asual discussions have revealed that Malawi is not fully utilising experts that have retired from different sectors of the economy. While several countries have proper frameworks and programmes to engage the retired experts, there is no proper engagement model at any level that is fully utilising the retirees.
In this article, I will (i) provide the lost opportunity that the country is facing due to lack of engagement with these experts (ii) unveil some of the challenges faced by the group and then (iii) propose a framework that can be tested to fully engage the retirees.
Firstly, retired people have various skills that can be utilised to support development initiatives at all levels. These people can contribute towards education quality, address water and sanitation challenges, and construction challenges.
They can be fully engaged to design community transformation programmes and they can be engaged to support delivery of district development plans. These can be advisers to our ministers, members of Parliament and even ward councillors.
I have personally observed that most of the officers holding positions rarely consult and learn from retired people. Most small and medium enterprises in the country are struggling and yet we have been manufacturing retired experts that are not being fully engaged.
Because there is no proper framework to handle the transition and then actual retirement, many retirees have several physical and psychological fears that affect their normal lives.
John Osborne from the University of Alberta in Canada noted that without a proper transition to retirement, there is psychological disengagement from a work-life and transition to retirement.
In the paper, he pointed out that these effects include partial identity disruption, decision paralysis, diminished self-trust, the experience of a post-retirement void and the search for meaningful engagement in society. Others include the development of a retirement/life structure, the confluence of ageing and retirement, death anxiety, the critical nurturing of social relationships and self-actualisation.
While these are mostly observed in developed countries, locally we have witnessed several implications of not engaging retirees, including early deaths, loneliness and fragile health status. Some retired experts have resorted to heavy drinking, leading to financial challenges and destitution. In some cases, couples have to separate as one partner continues to work.
The other challenge is that most of the retired experts tend to remain in cities where social capital is minimal and they are left with no proper relationships or social networks to maintain due to the dynamics of urban life. In such cases, many retirees fail to optimise proper life satisfaction and easily go into depression. There are times when retirees have to move to unfamiliar locations. The absence of old friends and former social networks has social and psychological implications that we have not paid much attention to.
In this case, there is need to have a proper engagement framework that will not only support a healthy life to our seniors, but will also contribute to our own development goals.
First and foremost, as a country, we need to have in place a ministry, department or an agency that will have specific roles to handle retired people at all levels. This unit will develop a proper ‘retirement transition plan’ as proposed by Christina Victor in 1994. This plan should be able to address challenges faced by those that are about to retire, including euphoria, stress, dealing with adjustments to a new lifestyle and settling down. Training and awareness programmes can be developed to handle this stage.
Secondly, we need to have a proper profile database for all retired experts that can be managed at the district or community level. Thirdly, we need to have a detailed skills gap analysis, especially at the community level. This can be complemented by the demand for specialised skills from local leaders.
Then, we need to design community level development programmes with clear vision and roadmap that can be facilitated by retirees. Stage five could involve a call for expression of interest from retirees to support some development initiatives.
Stage six will allow identifying advisors that will work with retirees during the implementations.
Then finally, we need to have a clear monitoring framework as well as a package for incentives to support the retirees that are supporting these development initiatives.