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Professional skills and experience ‘wasted’ after retirement, say GB retirees

A new VSO campaign is urging older people to volunteer overseas.

Three out of five (60%) retirees who consider themselves to have professional skills and experience say that these are being wasted since they retired, according to new research from international development organisation VSO.

Almost half (49%) of retired adults feel less valued by society since retiring, while only 3% of retired people feel society as a whole values them more since their retirement. Yet almost four out of five (79%) retired people surveyed, who say they have professional skills and experience, feel that others could learn from them.

The research reveals a wealth of talent among retired people in Great Britain, which could be transforming lives in some of the world’s poorest countries. Older volunteers are particularly valued by VSO’s overseas partners for their professional skills, as well as for their patience, self-assurance and resourcefulness.

The charity is looking to recruit medical professionals, teachers, business advisers, agriculture experts, town planners and fundraisers. It has a particular need for teaching and medical professionals. It is seeking experienced professionals of all ages, including people approaching retirement and those who have already retired.

VSO volunteers have an enormous impact in some of the world’s poorest countries. Last year, VSO volunteers trained 148,000 education practitioners, 21,800 health practitioners and 28,000 practitioners in secure livelihoods services such as protecting communities against land grabbing or forced eviction.

Director of VSO UK Angela Salt said:

“The experience and skills of retirees are very much required for our work overseas tackling poverty. VSO volunteers share their skills in a way that leaves a lasting legacy. Volunteering doesn’t just change the lives of the people in the communities where we work. It changes the lives of our volunteers. People who have volunteered for VSO say it gives them a better perspective on life. They also say that the best thing about volunteering is the feeling of making a difference.”

Lorraine Dodge volunteered with VSO in the rural area of Kaski in Nepal, after taking early retirement from teaching in Britain. Lorraine said:

“My teaching skills were put to great use in Nepal. I worked with head teachers to motivate individual staff, and helped to improve education for Nepali children. After retirement was exactly the right time for me to volunteer with VSO, as I had accrued so much experience at home. When I came home after two years, I felt more valued. Volunteering overseas has given me a new focus in retirement.”

To find out more about volunteering overseas with VSO as a retired professional visit www.vso.org.uk/retiredrequired

Editor's notes

1.      The survey of retired people was carried out for VSO by YouGov Plc. All figures are from this survey unless otherwise stated.  In the survey, ‘professional skills and experience’ was defined as skills and experience gained in professional or higher technical work - work that requires at least degree-level qualifications (e.g. doctor, accountant, schoolteacher, university lecturer, social worker, systems analyst etc.) Total sample size was 1278 retired adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th - 29th July 2013.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). The key findings are as follows:

  • 79% of GB retired adults who consider themselves to have professional skills and experience would strongly agree or tend to agree with the following statement: ‘Other people could learn from my professional skills and experience.’
  • 60% of GB retired adults who consider themselves to have professional skills and experience would strongly agree or tend to agree with the following statement: ‘I feel my professional skills and experience are being wasted since I retired.’
  • 3% of GB retired adults said that society values them more or much more since they retired. 49% of GB retired adults said that society values them less or much less since they retired. 42% of GB retired adults said there has been no change in the amount society values them.

2.      Volunteers and spokespeople are available for interview- please contact the VSO media team.

3.      Pictures of Lorraine Dodge and other retired VSO volunteers are available on request.

4.      VSO is an international development organisation that fights poverty through volunteers, bringing people together to share skills and knowledge. VSO volunteers work in whatever fields are necessary to fight the forces that keep people in poverty – from education and health through to helping people learn the skills to make a living. In doing so, they invest in local people, so the impact they make endures long after their placement ends. VSO recruits skilled volunteers from countries in the global north and global south, as well as supporting the growth of volunteering within developing countries. To find out more visit: www.vso.org.uk.