Asia when people retired they sought a spiritual life. They looked at how they lived, their mind, their emotions, their bodies, their relationships.
This endeavour was deeply engaging and required considerable commitment.

The journey to the self

Cultures with a rich spiritual tradition recognised that life is more than material wealth, self-importance, status, prestige.
Working, politics, family travails, gossip, the news, current affairs, sport, gadgets... all serve to distract you from the truth.
Upon retirement, people relished the opportunity to start getting to know themselves.

Lost in wonder

Retirement is meant to be about withdrawing from external commitments and coming to terms with life and death. There is no need to seek endless entertainment.
Once you stop working, switch off the news and meditate, life becomes way more fascinating. We are surrounded by wonder.


Indian people often became wandering sanyasi. Other religions advocated pilgrimages, retreats, meditation, contemplation. People sought to end their lives wiser and more insightful.
They wanted to awaken their consciousness...

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Page created 18 April 2005
Last updated 04 May 2023