John Copelton, 61, is looking forward to a long and healthy retirement, but it will not be spent putting his feet up.
Dr Copelton, a senior careers adviser at Queen’s University Belfast and a leading authority on active retirement, has just been awarded a prestigious travel fellow ship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for his work on wellbeing in retirement.
He is set to investigate innovations in the US such as bringing retired alumni back to university to lecture and establishing retirement residences on campus. He will also visit Drew University’s Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti, which allows undergraduates to conduct research under
the supervision of retired industrial scientists.
“Careers are all about life transition, and retirement is a major life transition,” Dr Copelton said.
He took a physics degree and masters in opto-electronics before moving into the careers service, but two years ago, aged 59, he completed a Queen’s PhD in psychology, exploring what people enjoyed doing once they had freedom to choose. He found that a sense of competence and positive feedback were important, but a key factor was whether people had themselves decided
what to do, rather than been pressurised by others. “Just because you’re doing something you’re good at doesn’t mean you enjoy it,” he said.
Planning ahead for retirement is essential, he found. Those who make the smoothest transition are those who continue pursuing interests they had before.
“People with a negative image of ageing don’t live as long as those with a positive one — your attitude to your future says more about you than anything else.”