Assumptions about being old
My family members have been and continue to be amazing achievers in life, but also in retirement. One person is a professional singer, and though she does not perform any longer is still an active choir member and manages the soprano section. Another family member, a former professor and minister, has continued to study and research in libraries, attends every concert he can, and keeps up his lifelong journaling. Yet another, also a retired professor, continued to work in the academic setting well past her 70th birthday and still runs (years later) workshops for staff members at her retirement centre. Our eldest family member, though now very ill, continued with multiple book clubs, chaired the resident committee that supported employees of her retirement community, read two major newspapers every day, and served a couple of stints as her alumna sorority chapter president, all between ages 82 and 88 (Wilson 2009).
About the authors
Dr Gwilym Wyn Roberts
EdD, MA, Diploma in Applied Psychosynthesis,
Diploma in the College of Occupational Therapists
Gwilym has worked in health and social care practice and education for over 30 years. He was Director of Occupational Therapy and Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University until 2016, when he retired from full-time paid employment at the age of 55. He has a Masters degree in Further and Higher Education from the Institute of Education in London and a Professional Doctorate from the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University. His passion for research is in the areas of appreciative inquiry and positive psychology. He is particularly interested in ageing adults’ experience relating to compassion and dignity and in 2015 co-authored a book entitled ‘Appreciative Healthcare Practice – a guide to compassionate person-centred care’. He works as a healthcare educational consultant and a retirement coach and now sits on the Wales Crown Prosecution Hate Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Panel. Gwilym now embraces the time to also engage in a wide variety of creative and recreational occupations of choice.
BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy,
MSc Ageing Studies
Robert qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 2003, graduating from Cardiff University with a first class degree. In 2011 he gained a Masters degree in Ageing Studies from Swansea University. Throughout his career as an occupational therapist working for the NHS in his local hospitals, Robert has maintained a special interest in the role of meaningful activity in the development of the independence and well-being of ageing adults. His MSc research explored the role of meaningful activity in the retirement transition process. Whilst working as an Associate Lecturer at Cardiff University, Robert and Gwilym discovered a joint interest in this field. Robert is currently an occupational therapy manager employed by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board in South Wales. He engages in a variety of meaningful activities and is already planning for his retirement in 20 years’ time!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
Why write this book?
In writing this book, we aim to offer an alternative approach to that of having a purely negative perspective of ageing adults, to one of appreciation and affirmation. Please note that we refer to this population not as older adults but as ageing adults. We do this to avoid any potential stereotypical and negative attitude towards the word ‘older’. This also encourages individuals to determine at what point do they consider themselves to be getting ‘old’, as ‘ageing’ for us is a more dynamic and affirmative term to progressing years of life. A more positive attitude is key to transitional retirement. Whilst fully recognising that we all may have anxieties and worries about retirement as a life stage, the purpose here is not to close but to open doors for change. Real time strategic change of this kind brings together a recognising of patterns from the past with an aspiration for a more positive future, creating a commitment to what we will do differently in order to plan to get there. The focus is on current reality as the basis for planning and change, and the opportunity to mine the wisdom of individuals to move on successfully, now and in the future. We aim to encourage a bridging of ‘both/and’, rather than a split of an ‘either/or’ approach, in order to harness what is working now in the design for the future. To achieve this direction, the work advocates the underlying principles of appreciative inquiry and positive psychology. We will explore the ways in which these collectively inform how the individual and people in general approach and view ageing and transitional retirement. Essentially, appreciative inquiry is based on the premise that all aspects of our lives and the systems in which we are employed, work well to some degree. It is the individual’s role to uncover where and how those systems are working to their advantage; to focus energy and attention on understanding why and how these work; and seek support to build on those conditions that foster positivity and well-being. This journey though often thought to be isolating, does not have to be so. We encourage that one dialogues with fellow retirees whatever their age, and access those professionals who may have expert knowledge and skills to apply some coaching skills as a way to guide and support the transitional process. In this context coaching is a dynamic partnership between coach (healthcare professional) and client (ageing adult). The coach’s role is to create a supportive relationship built on trust and confidentiality. In transitional retirement, an opportunity exists to give individuals and groups the opportunity to identify personal strengths, aspirations and concerns. Effective coaching guides the ageing adult to gain insight into their values, beliefs, behaviour and motivation, therefore, potentially raising self-awareness and self-worth. Through effectively applying some coaching skills, a retirement coach can support the ageing adult to make confident retirement decisions in order to embrace the future with security and confidence.
