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Ederyn Williams decided to keep working after he retired. He says it keeps him busy and feeling useful.
“I often think about dogs when I think about work and retirement. There are many breeds of dog that just need to be working, and useful, or have a job of some kind, in order to be happy. Otherwise they are neurotically barking, scratching, or tearing up the sofa. A working dog needs to work. And I am a working dog.” [US journalist Martha Sherrill]
I am definitely a working dog. I never had a long period of enforced leisure through sickness or unemployment, so it just seemed natural to carry on after my formal retirement at 65.
Sure, I had an index-linked pension from my university employment, so I could have taken up fishing or golf, but work just came naturally to me.
Of course, some aspects of work are boring, but even the boring bits need doing, and there is satisfaction in being useful and contributing. So I decided to follow up my contacts and take up any and every bit of work that was offered. I took up a part-time interim position in another university for nine months and did a number of short projects with small companies and universities.
I also invested in a couple of small companies, working for nothing to help them get started. Soon I was even busier than when I retired and could start to be choosier.
Obviously, it was nice to get up late or have a day off occasionally, but I found that I was always happier when I was out of the house with a positive task to do. So I set myself the aim of carrying on until I was 70. Now, at 73, I am still working: only one or two days a week, but still busy as I have developed some hobbies and volunteering activities as well.
So, I guess my advice to those nearing (or past) retirement is to see work as an end in itself. Find some aspect of your work or expertise that you enjoy, and build on that. Don’t worry about the boring bits, or doing work that is beneath your previous status: work need not be an end in itself, but a way of keeping mind and body active and alert.
And remember, working dogs don’t work for money. They work for the fun of it. And so do I.
*Picture of an Old English Sheep Dog. Photographer, Meredith Bannan, c/o Wikimedia commons. Contributed by Squigman.