Generation Retirement: The new ‘oldies’ who are living life to the full

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A new report looking at the lives of older people shows there is more to retirement than popular stereotypes suggest. Chris Bond reports.

It’s an attitude that an increasing number of pensioners appear to be taking to heart as more and more people in their 70s and 80s look for fresh challenges, whether it’s writing a book, learning to dance, or even going sky diving.

The days when retirement was merely a short countdown until we shuffle off this mortal coil have gone, and yet once people retire it’s still automatically assumed they’re ready for the scrapheap.

But a new report carried out by McCarthy & Stone, the UK’s leading retirement housebuilder, suggests this couldn’t be further from the truth.

More than 2,500 retired men and women from across the UK took part in The Colour Report, which explores how retirement has changed over the years.

The study focuses on three age groups - those 65-70, 70-74 and the over 75s - and suggests that many retired people are embracing new experiences and continuing the kind of lifestyles they enjoyed before they stopped working.

It shows that older people are trying to live independent and active lives for as long as possible.

Kim Caldwell, from McCarthy & Stone, says the aim of the report is to expose some of the myths surrounding retirement. “We want to encourage society to move away from stereotypical views about chronological age.

“Retirees are starting to rewrite the definition of growing old and we hope the report goes some way to challenging ageism. No seismic change happens once we retire; we remain the same colourful individuals we always were.”

The Colour Report highlights some interesting trends with older generations shopping in stores like Primark and H&M, just as their grandchildren do.

In the past, music used to be a generational divide but those generations brought up on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s and 60s are now pensioners themselves, and whether it’s Chuck Berry or The Beatles music is now more likely to unite young and old than push them apart.

Today, a growing number of people are using their retirement to fulfil lifelong dreams and ambitions, whether it’s going on a round-the-world trip, writing a novel or learning a new language.

Some, like 83 year-old Joan Hart from Doncaster, take on new physical challenges. A former nurse, she has just written her memoir, At the Coalface, and also raised money for charity doing a wing-walk when she was in her 70s.

She’s not alone. A 93-year-old man recently completed a zip wire challenge to raise money for his local church, while a couple are planning to run a marathon when they reach 70.

Patricia O’Neill, from the University of Oxford, who provided a foreword to the report, believes those who reach the traditional “retirement age” don’t want to just disappear into the background.

“These people are interested in all aspects of life. They want to participate in it. Moreover, they still have a lot to offer,” she says.

But all this positivity does come with a few caveats, as Sally Hutchinson, chief officer at Age UK York, points out. “People are trying to stay fitter and eat well and we are perhaps putting off the more debilitating problems until later, but quality of life is dependent on health and wealth,” she says.

For some older people, a simple rise in the minimum spend on their weekly online supermarket shop can have a negative impact on their lives because they can no longer afford food deliveries.

“There are a lot of older people who need support to help them engage with modern life. So while it’s all right for some, it’s not all right for everyone.”