Many people struggle to find meaning in their later years, without the discipline of a job or a close family. That was never a problem for Roy.
“Instead of putting on slippers, I put on rollerblades,” he says.
Few of us would try rollerblading at the age of 78, and certainly the young woman teaching children to skate was aghast when Roy asked to learn. “She said, you’ll never be able to stand up at your age,” he remembers. “That was like a red rag to a bull!”
It took a few months, but Roy learned to skate reasonably well.
“I decided to organise ‘skateathons’ along Eastbourne seafront, and I raised thousands of pounds for children’s charities in memory of my daughter Deborah, who died from cancer when only a year old,” he says. “I became known as ‘Roller Roy’ – possibly the oldest ukulele-playing roller skater in the world with a parrot on my shoulder.”
Roy’s journey to retirement
But rollerblading wasn’t his first retirement project. Though he had worked as an independent financial adviser, he never thought of retiring himself, and was devastated when his wife died.
“I was 65 but I couldn’t get myself together, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. So I stopped working, but a couple of years later applied for a job as a checkout worker at Waitrose,” he says. “I didn’t think I’d stand a chance, but I got the job and spent 10 happy years as a Partner.”
Roy took his job seriously, and was determined to be the best-ever Partner. “In my opinion, I was!” he says. “For a part-time old man I did really well; I received really positive feedback from customers on our comment cards – one said, ‘Roy is simply magic.’ I was really proud of that.”
He turned his checkout experiences first into verse, earning himself the nickname ‘The Poetic Partner’, and then into a book. “It really put me right on my feet,” he says.
Raising thousands for charity
Roy has certainly made his later life count. All his fundraising efforts have added up to thousands of pounds, but he’s not finished yet. “During lockdown I wrote six new poems, read 14 books, lost a stone in weight, walked 1,000 miles and raised £2,000 for Dementia UK,” he says.
“I might be 84 but I’ve no plans to stop doing anything,” he says.
Watch Roller Roy take to his skates in this video, and hear him talk about how rollerblading and fundraising have given him a feeling of fulfilment.