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Published 12 July 2023

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Six months into retirement, Chris Lee – former UKMSA Trustee and a new member of the Letchworth Men’s Shed – reflects on his plans for keeping out of the NHS and social care for as long as possible.

In January 2019, I got a new part-time job that allowed me a four-day weekend. Of course I was lucky to be able to afford to work reduced hours, and it was a great preparation for retirement at the end of 2022. I’m not alone in expecting life beyond paid employment to be busier than ever.

Paid vs unpaid work

Balance has always been an important part of my life and I see retirement as a re-balancing of time spent on paid and unpaid work (commonly known as ‘volunteering’) and a third element ‘not work’ – that’s me-time that doesn’t have to be purposeful, but may well re-energise me. Running, singing, writing, and socialising come into this category. I realise I’m blurring the distinction between unpaid work, much-undervalued housework, and ‘work at home’ which, particularly post-pandemic, might be paid or unpaid.

Routines vs new adventures

Other balance to be found in my life in retirement will be between following routines that many find comforting, and seeking activities that might take me outside my proverbial comfort zone, with associated challenge and reward. The routines include running four days a week (including Saturdays at my local parkrun), a weekly Monday morning chat on Zoom with three friends, and monthly online chats with a book/ walking group. I’m also regularising siestas – embracing the European lifestyle, whatever the weather. With new experiences, I’m determined to learn some practical skills like how to better use social media (Instagram in particular) and how to self-publish books to support a couple of friends.

Quality vs quantity

Another consideration as I work down my list of (currently 49) ‘retirement projects’ – is about balancing quantity and quality. Do I look for new experiences (joining my local Men’s Shed) or try to improve things I’m doing already (taking better pictures with the camera on my mobile phone)? Part of the answer may depend on what opportunities come along – I’m trying to stay open-minded!

Doing vs talking

One thing I do know is that I’m now more interested in doing, than in talking about doing. I’ve had my fair share of committees over the past 40 years and, as long as I can keep my body as active as my mind, I’ll be avoiding anything too sedentary – apart from reading for pleasure, writing, and sleeping. Twenty years ago I worked with someone who was proud to tell others how many committees he sat on (with a wife threatening divorce if he joined another). I am not planning to become a professional committee member!

For a longer version of this article, go to   

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