The isolation of retirement

Credit: Braden Fastier/Stuff

My father-in-law used to say ?you always need three years worth of projects lined up when you retire?.? He was a smart man in many ways and was keen to retain a routine and sense of purpose when he stopped work.? He hated to be idle and spent most of his ?spare? time in his shed, making beautifully detailed remote-controlled model aircraft.? His wife grumbled that he cared more for his balsa and ailerons that he did for her.? She was only teasing of course and was happy that he had a hobby.? She was also a smart woman and knew they would have driven each other to divorce if he had been at a loose end all day every day.? It seems other families realise this too.

This story from Stuff.? Quote:

When Clarrie Merrick turned up at the fledgling Waimea Menzshed?the 87-year-old engineer had been given three months before heading to a dementia ward.

Waimea Menzshed coordinator Alan Kissell, who helped set up the Waimea club seven years ago,?said Merrick’s story was a familiar one.

“It was a typical case of social isolation,” Kissell said.

“He was a man whose wife had died.?He probably came a few months after we opened, and was here for five years with us.”

Merrick had relocated from Auckland to Nelson, where his two daughters lived.

He had been diagnosed with dementia, but starting making rapid improvements soon after getting involved in the club.

“Six months later his daughter comes back and said; ‘He’s pulling the wool over the doctor’s eyes, because they can’t find anything wrong with him.

“I said: ‘I tell you what, he’s actually a supervisor here at the shed’.”

Merrick became a key part of the organisation.

“There was?nothing wrong with him, he’d?just been stuck in an apartment, with no?friends?around and he’d?been vegetating basically.

“He was an amazing guy who just had such a wealth of knowledge .. all he needed was some male company, some people who he could share his time with.

“He’d sit down with anyone, he’d always be thinking outside the box about how to approach a project. He was just an inspiration really.”

Kissell said there was a familiar pattern of men who struggled to adjust to life in retirement.

“I believe when they retire they lose their identity to a certain degree.

“They’ve gone from the identity of being Joe Bloggs builder or architect or whatever, and now it’s about where do I fit in?”? End of quote.

This seems so obvious when you think about it.? We get a lot of self-esteem from being useful to others and contributing to society.? That mostly comes through work, but what happens when we stop work?? Quote:

Kissell said a common problem for retired men was what he called “underfoot syndrome”.

“A lady might have the house to herself for 40 years, until her husband retires … that puts a bit of pressure on relationships when the guy is sitting at home?bored.

“That’s underfoot syndrome, I had one lady say to me she?calls her husband “pothole”, because he’s always in the bloody road.”? End of quote.

I did chuckle at the description, but it really isn’t that funny. One minute, the man is an expert in their field, sharing years worth of experience, and the next, they are made to feel like a nuisance for cluttering up the house.? Quote:

[?]?Social isolation and loneliness is increasingly being recognised as a problem in New Zealand, as the country’s population continues to get older.

A survey conducted by the University of Otago reported 20 per cent of elderly New Zealanders identified as being lonely.

Research has shown social isolation not only has an effect on mental health, but can also have implications for a person’s physical health?(Cacioppo, Hawkley, Norman, &?Berntson, 2011).

Retired architect James Chappell?said his involvement in Menzshed had made a big difference to his life.

The 83-year-old was was involved in the Kapiti Menzshed for four years, and has been a member at Waimea for a year, since he moved to Nelson.

After retirement and before joining the club, Chappell “created a job for himself”, keeping busy by checking electro-magnetic radiation levels in houses.

“We’ve got to have a purpose, and we’ve got to be doing something towards that purpose to drive us on …?it’s a reason for living.”

As well as giving men a sense of purpose, Chappell?said the club was just as important socially as it was about work.

“I couldn’t separate them?really, they’re sort of tied up together???each requires the other.

“In our culture we don’t talk too much about personal issues and what we’re thinking about.

“[Men] need something deeper than that. So when they come here, although they’ve got jobs to do and talk about, when they’re sitting around the table here they find all sorts of interesting things to talk about.”? End of quote.

I was complaining about the stupid virtue signalling plastic bag ban the other day, and we began to talk about things that we could be doing instead that would actually make a difference.? If not to dolphins and turtles, then at least to how much space is used up by waste going into the landfill.

These days if something breaks, it’s just not worth the minimum service fee to even take a quick look at what might be the problem.? If your toaster conks out, you can buy a new one for a few bucks, so we tend to do that rather than taking it in for repair.? The old one gets sent to the tip.

Wouldn’t it be good to marry up the need for repair with the men who know how to repair them?? That would be a win-win for everyone, including the planet.? Let’s ditch the health and safety nonsense and be sensible for a change.

Come on men, we need you.? Get down to your local.? You can find one near you at?