'I retired willingly, but was anxious to keep working somehow. I saw this as a health issue'

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'I retired willingly, but was anxious to keep working somehow. I saw this as a health issue'


Billy Gallagher describes his transition into retirement and he notes all the volunteering work that he continues to do, which keeps him occupied.


Billy Gallagher


Trinity College Dublin




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June 2009 I retired willingly but anxious to keep working somehow. I saw this as a health issue. As there is no possibility of a new career, with the focus now on certification and documentation rather than life experience, the only possibility was volunteering. This opened a whole new world and I took the view that it should be done in different places rather than immersion in one skill. 'Volunteering Ireland' had a significant website offering volunteering opportunities. Topical in 2009/10 were foreign gigs of perhaps 6 to 24 months in underdeveloped countries. I preferred local gigs such as working in the 'Soup Kitchen' where a lot of the clients I had known would attend. This was run by the Capuchins in Church Street and served 250 lunches a day in 2009. By 2011 this had risen to 500+ lunches a day and 200 breakfasts. They also gave out 900 food parcels once a week (typically milk, bread, butter, tea, sugar, beans, sausages). A large number of foreign nationals accessed the facility by 2011, out of work now, often whole families. There was a medical facility on the premises and a counsellor a few days a week. I found 'Fighting Words', a facility set up by Roddy Doyle and SeՍn Love to encourage creative writing to anyone who attended. Very often that was school children in their classes (the whole class would come with their teacher for the day). There was volunteering with older people, particularly befriending Alzheimer sufferers (Altadore Nursing Home in Glenageary) and I trained up to deliver the 'Sonas' programme there. A new initiative by the Health Authority that insisted every patient in an old people's residence had to have some stimulation in their programme. Sonas in 2011 was becoming an important stimulus programme for severe Alzheimer's patients. All nursing homes must now show activity and stimulation programmes for all clients and delivery must be fully documented. This was brought about because of some very poor practice highlighted and several facilities being closed down. I had the view that it would be beneficial to me to have an activity every day, even if only for a few hours. This would keep the energy and brain cells working. Health to me means mental health, all the rest can deteriorate but if you keep this aspect moving the quality of life is relatively assured.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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