“Do you miss work?” It’s a question that all retired people get asked.
Losing the companionship of work colleagues can be a challenge. Family and friends are more important, but are not (and shouldn’t be) the same as being part of a working team.
This is widely acknowledged and discussed. But there is another challenge that can be even more insidious. The loss of status.
People who have held senior positions of responsibility are especially vulnerable. I have seen acquaintances, used to wielding influence and power, almost physically shrink when these have been taken away.
I was editing (or assisting to edit) newspapers for almost three decades before I made the sudden decision to retire. It’s a job where you are both a significant influencer of the local community, and somebody who others are keen to influence.
Plenty of people knocked on my door, metaphorically and sometimes literally. They wanted to persuade to put something in – or keep something out – of the newspaper.
The stories they wanted you to keep out were always more interesting. I think it was the press magnate Lord Northcliffe who said; “News is what somebody does not want you to publish. Everything else is just advertising.”
And then, you’re retired. The phone doesn’t ring. Suddenly, politicians and policemen aren’t keen to have a quiet word in your ear. That can be a relief. But it also reminds you that you are no longer at the centre of things.
I am sure everybody who has been a senior manager experiences something similar. Your old company, and the wider world, seems to be managing very well without you.
So how do you make the adjustment? I was lucky. Within a few weeks of retiring I was asked to take charge of two very different projects.
Swansea Council asked me to chair a working group co-ordinating events to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the city’s most famous literary son, Dylan Thomas.
And Swansea Business Club asked me to run a project to create a new policy-forming group.
Both required a structure of regular meetings, both with fellow project members and with external bodies. Without replicating working life, they gave me the opportunity to continue using some of the skills I had developed over a working life of more than 40 years.
And I still felt involved in the life of my city. That created a bridge that I am sure made it much easier to make the transition from editor to retired bloke.
The secret, of course, is to make quasi-work like this less and less important as your retired life becomes richer.