Occupational science may be a useful approach in this context as it could be a way to better understand human time use. In the first paper on the topic in the late 90s, it was proposed that: “occupational science is the study of the human as an occupational being including the need for and capacity to engage in and orchestrate daily occupations and work in the environment over the lifespan” (Yerxa et al 1998, p6). Occupational scientists as a result, have long recognised the correlation between activity, health and well-being and the literature surrounding health and activity is prolific. However, the attention to why people choose certain occupations at retirement, as opposed to others, is rarely addressed. For instance, is merely being active enough to enhance the transition into retirement and increase the chance of successful ageing? Or is there a connection when transitioning into retirement between occupational choice, health and well-being? With this in mind, we recognise at this point that is it very difficult to acknowledge all cultural aspects of ageing and retirement, and therefore we invite the reader to interpret the content of this book in relation to their own cultural values, beliefs, traditions and norms – we stress the importance of this in the hope that recognising rich cultural differences will be the foundation for deep reflections and learning.
Why is this book needed?
This book is unique in two ways. Firstly, it offers an insightful and practical guide to a variety of healthcare professionals working with ageing adults, as well as to human resource personnel. Equally important, this book may be utilised as a self-help resource to those individuals who are either planning for, or experiencing the transition into retirement and beyond. Secondly, it commits to seeing ageing and the process of transitional retirement from a more appreciative and affirmative perspective. It invites healthcare professionals to consider continuous professional development in the field of coaching as a way to empower and guide ageing adults towards and into transitional retirement and beyond. This book advocates the development and application of skills and knowledge that will equip such health and social care professionals and others to extend their scope of practice to this new and exciting emerging arena of coaching – in this context as a general coach for ageing adults and in particular in the more specific area of retirement coaching.
Both authors’ vast experience as health and social care professionals working with ageing adults offers a level of expertise in offering a well-researched evidence base and reflective models of practice. Weaving real life examples of individuals going through transitional retirement offers valuable pause points, where the reader is invited to reflect, learn and apply new skills and knowledge. The book offers a practical guide and suggests new and innovative models in addition to theoretically and empirically derived frameworks to assist effective support and professional intervention. In applying this work in practice, the possibility emerges that those who we might judge to be most limited and, at worst, burdensome, may hold a vital capacity and capability for organisations and communities whilst finding a sense of fulfilment through chosen occupation.
Who is this book for?
This book is aimed at every person who has either a professional and/or personal interest in how ageing is perceived in society and in particular, understanding how ageing adults make the most successful transition into retirement and beyond. Its main objective is for it to be used as both a practical guide and a reference resource for a variety of people including health and social care professionals, a spectrum of health and social care students, and any individual aspiring to become or currently practising as a retirement coach. We also hope that this book will be a useful resource to those who are often ignored or misunderstood, those very individuals who are actually facing or entering full or part time retirement and who may wish to more fully understand the dynamics of this important transitional period and life event.
This book is driven by the professional experience of both authors and an unwavering shared interest in this field, in addition to research evidence realised from their post- graduate level studies and professional practice in the private and public sector. As the authors, we feel strongly that there is a need for an alternative and more innovative and practical approach to working with and supporting ageing adults, especially through the retirement transition stage. One author is in the transitional period of his retirement, and the second practices as a manager and senior occupational therapist with specialist knowledge and research interest in working with ageing adults.
