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Three alternatives to full retirement

Published: 26 October 2015

Retirement is the perfect time to learn a new skill and fulfil any outstanding ambitions

Roughly 14,000 over-50s have set up a business in the past four years in the UK – that’s triple the number of those aged 18 to 24 – and with an estimated 19 million people turning 65+ by 2050, it’s little wonder that options in retirement are growing

Retirement means more time to spend on doing the things that you want to do rather than the things that you must. This might well mean you devote countless hours to perfecting your golf swing and blissfully long days tackling the weeds at your allotment but it could also provide the opportunity to launch yourself into a new career, or pursue a long-held ambition you never previously had time for.

There are more than 10 million people aged over 65 in the UK, and an estimated 19 million people will be over 65 by 2050. More members of this growing older section of the population are now starting up new businesses in the UK than ever.

In fact about 14,000 over-50s have done so in the past four years – triple the number started by those aged 18 to 24. These range from business consultants using the array of skills they picked up during their careers to people who have retrained so that they can do something completely different.

For some that might mean becoming a yoga teacher or maybe a mentor for teenagers. For others, retirement brings the chance to work in the charity sector helping out at an organisation with ideals close to their heart.

Then there are people who hit retirement age and decide to take on a new life experience just for the challenge it will provide.

This is what Gayna Cooper, a retired property developer and image consultant, did when she turned 60. Instead of settling quietly into retirement she decided to fulfil a lifelong ambition and have a go at stand-up comedy.

She says: “I’d recently recovered from breast cancer and I was feeling very empowered and so happy to have reached this important milestone in my life – I was determined not to simply settle into my dotage.

“Instead, I wanted to do something really thrilling to celebrate life and actually crank things up instead of winding down.”

Cooper, now 64 and a grandmother of eight, took some courses in comedy writing and stand-up. As well as performing on stage she went on to use those skills to start a new career as an after-dinner speaker.

This year she won a public speaking award, and has developed a successful business training people in speech writing and presentation skills and as a communications consultant.

“For me, retirement isn’t about slowing things down,” says Cooper. “It’s more a chance to look at what you feel you have yet to achieve and then do something about it.

“I saw this stage in my life as a time for new beginnings and a chance to fulfil any outstanding ambitions. Having a go at stand-up was the only thing I could imagine being more scary than having cancer – but I got up there and did it, and it has led to so many other great things.

“I get up each day looking forward to the challenges ahead. I certainly don’t feel ready to slow down just yet, and sometimes I wonder if I ever will.”

Three popular alternatives to full retirement:

1. Become a part-time volunteer

Voluntary organisations recognise that older people bring a wealth of skills and expertise that can make a difference to people’s lives. Volunteering is also a good way to make new friends and improve general levels of health and fitness. Volunteer Now has a useful guide for the over-50s.

2. Start a business

Enterprise Nation is all about helping people start businesses, especially home-based ones, and they provide lots of workshops and online resources for entrepreneurs for all ages. 

3. Learn a new skill

Learning does not have to be formal and you do not have to learn for a qualification. In later life, it can be fun and a great way to relax and socialise. You can get free and impartial advice and guidance from the Careers Advice Service on 0800 100 900 where a lifelong learning adviser can help you to develop an action plan based on your skills and interests.


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