Retired? Think Again. But Who are You now?

Retired’ is not an occupation, but there it is, on the form, at the bottom of the list.

Or maybe, even worse, you are expected to tick ‘None‘. But that isn’t true, is it?


A strange word. The dictionary definition, ‘Withdraw to or from a particular place’, sums it up quite well.

But what is this place we are talking about? It is your place in the world. You are: a nurse, manager, plumber, engineer, expert in xxxx. And then you aren’t. You are retired.This major change in life sneaks up on you, or maybe happens suddenly.

You have been defined by your job for years. Society describes you by it. You have answered the question, ‘occupation?’ on many forms. At social gatherings the ‘And what do you do?’ is a conversation bridge. But now how does society see you? How do you describe yourself when you aren’t whatever you were? Suddenly, a major question.

A problem.  At least, it is for you.

The world doesn’t have a problem. It knows who you are, you are a Pensioner. Job done, tick the box, you are classified: Retired.

What is going on here?

‘Retired’ is not an occupation, but there it is, on the form, at the bottom of the list. Or maybe, even worse, you are expected to tick ‘None‘. But that isn’t true, is it?

As you will certainly find, most retired people are busier than ever. We have made it hard for them, those form designers, haven’t we? We no longer have just one job, we have a dozen (see below).

‘Ah’ the statisticians will say. ‘But we are talking about paid work, work which contributes to the economy.’ And, ‘Yes. Of course,’ you should reply, ‘that is exactly what we do. Hours of it.’

Just try listing it.

How much time do you spend volunteering each week? How many hours babysitting, so that a daughter can work? Does it matter to society that you are the key carer of your mother? Or that you are a charity fund raiser, organiser of the village fete, secretary to the local Friends Group?

‘But pay?’ They will ask. ‘Does it count if it is unpaid?’ Another ‘Of course’, from you. Even if you value the hours at minimum wage level, the contribution to the economy is enormous. Millions and millions of pounds. Indeed, the economy would seize significantly if we were to strike.

But a further point, and an important one, is that we are being paid.

We are all given money by the Government to provide a roof over our head, to cover basic bills and food, as any other workers wage does. The key difference is that with no requirement for us to work. All that we do is voluntary. (If you have begun to understand the new idea of a Basic Income for all, we pensioners are a perfect example of it.)

My old friend Lily had a wonderful angle on it. When asked what she did, she replied, ‘I allocate the Governments money to the Arts.’ And she did. Theatre, dance, small arts groups. She loved, befriended and supported the lot. Without thousands of Lillies, they would have collapsed. And, so would many heritage sites and much of the tourism industry.

Does it matter? Yes!

This clumping of a third of the population under one heading is not acceptable for two reasons.

  1. You, your self-image and your self-confidence. You need a society where the role of and contribution made by older people is fully recognised, counted and respected. When it is not, later years are seen as a burden and so are you.
  2. The concept of voluntary work needs formal recognition as a valuable part of the economy. It is, significantly so.

So, when you get to the retirement stage of having multiple jobs, maybe it is also time for a revolt.  Let us fill in the forms with all the jobs we do in the time made available by being paid a pension. Great fun!


Carer. Secretary. Charity Fund Raiser. Childminder. Litter picker. Community organiser. Football coach. Schools reading assistant. Heritage inspector. Tourism organiser. Shop assistant. Hospital receptionist. Footpath recorder and monitor. Driver for GP and Hospital patients. Museum guide. Stone wall restorer…

And from now on, challenge anyone and any form which assumes that older people don’t contribute!

This post was originally written as a guest blog for the Centre for Ageing Better.

The Centre for Ageing Better’s new study into retirement transitions highlights so many important issues relating to this major life change









1 Comment

  1. January 24, 2019 / 5:24 pm

    Hello Joyce – you looked wonderful on TV and so colourful – a great advert for the over 80’s! What a good interview it was, too and I hope Holly took notice of what you said about wrinkles and twinkles ( I have written it out to put on my kitchen notice board so I see it many times a day! What good advice, too, for everyone approaching older age with trepidation – it’s going to happen whatever you do, so you might as well enjoy it!
    I was one of your students back in Sheffield at the end of the 1960’s and am now retired myself. I became Paediatric Physio when I finally went back to work in the 80’s and finished my work at Ryegate Children’s Centre, which I loved – 0- 5’s.
    I had 4 children and now have 7 Grandchildren – all fit and well = so I have much to be thankful for. My husband of 46 years has COPD now, so we miss walking as we used to before and after children, but I do have a friend I go walking with. So far, starting at 50+ we have done a lot of the National Trails including the Coast to Coast and Pennine Way and are going to do the Dales High Way this year. I also do a bit of volunteering, have just taken up Nordic Walking, ring church bells, swim regularly outside at Hathersage, write for our church magazine and do lots of gardening.
    We had a Reunion of our year – including Glenna and Dave Jackson – last September, but didn’t have any means of contacting you, or we would have invited you along. But I will send a photo of us at Glenna’s.
    Best Wishes for now – Sally Vardy (Skinner)

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