April 15, 2010

UK: Never mind the grandchildren. Friends are what make a satisfying retirement

. LONDON, England / The Times / Life & Style / Mental health / April 15, 2010 By Rosemary Bennett Friends, not family, are the key to a happy retirement, according to research which concludes that grandchildren are a mixed blessing. Pursuing hobbies, joining clubs, making friends were more important to “life satisfaction” than regularly seeing grandchildren. Researchers suggested that grandchildren could get in the way of grandparents’ social life if they spent too much time caring for them. In the study 300 pensioners were questioned about their home lives, relationships, hobbies and families. Their life satisfaction was then measured using a standard psychological model. Illustrative photo of seniors courtesy Times Blogs Whereas having children and grandchildren had no effect on life satisfaction, those who had taken up new hobbies, joined clubs and met new friends were, on average, 30 per cent happier. Among the happiest were those who had taken on an allotment, joined an art class or in a book club. Related Links > The best ways to take control of retirement > How to plan for a comfortable retirement “This was the most surprising finding,” said Oliver Robinson, of the University of Greenwich, who led the study. “It dispels the idea that retirement is all about sitting back and enjoying your grandchildren. They can be a subtle burden. They are fun, but they are also hard work and one seems to counteract the other. Being left with small children can also be quite stressful for older people.” He will present the study to the annual meeting of the British Psychological Society today. “Instead the research reinforces the idea of relishing your new-found freedom. Having grandchildren around goes against that,” he said. There are 14 million people over 60 in Britain. They are increasingly called upon to take care of grandchildren and are estimated to provide care worth £3.9 billion annually. Dr Robinson said that the study found that some with high-powered and consuming jobs had difficulty adjusting to retirement. “Those people found the adjustment quite hard because they had given up their hobbies. I think people should think about what they are going to do with their retirement long before they get to that age. People who had lost touch with their hobbies or passions found it difficult to pick them up again.” Those who had found retiring most difficult were military personnel and civil servants, he said. The actress Joanna Lumley suggested last week that pensioners without grandchildren should “adopt” young people who did not have any grandparents and look after them after school. Dr Robinson said: “It might improve the children’s lives but it may not necessarily improve the life of the retirees.” [rc] Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.