Retired and Inspired - Book Review
Retired and Inspired: Making the most of our latter years. Review by Dr Caroline Berry
The title and sub-title of this book should alert anyone on the verge of retirement. As life expectancy increases there may be decades rather than years of life left to live and Christians need inspiration in order to use them well.
The book starts by facing the realities that accompany our getting older: retirement is not always a series of golden days. Early chapters outline obstacles that may have to be faced and difficult issues are not side-stepped.
Surprisingly, bereavement is faced first; it may come suddenly or with time for preparation, but either way it has a huge impact and brings the need for major rethinking of so much previously taken for granted. Important questions are raised on the understanding that they should be addressed now rather than pushed under the carpet as not being necessary ‘just yet’. These difficult topics are discussed sensitively and practically with down to earth suggestions for dealing with them.
Another chapter outlines the fears that often arise in retirement: anxiety about ill-health, loss of independence and concerns about financial security. Any or all of these may become burdensome and lead into a spiral of depression or withdrawal. With more time to dwell on them, memories of difficult past life events may become intrusive and burdensome. All these and other potential problems are discussed with helpful proposals and frequent mention of the part a supportive church can play.
Moving on to more positive aspects there are chapters on the importance of finding new roles with opportunities for service as well as the chance to develop talents long forgotten or never previously recognized. Learning to listen in order to become better able to support others could be a steppingstone to new worlds and the gift of time can lead to the satisfaction of building better relationships with family and friends. One minor omission is any discussion of the major contribution to childcare made by many of today’s grandparents.
Through all these varying chapters run some consistent threads. As we read, we open up little episodes in the life of ‘Jim’, the author’s creation based on long experience and close observation. Struggling with the loss of his wife when we first meet him, Jim is gradually helped towards a better life and frame of mind as the book progresses.
The author often shares relevant episodes from her own life story to illustrate particular points. The importance of the Christian community is a constant theme, sometimes as an opportunity for service, sometimes as a source of support and comfort. The need for sensitivity is stressed.
Each chapter includes a few short questions for reflection and discussion so the book could be used by groups as well as individuals. Each chapter ends with a ‘Thought for the Day’ based on one of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians ch.5 vs 22-23.
This is a book that needs to be read and acted upon, but one warning: do not expect your pastor or vicar to show the same degree of self-sacrifice as Jim’s does!
Review by Dr Caroline Berry