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Help facilitate the ‘retiree reinvention’

Paul Tys

Paul Tys

Those with an interest in ageing and productive ageing are being encouraged to apply for the Geoffrey White Churchill Fellowship – a paid opportunity to research ways to engage older Australians to participate in the workforce and other activities.

Paul Tys, the CEO of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, said that with Australian life expectancy at a record high, it was time to find ways to keep retirees engaged for longer. “There is a growing trend towards older Australians engaging in a wide range of activities long after they leave their primary career. We’re seeing what can be called a retiree reinvention,” Mr Tys said.

There were a number of factors that came into play with this trend, and they weren’t just financial, he said. People want to keep active and were keen to engage in part time endeavours, volunteer work and other activities. They want to be able to contribute to society and to continue to grow and develop.

“Knowing that the desire is there, it’s important to try and find roles for older Australians that encourage contribution, learning and membership. This is where the Geoffrey White fellowship can help,” Mr Tys said.

Inspiring reinvention

Last year’s recipient of the Fellowship, Mike Rungie, CEO of the ACH Group, travelled overseas to the UK, Ireland and the US to investigate how people are reinventing themselves in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

“As the period of retirement has become longer, it has become problematic. It is not clear what you do; it is hard to anticipate, prepare for, be purposeful and be admired in your retirement,” Mr Rungie said.

“To learn more about this I visited a large number of places where older people are engaged in work, learning, volunteering and other activities as seriously as people in younger decades.

“In addition I saw how overseas governments, communities and service providers are starting to respond to this re-invention movement. Everywhere I went I found people coming up against this issue. Many of them are taking bold steps that are nothing short of inspiring.

“People are reinventing into a range of roles, not just work, and that they are entering these with as much energy and learning as younger people,” he said.

Wally and Joan

Wally and Joan Skibneff.

Happy and healthy

Reformed retirees Wally Skibneff and his wife Joan are shining examples of the reinvention movement.

At age 87, Wally works in administration for ACH Group two and a half days per week in an unpaid capacity. Joan, 77, is also involved in a number of activities, including organising her local choir group.

“Joan and I see no reason to stop working and volunteering just because of our age. We are happy and healthy, and we really enjoy the work and the activities we’re involved with,” Mr Skibneff said.

“I am 87 now and although my age has presented me with some physical challenges, my mind is still very active. I’d encourage everyone thinking of retiring in their 60s to reconsider. There’s so much more out there for us,” he said.

Applications open

The Geoffrey White Churchill Fellowship, sponsored by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, is one of more than 100 fellowships on offer for 2014 across a diverse range of categories.

Applications are open for the 2014 Churchill Fellowships until mid-February 2014, for travel between 1 September 2014 and 31 August 2015.

All Australian citizens aged over 18 can apply. No prescribed qualifications are required and the subject of the project is limitless – provided a benefit to Australia is evident.

For more information, visit the Churchill Trust or call 02 6247 8333.

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