Saturday, 3 January 2009

Finding meaning ....

In 'The Rainbow Years' we provide activities to encourage the reader to become very clear about their Life Values. We believe this is a very key step in identifying what is most important in our life and what it is we want to commit to and achieve. We were also particularly struck by the links between life values and the components of 'happiness' identified in the latest research reported in the various work of Professors Oswald, Diener, Seligman and others. A consistently key element in a 'happy life' seems to be an involvement in activities in which a person finds 'meaning'. We can translate this as a commitment to applying our abilities and skills to causes that allow an expression of our life values, the things we believe matter more than others.
I am interested in how our 'third age' seems to provide opportunity to apply time and energy to areas that may have been 'asides' in the years when we were earning our living or building our career.
Today's (3/1/09) Guardian reports the latest Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) research which shows that;
  • the average age of VSO volunteers is increasing. In 1988 only 3% of volunteers were age 50 or over;
  • by the end of 2008, 28% were 50+
  • in December 2008 there were 119 volunteers over 60, with 5 of these over 70;
  • previously VSO has not accepted volunteers over 75, but now makes exception for 'the right candidates'.

The report recounts that VSO is finding 'an increase in the number of retirees who do not want to put their feet up ... when they retire and are looking for something quite different as they approach retirement'. VSO have identified a particularly strong need in the developing world for 'teacher-trainers, teachers experienced in curriculum development, surgeons, and maternity, child and HIV health workers'.

One 72 year old former science teacher is reported to have taken time out from a comfortable life in Cumbria , from being a grandfather to 11 grandchildren, to make repeated trips to Tanzania where he is helping to establish a technical college. I myself have two friends in their 50's, well established in their different careers, who are now spending a year with VSO in Sri Lanka. One is supporting the development of services for people with disabilities and the other providing computer systems consultancy to grass roots organisations.

So retirement most certainly does not equal 'idleness'! It can mean opportunities to commit to causes that 'are bigger than ourselves', that 'make the world a better place', that 'give back some of what we have had'. All of which are referred to in another chapter of 'The Rainbow Years' - My Spirituality!

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