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Your Later Life 2019

Finding a purpose makes for a happy retirement

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Rebecca Kennelly

Director of Volunteering, Royal Voluntary Service

A study suggests those happiest in retirement are twice as likely to have found a purpose after leaving the workplace. Rebecca Kennelly, Director of Volunteering at Royal Voluntary Service explains.

You might think spending your days with your feet up is the answer to a happy retirement. But that’s far from the case.

A recent study we conducted with Legal & General for our Step Forward campaign, found one in ten retirees are not enjoying their retirement, with boredom (53%), loneliness (43%) and having no outlet for their skills (31%) primary reasons.

The study went on to investigate how people can achieve happiness and satisfaction in retirement and found having financial security and extra time to spend with friends and family as significant drivers. However, one of the key things the research pointed to is the need to find purpose and meaning in life and staying social.

Volunteering is proving the answer for many retirees, helping them find a sense of purpose, a place in their community, as well as a new outlet for their skills and a means to better their health and wellbeing. The report suggests one in three retirees already volunteer, with two thirds of those saying it has made them happier (64%) more positive (62%), and less lonely (45%).

The emotional jolt of leaving work, its routines and friendship circles, can bring with it loneliness and a lack of fulfilment.

Shifting from employment to unemployment can be tough

Psychologist, Jo Hemmings, told us: “The emotional jolt of leaving work, its routines and friendship circles, can bring with it loneliness and a lack of fulfilment. Getting involved with your local community is the best way to make sure you have the right ingredients for a content and meaningful retired life.”

A large majority of our volunteers are retirees. They fulfil a myriad of roles that help people age better and support the NHS and regularly tell us of the immense satisfaction and sense of purpose derived from helping others – whether that’s from running a yoga class for seniors, serving diners at a lunch club, providing companionship to an older person in their home or driving someone to hospital appointments.

Opening up doors to volunteering for all generations

Together with Legal & General, Royal Voluntary Service is undertaking one of the biggest volunteer recruitment drives since our days as WVS, when in 1938 we mobilised more than one million women to support the Home Front. The charity is especially keen to welcome more retirees and, having recognised how retired life is changing, is growing newer forms of volunteering to make it easier for people to gift their time. We have also recently opened our doors to volunteers’ children and grandchildren, enabling them to combine childcare with voluntary service.

Over time, we hope to encourage more people to consider volunteering as a fundamental ingredient for a happy retirement.

For more information visit royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk

*The research was an online survey of 1,005 respondents, aged 50 – 85+, who have retired in the past five years. Conducted in March 2019 by PCP Research.

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