Oddfellows Southport Tik Tok sensations Joan and Jimmy O’Shaughnessy

A Southport couple who became internet sensations in retirement have partnered with the Oddfellows to encourage retirees across the North West to seek out the joy in retirement.

It comes after an independent study, commissioned by the Oddfellows – one of the UK’s largest and oldest friendly societies – showed how a third of retirees in the North West (36%) have had to work through negative feelings such as loneliness, boredom and a reduced sense of identity and purpose.

But Joan and Jimmy O’Shaughnessy, who have amassed more than 4million followers on social media, say retirees should take a leaf out of their book and grab opportunities to avoid loneliness and boredom setting in.

Joan, 70, said: “It’s easy to see retirement as a target to work towards. You work all your life until you reach this magic number and then you just take it easy and slow down.

“But for us it has always been a time for opportunity, to try new things and focus on enjoyment rather than work. We never guessed that we would be doing this, but we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t continued to challenge ourselves!”

Jimmy and Joan learned to dance 25 years ago, becoming British and English Champions in formation dancing. But it was their new passion for TikTok which has been their most unexpected benefit of retirement. Not only have they travelled the globe as the ‘twojays2’, but they can also count David Beckham and Beyonce’s mother among their fans.

Joan said: “We’ve had this amazing, unexpected adventure and we are loving every minute of it, but it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had the right attitude towards trying something new.”

Jimmy, 71, took early retirement aged 52, but has volunteered his time extensively for local charities and as Chairman of Hillside Golf Club in Southport. He said: “The important thing to remember is that your retirement can be whatever you want it to be. I do believe putting time and thought into it makes it easier – but it’s never too late, it’s about seizing opportunities and making the most of them.”

Jane Nelson is the CEO of the Oddfellows, a non-profit which helps older adults forge new friendships and supports almost 40,000 members nationally at its branches.

In the North West, a number of Oddellows branches offer a range of activities and social events for members and newcomers, including: Combermere Branch (Manchester, Stockport, Glossop, Leigh and Bolton), Cumbria Branch, Denshaw Branch (Saddleworth), Handforth and Altrincham Branch, Mersey Branch, Ormskirk and Southport Branch, Preston Branch (including Blackpool, Lancaster and Morecambe), South East Lancashire Branch and St Helens and Warrington Branch.

Jane said: “What’s surprising here is the speed in which retirees have said that they’ve became bored or unmotivated, especially this early on after finishing work. You don’t expect that.

“From the get-go, retirement should afford you more time to focus on yourself and what you enjoy. But this time needs to have structure and purpose, or it can become problematic.

“We’ve seen this with new members to our friendship groups, how they’ve found the early stages of retirement tricky to navigate as former routines fall away, and their everyday contact with people outside of the home drops.

“While most people plan financially, they may not factor in ensuring that their emotional and social needs are kept stimulated after leaving work. The impact of this can’t be underestimated.”

Jane Nelson is the CEO of the Oddfellow

 Jane Nelson is the CEO of the Oddfellow

The survey of 1,800 UK adults aged over 55 found that of those who felt bored, 66% said this happened within the first year, and a third (34%) in just three months. They also claimed their boredom was due to having too much time on their hands (64%), having a lack of motivation or purpose (61%) and that they struggled with a lack of daily routine (50%).

Jane added: “As this study shows, if left unchecked, the result is often boredom which can lead to individuals feeling lonely and isolated. Feelings which can have more serious physical and mental health implications.”

The survey of 1,800 UK adults aged over 55 suggests an underestimation of the impact being the boss of your own free time can have on your social and emotional health. While a third (37%) of respondents budgeted for retirement, 17% of those surveyed haven’t prepared for retirement at all, and just 19% thought about the needs of their social life in retirement.

Reassuringly, two thirds (66%) of retirees stated that retirement had met their expectations and that they were happy and fulfilled. 

Following the findings, the Oddfellows is urging retirees to expect shifts in emotional and social needs and to keep boredom at bay by staying open to new opportunities – whether that’s through exploring new friendships, local community activities, or even through finding fresh avenues for creativity. 

The Oddfellows offers its members opportunities to stay social and supported in retirement, as well as chances to volunteer. Each month, its branches hold around 700 events, in-person and online, from walks, talks and coffee mornings to lunch excursions and crafting.

Jane added that building a new daily routine in and outside of the home, staying open to new opportunities and looking at ways to be involved in your local community will help people’s retirements feel purposeful.

She said: “Joan and Jimmy are a fabulous reminder that retirement never has to be dull. We aren’t saying that everyone needs to become TikTok stars, but by staying open to opportunities – whether that’s trying a new activity or meeting different people – retirees can definitely reduce the chances of boredom from setting in.

“People deserve great retirements. They’ve earned it.”

To learn more about the Oddfellows, the support it offers to retirees, and to receive a free information pack and local events diary, visit www.oddfellows.co.uk/retirement, call 0800 028 1810 or email enquiries@oddfellows.co.uk.

To find a branch near you go to www.oddfellows.co.uk/branch-finder.

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