When I was working
In Elephant and Castle as elsewhere, people’s lives are defined by the work that they do. A new job is a life-changing event - and the end of a working life all the more so. These portraits are from a project documenting older residents’ memories of working and not working: the changes in their workplaces and careers over 30 or 40 years, and the changes that happened in their own lives when they retired. The participants, who I met at two day centres for older people in Elephant and Castle, told me about their working lives, starting from the first job they held after school, their transition from work to retirement, and what ‘working’ means to them now. In many cases, the way these jobs are carried out has changed quite radically. However, the jobs themselves – such as postman, housekeeper, factory worker - are still typical of the working-class area of Elephant and Castle. None were particularly well paid, but the people I spoke to gained more than money in the workplace: they found self-respect, a role within society, friendships and mental stimulation. For the participants, retirement has involved searching for ways to replace these attendant benefits, at the same time as marshalling the limited resources of a meager pension.