Why Grandparents and Charities are good for each other

 As I approach retirement, I consider myself to be very fortunate. I’ve enjoyed good health and a long and successful career, working in senior management roles and, for the last 10 years, running my own management consultancy business. As I reflect on why I’ve been reluctant to retire just yet, I’ve realised that I’m concerned about what I’d miss. Concerned about all the things that ‘working’ actually means to me. Throughout my career I’ve held positions that have been all about having influence and making an impact and a tangible difference. That’s always been where I get my buzz from.

I’m concerned that if I retire, all that could stop. I guess deep down, I don’t want to feel meaningless, unimportant, insignificant or like a ‘has been’!

I also recognise that having been so fortunate, I’d like to give something back by helping people who haven’t been dealt such a good hand, so about 18 months ago I started to explore opportunities to volunteer.

I am also the grandfather of 3 (soon to be 4) beautiful grandchildren, one of whom has Autism. Now, as any grandparent will know, once your grandchildren appear on the scene, your world pivots from being worried about your kids, to thinking about the kind of life your grandkids can look forward to. For us, it has literally become all about them.

I’ve seen first-hand, the impact that Autism has had on our granddaughter AND her mum (our daughter), ranging from social isolation and exclusion from things most kids get to participate in, to the relentless battle with the Local Authority and school to get the right support in place.

Yes, of course, we (my wonderful wife in particular) do whatever we can as parents and grandparents to lighten the load, but we can’t be there 24/7.

What I’ve also discovered is that most local autism charities (and I suspect other charities too) rely very heavily on the parents of autistic children and adults as volunteers, i.e. the very people who have the least time and the greatest responsibility.

Despite still being actively involved in my own business, the one thing that I have more of than my daughter, is time. And therein lies the opportunity for me (and people like me) and for charities more generally. I can continue to influence, make a difference and have an impact and the charities I work with can benefit from my time, energy and enthusiasm as well as the skills and experience I’ve acquired throughout my life and career.

Sounds like a win/win to me!

Over the last 12 months I’ve worked with and alongside a number of national and local Autism charities and have been able to get involved in what they do. My professional experience has been able to help the local charities in particular, very directly, which has been particularly fulfilling.

I’ve been invited to speak at conferences and share a platform with the leaders of national Autism charities and get directly involved with the Scottish Government to try to influence policy and decision making.

So, here’s a call to action for anyone who’s stuck with this article to the end…

If you find yourself sharing some of the concerns about ‘retirement’ I’ve outlined above or if you’ve simply got the time and desire to give back and make a real difference to people and organisations who desperately need your help, please step up and reach out. The benefits are huge. You’ll get real fulfilment, meet lots of wonderful new people, keep your mind active and engaged and continue to be able to use the skills and experience you’ve accumulated throughout your life. Your time is every bit as valuable to a charity as your money!

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