After they leave UC employment, many retirees continue rewarding and energetic lifestyles, finds a newly released survey by the Council of UC Retiree Associations (CUCRA).

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UC retirees “are curious, vibrant and productive, with a commitment to civic engagement and public services,” stated the survey report, titled “UC Retirees: Advocates, Ambassadors, Assets.”

The survey was completed by 4,478 retirees who are on email lists of a UC retiree association or retirement center. It covered three years (2013-16) and included a wide range of staff, from retired office workers, nurses and groundskeepers to vice chancellors and non-Senate academics such as researchers, librarians and lecturers. Emeriti were not included because the Council of UC Emeriti Associations (CUCEA) conducts a separate survey of emeriti.

The following are some of the CUCRA survey findings:

Volunteer service

The number of UC retirees who volunteer is remarkable: 63 percent served a variety of organizations, including those that aid low-income seniors and families and veterans, and in homeless shelters, animal welfare centers, urban farms, public parks and more.

Compare that to national data: only 25 percent of people over age 55 volunteer in any capacity, according to a 2015 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study.

Some notable volunteer projects included: mentoring a refugee family from Congo, delivering medical supplies to needy countries, working on an international bird rescue project and restoring the natural habitat of the Channel Islands off the coast of California.

Twenty percent of retirees surveyed volunteered at a UC location. The two most common activities were involvement with their retiree association or center and participation in a committee or task force.

Professional engagement

Twenty-seven percent of respondents provided professional services of some type, and 15 percent authored or contributed to professional publications. They shared expertise in numerous fields, including education, health care, visual and performing arts, government, finance, religion and more.

Of the authors, journal articles were the most common type of publication, followed by conference papers, books and book chapters. And retirees also contributed a variety of fictional and nonfictional writings for newspapers, blogs/websites, newsletters and magazines.

Unique publications included a tourist oriented blog for Vietnam, a bookkeeping periodical and a newsletter for the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Employment in retirement

Seventeen percent of respondents worked in a paid position at a business or organization outside of UC. Another 15 percent were self-employed. The vast majority of these retirees worked part-time. The most frequently mentioned jobs were managing, consulting, providing financial services, teaching, mentoring, writing and researching.

Some unique work examples included kayak instructor, relief pharmacist, designing greeting cards and acting in commercials and films.

Twelve percent returned to a paid UC position during the three years covered by the survey. Most worked in part-time, limited-term jobs.

Life beyond service

Although the survey highlights retirees’ commitment to serving others, they also took time to enjoy life’s pleasures. Many reported continued intellectual pursuits, including auditing university classes, attending conferences or learning a new language. Two returned to college — one earned a Ph.D. and the other was attending medical school.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents nurtured creative interests, such as crafts (pottery, sewing, jewelry, quilting, knitting, woodworking), writing and the arts. Some unique activities included judging photo exhibits, performing historical re-enactments, learning Chinese calligraphy and making quilts for wounded military coming home. One retiree took up the clarinet after a 50-year hiatus.

Thirty-nine percent provided care for others — most often a parent, child or grandchild or spouse/partner. While some said caregiving was welcome and positive, most reported struggling with overwhelming financial, emotional and physical demands. The survey report noted that several UC retirement centers have begun offering services such as support groups, workshops and resource referrals for caregivers.

“This comprehensive survey of UC retirees is a landmark achievement,” said Marianne Schnaubelt, chair of CUCRA. “Most of all, I am proud of my retiree colleagues. The amazing amount of volunteerism and other activities in which they engage indicate they truly are advocates, ambassadors and assets for the University of California.”

The full survey/report is available on the CUCRA website: cucra.ucsd.edu