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Tuesday, 19 September, 2000, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Not the retiring kind?
After 25 years building the Body Shop empire, Anita Roddick is set to exit the business world. But like many of her contemporaries, she is planning an active retirement.

Cruise holidays, devoting more time to the family, snoozing in the garden - nothing could be further from Anita Roddick's mind as, at 57, she contemplates retirement.

Body Shop founder Anita Roddick
Anita Roddick wants to "do something for the public good"
Having created a world-wide chain of 1,754 ethically-minded toiletries shops from scratch, Ms Roddick wants to bring her energies to bear on even more ambitious goals.

The "queen of green" told the Express on Sunday she wants to "smash the World Trade Organisation".

Although she is arguably the UK's most famous entrepreneur - after Sir Richard Branson, of course - Ms Roddick is desirous of "a breathing space" from work, so she can "do something for the public good".

Despite her personal wealth (perhaps 100m) and high profile, Ms Roddick is not so different from the growing band of retirees also eager to put their professional skills to good use.

The next generation

The Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) has noted a marked increase in older applicants, creating a so-called "new generation" of volunteers, according to chief executive Mark Goldring.

"The new VSO generation is light years away from the common image of gap-year students digging wells."

Anti World Trade Organisation demo
Will Roddick set the WTO on fire?
The number of those aged 50-70 dispatched to work in developing countries has more than doubled in the past eight years. Some 16% of volunteers now come from this age group.

And the VSO is not only after white-collar types, such as Ms Roddick. The services of mechanics, carpenters and farmers are also sought for the foreign postings.

Those not wishing to leave the UK are also catered for by organisations such as Reach, which matches retirees' expertise to skills gaps in the charity sector.

Age concerns

As the average retirement ages have fallen - they now stand at 58.9 for women and 61.3 for men - Reach has also seen an influx of younger volunteers eager to help out.

Reach's Richard Doland says the 1,300 people on the register represent the "the sort of skills and experience most charities couldn't afford to buy in a month of Sundays".

The Flying Scotsman
Steaming into retirement?
It's not all a one-way street, though. "The volunteers get the benefit of helping the society from which they've made their living."

Mr Doland also says that after years of enduring the routine of working life, some find retirement a "culture shock".

"Some people are happy to potter around the golf course, but others want to be working, voluntarily or otherwise, four days a week."

This kind of "soft retirement" - where you can pick and choose your hours - also allows retirees to fulfil ambitions they may have harboured all their working lives.

On track

Steam railway charities are especially popular with former white collar workers, says Mr Doland. "As they say, boys will be train drivers."

"We look for people with skills and experience, but if you want to apply those to a very different area, that's splendid."

Mr Doland recalls a nuclear physicist - not a profession often called for by charities - whose administration and people skills proved highly marketable.

Pensioners demonstrate
Yesterday's workers, tomorrow's protesters?
It is not just charities who can reap the rewards of early retirement, the vital public services can benefit to.

The Institute of Education at the University of London runs a course for those under statutory retirement age thinking of making a second career in secondary school teaching.

Of course, while many people are glad to take early retirement, others feel pushed out of the workplace, sometimes by simple age discrimination.

This trend is particularly acute for male workers. Of men aged 55-64, less than half are now in the workforce.

Grey pride

While some employers are waking up to the value of older staff, anger at this marginalising and worries over pension provision has encouraged growing activism.

Pensioners make up a quarter of the UK electorate and are far likelier to actually vote than younger Britons.

Soldier with a Kalashnikov machine gun
Mr Kalashnikov refuses to stop working
As the rebels of the Sixties grey, we may see more of Ms Roddick's contemporaries use their retirement time to lobby on everything from health care to globalisation.

However, Ms Roddick's aim to "blow up" the armaments industry may not win the support of all of those of retirement age.

Mikhail Kalashnikov, the 80-year-old inventor of the AK-47 and Anita Roddick's counterpart in the small arms world, intends to keep making guns

He has vowed never to retire, preferring to be carried out of his factory feet first.

See also:

17 Sep 00 | Business
31 Jul 00 | Politics
25 Apr 00 | Politics
12 Apr 00 | UK
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