Retirement can be a voluntary act

I KNEW I had finally retired, really retired, when I took my suits and ties to the Salvation Army. By then, I had had three or four tries at retirement. It didn’t come easily.

I missed work. I missed the routine of getting up and dressing up to go to work, to socialise, to talk about the weekend football game, the movie we had just seen, the restaurant we were planning to visit.

I missed the intellectual stimulation of work, the challenges of doing what I had done rather well for so many years, the anticipation that there were more challenges round the corner. I missed arriving home in the evening and discussing with my wife the day’s work events.

But increasingly, where once I was the mentor and the guru, I was now the old man of the office. Mr Grumpy in the corner who would shake his head and announce: “That won’t work. We tried that 25 years ago and it didn’t work then, won’t work now.”

So finally, I retired. Really retired. I now fill that space with this blog. My wife fills her space with voluntary service, as so many of our age do.

According to newly released figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, no less than 5.8million people across the country volunteered their time during 2014, contributing 743 million hours to the community. And more women than men.

But although these figures are impressive, it seems the numbers are declining. The current figures amount to 31% of Australia’s adult population whereas the volunteer rate in 2010 was 36% after a steady growth over the previous five years.

The decline in volunteerism was matched by a decline in participation in all forms of groups and associations – sports and physical recreation, arts and culture, heritage, religious and spiritual groups and in civic participation, which covers unions, politics, environmental and animal welfare activism, human and civil rights and body corporate and tenant groups.

The figures even indicate a drop in informal community help such as neighbourly home care or gardening or changing the light bulb of the elderly lady next door.

CEO of Volunteering Australia, Mark Williamson, said the data shows Australians are increasingly time-poor with 45% of women and 36% of men saying they are always rushed or often pressed for time. When you’re time-poor, something has to give and for some people, it appears that is volunteering.

All of which is a shame.

Could it be, we wonder, the fault of an increase in social media, in video games and screen watching? Perhaps too many people are reading or writing blogs?

Len Horne in the Old Codgers’ Corner.

For more information:

General Social Survey, 2014 (cat. no 4159.0), available for free download from the ABS website

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