COVID19 has exposed the inadequacy of our contingency planning for emergencies. The economic, educational and social effects of the pandemic have fallen very unequally across individuals, regions, businesses and institutions. The gap between rich and poor, advantaged and disadvantaged, has dramatically increased.
These effects will last way beyond the pandemic itself. The opportunity to lessen them arises because UK life expectancy has recently increased faster than the average age of retirement. The number of years of potential post-work activity has increased.
Educational and leisure/travel opportunities for newly-retired people are well organised and publicised ‚’unlike the fragmentary information on preparing for retirement and finding opportunities to plough experience back into the community. We need a national initiative which combines best-practice from (e.g.) U3A, Trailfinders and the UK hotel industry. No-one should regret at the age of 75 or 80 that too little information was available at fifteen years earlier them to help them embark on a socially useful element of their lives after fulltime work.
The charity and education sectors require additional, skilled trustees/governors. Education requires more late- entrant teachers, and more mentors to reinforce literacy and mathematical skills in children and adults, and to heighten aspiration for university entrance. People struggling to start up or maintain businesses need better access to advice. Local communities need more people to staff good-neighbour initiatives such as lunch clubs and transport schemes. Mental health organisations such as the Samaritans need more trained volunteers.
A government unit for the retired, would keep a national register of experience, train people in new skills or consolidate existing ones, and help to deploy them more systematically: too many skilled retirees currently gravitate towards organisations and areas which are already best resourced. Moreover, in any future national emergency it would give government a valuable additional asset, ready-to-move.
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