Media Release: Churchill Trust says life can start at 60 - Retiree reinvention the new trend

6 Dec 2013

Australians are living longer, healthier and happier lives, and The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust is now taking applications for its Geoffrey White Churchill Fellowship – a paid opportunity to research ways to engage older Australians to participate in the workforce and other activities.

Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the average life expectancy in Australia has hit the 82 year mark for the first time ever, increasing by more than half a year since 2012. Australia now ranks third in the world for life expectancy rates behind Japan and Hong Kong.

HSBC's Future of Retirement: Life after work? report also shows that Australians are working longer, but are also embracing semi-retirement in greater numbers.

With Australian life expectancies at a record high, it’s time to find ways to keep retirees engaged for longer, says Paul Tys, the CEO of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

“There is a growing trend towards older Australians engaging in a wide range of activities long after they leave their primary career. We’re seeing what can be called a ‘retiree reinvention’,” he says.

“There are a number of factors that come into play with this trend, and they aren’t just financial.

“We’re finding that people want to keep active and are keen to engage in part time endeavours, volunteer work and other activities. They want to be able to contribute to society and to continue to grow and develop.

“Knowing that the desire is there, it’s important to try and find roles for older Australians that encourage contribution, learning and membership. This is where the Geoffrey White fellowship can help,” Mr Tys said.

Last year’s recipient of the Fellowship, Mike Rungie, travelled overseas to the UK, Ireland and the USA to investigate how people are reinventing themselves in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

“As the period of retirement has become longer, it has become problematic. It is not clear what you do; it is hard to anticipate, prepare for, be purposeful and be admired in your retirement,” Mr Rungie said.
“To learn more about this I visited a large number of places where older people are engaged in work, learning, volunteering and other activities as seriously as people in younger decades.

“In addition I saw how overseas Governments, communities and service providers are starting to respond to this re-invention movement.

“Everywhere I went I found people coming up against this issue. Many of them are taking bold steps that are nothing short of inspiring.

“People are reinventing into a range of roles, not just work, and that they are entering these with as much energy and learning as younger people,” he said.

Reformed retirees Wally Skibneff and his wife Joan are shining examples of the reinvention movement.

At 87, Wally works in administration for the not for profit organisation ACH Group 2.5 days per week in an unpaid capacity. Joan, 77, is also involved in a number of activities, including organising her local choir group.

“Joan and I see no reason to stop working and volunteering just because of our age. We are happy and healthy, and we really enjoy the work and the activities we’re involved with,” Mr Skibneff said.

“I am 87 now and although my age has presented me with some physical challenges, my mind is still very active.

“I think positive and I will keep moving and doing things for as long as I can, and if in the meantime, I can help people along the way – I will.

“I’d encourage everyone thinking of retiring in their 60s to reconsider. There’s so much more out there for us,” he said.

The Geoffrey White Churchill Fellowship is sponsored by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. It is one of more than 100 Fellowships on offer for 2014 across a diverse range of categories, including education and training, health and medicine, and community service.

Applications are now open for the 2014 Churchill Fellowships until mid-February 2014, for travel between 1 September 2014 and 31 August 2015.

All Australian citizens aged over 18 are invited to apply. No prescribed qualifications are required and the subject of the project is limitless - provided a benefit to Australia is evident.

Further information and an application package can be obtained online from or via post by calling the Trust on 02 6247 8333.

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