“When you watch TV all day your life slips away from you”

Retirement can be a complicated moment for many people, especially those who have no hobbies to turn to. Spending a lot more time at home than one was used to or no longer feeling useful are common situations that can lead to personal or family problems.  “When you turn 45, companies should remind you that you will retire some day and that you should look for hobbies to fill up your time,” says Francisco Sola, who worked as a Commercial Deputy Director for important Repsol customers until his retirement.

Francisco realized what path he would follow when he attended one of the talks organized by Fundación Repsol. “They told us it would be good for us to take on a cultural activity, in addition to reading or watching television. They suggested we study and learn new things, telling us this would add eight years to our lives. That phrase stuck with me. When you sit with the remote in your hand all day, life just slips away from you.”

At one of the talks offered by Fundación Repsol, they told us it would be good for us to take on a cultural activity. They suggested we study something new, telling us this would add eight years to our lives. That phrase stuck with me.” – Francisco Sola, cultural volunteer

Francisco has been volunteer guide for the Anthropological Museum for five years

Francisco wanted to claim those eight years of life they promised him during the talk and ended up joining the Repsol volunteering program and taking part in the Senior Energy initiative, which allows employees over 55 and retirees to become volunteer guides at different museums in Spain.

On completing his training as guide, Francisco had to choose a museum and, after a life devoted to numbers, he finally settled on the National Museum of Anthropology. He began frequenting the museum and learning from each visitor every day: “Six months later, I felt ready to be a guide, and I’ve been at it for five years now,” he recalls. Since then, he has continued to learn new things, thanks to the books available at the museum. “It’s very nice to continue studying anthropology,” he says with a smile. Curiously, the museum’s slogan is “Nosce Te Ipsum,” which means “Know thyself.”

An unquenchable thirst for knowledge

For these guided tours, participants are trained in a number of areas, such as speaking in public and conducting basic guide activities. They are also given specialized knowledge related to the museum they choose. “You have to awaken people’s interest in what they see, so that they’ll visit a museum and go home wanting to look on their computers for more information about what they saw. Getting people interested is key,” says Antonio, another volunteer guide at Madrid’s National Museum of Anthropology who worked for a multinational company in the health sector.

According to Belén Soguero, who’s responsible for coordinating volunteers at this museum, those who sign up for the program obtain two clear benefits: “It is an experience that breaks with their day-to-day routine and allows them to remain active,” Belén explains, and they also provide “a crucial service we wouldn’t be able to offer without them and that gives them the personal satisfaction of doing it selflessly.” This is an opinion shared by Francisco. “I consider myself a fortunate person in terms of my studies and the company I worked for. I felt it was time to give some of that back.”

Guided tours offered by volunteers are a crucial service we wouldn’t be able to offer without them.” – Belén Soguero, volunteer coordinator at the National Museum of Anthropology

Generally, visitors are deeply grateful for these tours. “It’s been a very comfortable and friendly experience, an informal relationship, because we’re more or less the same age. I think it’s stupendous to have people remain active during their retirement, and for them to share the information they’ve learned with society: I feel the training was very good, and I’ve learned quite a number of things,” says Carmen García, one of the visitors who took part in Francisco’s guided tour.

Carmen, contemplating one of the showcases of the exhibition about Africa

Francisco has plenty of anecdotes to tell after five years as a guide. “While touring the Philippines exhibit, I spoke about Manila and its university and a gentleman told me he had been a professor there for 20 years. I told him that made me very happy and that, if he’d allow me to switch spots with him, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to learn more. He agreed and taught me things I didn’t know and have since incorporated into the tour. It was marvelous,” Francisco fondly recalls.

Without a doubt, Francisco has gained far more than eight years of life: for him, retirement is only the beginning of a new stage that could be full of discoveries.

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