When considering research evidence there seems to have been a growth in the literature on positive ageing. This said, it is felt that there is room for more published text that focusses specifically on how appreciative inquiry can potentially foster a more positive approach to working with ageing adults during this life stage. There appears to be a culture change within healthcare education and practice where allied health professionals (AHPs) and other medical professionals, such as nurses and social workers, could consciously encourage and support ageing adults to maintain more choice, independence and well-being. Such support is now being increasingly integrated into services offered by a growing band of such professionals. We propose that acquiring the required coaching skills through continuous professional development will encourage health and social care professionals to become health and retirement coaches. As such, the scope of professional practice is broadening, in particular in relation to the need to improve and change behaviour, attitude, quality of support and support offered to an ageing adult. In response, themes and ideas presented in this book will contribute toward the enhancement of professional health and retirement coaching skills and practice as a way to enhance the quality of support offered to ageing adults. The aim is also to provide insight on such matters to other sector services within public, voluntary and private industry, those whose skills lie in human resources and who routinely deal effectively (or not) with personnel who are moving towards the transition into retirement. Finally, let’s not forget the most important community of all, those ageing adults themselves who may benefit from this book as they prepare, plan and seek whatever support is appropriate for them during this important, and exciting life stage.
This book will specifically offer a developmental, practical and educational guide for professionals, health and social care students and all those involved in learning about how to enable successful transition to retirement. Research evidence and case studies will be presented to underpin the development of an appreciative approach as a way to enhance behaviours and attitudes toward ageing. This will be further underpinned by key theories, current and historical legislative and policy influences. Pause points will offer time for reflection as a way to engage with, and illustrate, key themes. Some reflective questions are asked as a way to encourage individuals to record their learning and consider key issues that have been raised. Such tasks will be invaluable to those professionals who need to maintain their continuing professional development (CPD).
What this book aims to achieve
The book clearly aims to encourage every reader to appreciate a more positive perspective of the experiences of ageing, as a way to fully understand the ways in which ageing adults view and prepare for transitional retirement and beyond. It is important to develop a more positive (appreciative) outlook, acknowledging that some aspects of society, and indeed the media, continue to hold some stereotypical negative perceptions of what it means to grow old. This book also challenges the reader to question at what age individuals are categorised as being old!
We sincerely hope that this book will also be of value to those individuals facing, or who have already entered, this transitional period, those individuals who are themselves considering or are fully engaged in the health and well-being retirement transition process. This book aims to offer some useful guidance and a deeper, much more appreciative, affirmative and positive understanding of their experience.
Historically and cross culturally, the practice of retirement may be anything but common. The demographic forces of decreased mortality, better health care systems, and increased longevity have contributed to larger numbers of ageing adults than ever before in our history. Too often ageing adults, who have been successful and productive individuals, are at times trivialised in their everyday lives and interactions. At times, this occurs unintentionally because of unconscious assumptions about people who are growing old. To suggest that culture plays an important role in such decisions about transitions from labour force participation to retirement seems reasonable. Sociologists and anthropologists have long focussed on culture as a determinant of human behaviour and have noted a strong inclination of individuals to conform to certain norms, to behave in ways similar to their fellow citizens. Of central importance is the recognition that cultural factors will influence all discussions about ageing adults and the transitional journey into retirement. As such, no assumptions about any specific culture or society have been made within this book.
How is this book structured?
Chapter 1 defines ageing and explores the opportunities and challenges of an ageing population. It will guide individuals on how they may engage in a more positive approach to ageing and retirement with consideration given to a number of recognised activity-focussed theories on ageing. This chapter will also reflect on some established and, at times, stereotypical attitudes and behaviours to this life stage, with relation to chosen theories e.g. positive psychology and appreciative inquiry. Some current and historical polices and legislation will be analysed and considered.
