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<xTITLE>Avoid Retirement and Stay Alive (Book Review)</xTITLE>

Avoid Retirement and Stay Alive (Book Review)

by Barbara Wilson
July 2007 Barbara Wilson
Authors: David Bogan and Keith Davies

New to the market, and having already reached number 1 in the New Zealand best-selling booklist for non fiction, Avoid Retirement and Stay Alive is about conflict resolution on a much broader scale. It is about the conflicts attached to ageing. The authors lay down a provocative challenge to those of us of a certain age (dare I say that includes many CR and ADR practitioners?) and to the retirement industry in general.

Most people are used to being bombarded by financial advisers keen to sell them retirement saving plans. They are also accustomed to being the targets of age-related scare-mongering. Baby Boomers (generally considered to be those born between 1946-1964) are the most-researched generation ever and have pushed back the boundaries during every decade of their lives. Many are now entering their 50s and early 60s. Their conflicts are increasing – they are perceived as upcoming dependent ‘burdens’ on the State, yet those who want to stay in the labour market are often subject to enforced retirement because they have reached a significant birthday. They are encouraged to be self-sufficient, yet chided for occupying economic space needed by younger workers. Employers complain about a skills shortage but expect those with the requisite experience and knowledge – many of whom are still fit and able to carry on - to down tools and head for their porches. Despite a re-evaluation by some corporations regarding the benefits of engaging or retaining seniors, Baby Boomers can be forgiven for feeling they cannot win.

Key messages of Bogan and Davies’ book are that there is a significant difference between the word job (‘usually done for hire or a profit’) and work (‘expenditure of energy, application of exertion for a purpose’); that the word retirement implies disappearing from view, and that energies can still be channelled into creative, fulfilling and valuable lives if we eschew what they term the retirement ‘myth’ and decide instead to take charge of decisions about what we do and for how long. The book is full of case studies of people who have embraced the anti-retirement ethos and have gone on to enjoy the rewards of working long after their official ‘sell-by’ date. The authors are realistic about the hurdles involved, but their clarion call is that changing our mindsets now can significantly enhance our later years.

The text has many statistics and demographic details, although there is no index or bibliography, which some might consider a shortcoming However, Bogan and Davies intend their book to be a wake-up call rather than an academic work, and their message is clear. CR practitioners already working in the field of elder mediation will recognise many of the conflicts described. This book is for anyone over thirty and even those who are themselves seniors, or moving in that direction, should find the authors give them the inspiration and confidence to redirect their lives at any stage. As the book reminds us - ‘think of your hair as silver, not grey’.


Barbara Wilson, PhD CQSW, MSc, MCFM is an independent family and workplace mediator, and has been in practice since 1990. She mediates in the south of England, including London, and is published in the UK, USA, Denmark and Australia, where she is also Accredited with LEADR. She is a visiting scholar at the Faculty of Law, University of Strathclyde, where she teaches gender issues on the LLM/MSc/PgDip/PgCert Courses in Mediation and Conflict Resolution. She is also a Family Mediation Council Competence Assessor and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators. Barbara taught on MSc and Graduate Certificate ADR courses previously run by the Institute of Family Therapy (partnered with Birkbeck College, University of London).

She has presented at international conferences and workshops in Australia, Denmark, Eire, New Zealand, Scotland and the US, and co-facilitates an advanced international mediation workshop run annually in Tuscany, Italy with Greg Rooney and Margaret Ross of Adelaide, South Australia. She is also a professional practice consultant (PPC) in private practice, and supports a number of experienced mediators and other professionals working with conflict. Her academic interests include applied ADR theory, ethics, and the development of mediator expertise.  Barbara welcomes contact at

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