After 35 years in a career she loved so much that it “felt more like a hobby”, Annie Stirk was a reluctant retiree.
But, she says, she’d got to the point where she wanted the time to sit on her step, “enjoy a cup of tea in the sunshine and read the paper,” instead of rushing off to the office.
However, that didn’t make the transition out of the nine-to-five any easier, and she admits she struggled to adapt.
Now Mrs Stirk, who became a familiar face during her years in the broadcast industry before carving out a successful PR career, has set up an online community in the hope of helping like-minded women adjust to life outside of the working world.
“I struggled for years to come around to the idea of retirement, and when I finally did it, last February, it wasn’t easy,” Mrs Stirk, 68, told The Yorkshire Post.
“My mind was always full of ideas, plans, and creative things for clients, and even though I’d made that decision to retire there was something rumbling away in the back of my mind.”
That was The Time of Your Life, a website and social media channels aimed at women in their 50s and beyond that who are approaching retirement or recently retired.
Mrs Stirk, of Brandsby near York, hopes to create a welcoming space for women to share their own stories, feelings and anxieties about retirement, and eventually would like to open up the online community to “real-life” events too.
Initially a lecturer in food and nutrition, Mrs Stirk, who is married to Ken, began her broadcast career with a five-year stint on This Morning, where she started as a food stylist. This eventually led to opportunities in front of the camera as a presenter on Open House with Gloria Hunniford, Channel 4’s You Are What You Eat and several series with Yorkshire Television.
She went on to found an award-winning PR firm, Absolutely Food, which was wound up last year when she retired.
“When I had my office, my dog Sam used to come into work with me, and we’d go on a circular route for a walk, but I was always rushing to get back,” Mrs Stirk said.
“When you’re retired, there’s no longer those deadlines, and that was what defined me before.
“Now, when I go down to the river with Sam, there’s nothing to rush back for.
“I think at first that’s where I struggled, and I feel that if I’d had someone to share these feelings with, the transition would have been easier.
“That’s where I hope The Time of Your Life can come in.”
Mrs Stirk prepared for retirement by planning a series of trips and events to keep busy, some of which she has chronicled on the website.
She also packs her time with volunteering at Easingwold Tourist Office, and spending more time with her grandchildren Jack, 15, Jacob, 13, and Jaime, 11. “There must be so many women out there, with similar feelings, wanting to retire, but thinking ‘what next?’ She added: “For me, work was a hobby and my career. Just like so many life changes that can make you feel isolated or lonely, like divorce, family bereavement or even the menopause, there are all sorts of feelings around retirement that could derail you.
“I want to create a community that’s age-positive for women who are at that stage in their life where the possibilities are endless – but it’s OK to acknowledge that everything is not quite OK.”
For more details about the project, visit the website www.timeofyourlife.today. It is described as “a celebration of a golden time, full of opportunities, new experiences, relaxation and more importantly, fun”.
One in five adults who retired in the last five years admitted finding it difficult, a report by the Centre For Ageing found last year.
The survey also showed that some 17 per cent of workers worried about being lonely in retirement. Only about half of UK workers planning to retire in the next five years are looking forward to it, with 41 per cent worried about managing their money and a third concerned about feeling bored.
The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to raise awareness of the health effects of loneliness, which can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, since 2014.
For more information visit www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/loneliness.