Chapter 2 argues that improvements in retirement transition can be more easily attained by building on perceptions of success, rather than focussing on failure. It is also suggested that positive aspects of our relationships with others and ourselves should be a starting point from which we can find a way forward. Based on these principles, appreciative inquiry and the 4 D Model are discussed. This is a recognised model of ‘intervention’ and research that encourages affirmative action, behaviour and organisational development will be explored. Practical issues will be identified and discussed, for example, ethics, individual and team factors. This chapter will include suggestions on how appreciative inquiry can be introduced as a way to enhance personal and professional development and positively influence behaviours and personal approaches to ageing adults and retirement.
Chapter 3 aims to highlight the key issues raised within the literature on activity and occupations in later life. It will describe the nature of the ageing population and discuss a number of theories of ageing, such as structured dependency, disengagement theory, activity theory and continuity theory. Active ageing strategies will then be introduced with reference to international and local initiatives.
Chapter 4 examines the issues faced by individuals during the retirement transition process, including the impact of gender, culture, marital status and engagement in meaningful activities. This chapter will also look at adversity, and the need for resilience and transformational growth towards retirement and beyond.
Chapter 5 introduces the concept of mindfulness and explores how this can be used to facilitate creative, independent lifestyle redesign in preparation for and following retirement. This chapter will look at the growing evidence that mindfulness is effective in lowering levels of psychological distress and elevating levels of well-being and life satisfaction. It will again challenge stereotypes and presumptions about ageing adults and their ability to effect change independently.
Chapter 6 provides specific guidance on how appreciative inquiry as a technique motivates and empowers stakeholders (all those who may work in the field or benefit from their professional support and intervention) to change their life, situation and organisation. This chapter will guide key stakeholders in how to embrace and promote a more respectful, compassionate and dignified approach to ageing and retirement. For these reasons, appreciative inquiry can become the chosen means of enhancing and affirming quality of life and well-being for professionals and stakeholders. By encouraging openness and negotiation among stakeholders in this context, this methodology supports attempts to give collective and organisation-wide ownership and authorship of positive transformation. It provides a procedure in which reflection becomes a collaborative means of improving systems and is negotiated, not imposed, due to its person-centred focus. Therefore, consequent changes are more likely to be accepted by individuals since they have been proactive in evaluating themselves and their aspirations for a satisfying older age.
Chapter 7 explores the value of developing a person-centred retirement coaching approach for those individuals challenged by the retirement process. Coaching focusses on the occupation of the health and social care worker as an aspirational health and retirement coach. The ability to coach is increasingly employed in professional practice in leisure, health and social care. This will show how creativity, intuition, imagination and integrity can emerge together with qualities such as compassion and dignity to inform the coaching skills of the health and retirement coach. The chapter presents how advancing coaching capability is the key to modelling respect, compassion and dignity in later life. An innovative model of practice is described as a way to guide retirement coaches to achieve effective intervention with ageing adults. The 3 Eye Model highlights the sensitive balance for health and retirement coaches to view ageing adults through different lenses and perspectives that are analytical, appreciative and creative. This will describe how a coaching relationship may offer a meaningful channel through which individuals, groups and organisations are able to develop and sustain change. This chapter will provide an insight into how those professionals can build confidence and expertise to coach and apply this to enable ageing adults to transition effectively into retirement.
Chapter 8 offers a summary and a reflection on the key points raised in the book. In summary, each chapter will build on offering an appreciation of how to:
Apply a more affirmative and more appreciative approach to ageing and retirement with consideration given to a number of recognised activity-focussed ageing theories.
Gain a deeper understanding of the health benefits and the role of meaningful occupations in the retirement transition process, including activity choice and perceived benefits.
Gain insight into the impact of factors such as gender and marital status on successful retirement transition.
Promote a more creative approach to potential inactivity and the negative consequences on health and well-being.
Explore the benefits of mindfulness and its role in active ageing.
Explore the role of the professional as a health and retirement coach, and to offer effective professional support, guide and intervention to enable successful retirement transition.
Offer a coaching skill base for professionals and retirement coaches to maximise on the available support and guidance available for ageing adults.