Easing into my retirement

Rather than a sudden separation, Dr John Warner has eased into retirement with a number of activities that have helped him build an alternative and rewarding life.
John Warner
Dr John Warner

My retirement, which is yet to be total, has been a gradual and continuing process that commenced 12 years ago. I was lucky enough to be asked by Imperial College and St Mary’s Hospital to continue in my post after reaching 65 years of age. However, I was required to take one month at home before being re-employed on a temporary contract. The month gave me a flavour of full retirement. Much to my family’s objections, I built a chicken coop and run and I bought several chickens! Their assimilation into the family was not without its stressful - but also amusing - moments.

Once back in post, my task was to plan succession and I was lucky to have Andy Bush as the approved internal candidate. I had been his 'boss' for several years and he had followed me as consultant in the Brompton hospital after I moved to a professorial post in Southampton in 1990 and subsequently returned to Imperial in 2006.

Over a period of five years I slowly reduced my sessional commitment to the post until Andy became my 'boss', much to his pleasure and my amusement. My official retirement from NHS clinical and Imperial College academic responsibility was in 2015. However, with Emeritus status in Imperial and an honorary post in University of Cape Town, I have had the opportunity to continue involvement with research and postgraduate training. It is an enormous pleasure to observe previous students and trainees blossoming in their careers.

Easing into a change of life rather than a sudden separation from full-time working has hitherto delayed significant deterioration in physical or mental health

To maintain registration for clinical practice, I was required by the GMC (General Medical Council) to undergo revalidation in 2017 which, outside an NHS post, involves taking a general paediatric multiple-choice examination. It was an eye opener as I acquainted myself with the latest insights into the many disciplines beyond allergy, immunology and respiratory medicine. After admittedly limited soul searching, I have decided not to repeat the exercise in 2023! However, easing into a change of life rather than a sudden separation from full-time working has hitherto delayed significant deterioration in physical or mental health and facilitated the building of an alternative active life.  

Assessing a young filly
John assesses a young horse

My abiding interests are socialising with friends and cricket, though joining the barmy army on England overseas tours requires tolerance which has appeared to diminish with age! Following in my wife’s footsteps, equine pursuits have become a major focus. We have become swallows, spending the UK winter in South Africa; horse-riding in the Drakenstein mountains is a great joy, while attempting to play polo is a little more hazardous. As I no longer bounce without injury and two fractures later, I have decided to become a spectator rather than competitive player.

We have several successful race-horses in South Africa, but as young thoroughbred horses are prone to allergy and airway inflammation we have commenced a research project on a racing stud investigating markers of health in newborn foals. While the racing industry is obsessed with finding the ultimate successful racing gene (highly improbable) we are focusing on environmental influences. Watch this space for equine DOHAD publications from Warner and Warner! 

If anything, my enthusiasm for life and facing its challenges has increased while I have been slowly relinquishing my former roles. We all have much to offer and life to enjoy after reaching 65 years, and a gradual process of change has much to recommend it.

I would like to finish with a quote from Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614), a self-educated classical scholar and philologist. There is a monument to him in Westminster Abbey.

In research the horizon recedes as we advance and is no nearer at sixty than it was at twenty. As the power of endurance weakens with age, the urgency of the pursuit grows more intense... And research is always incomplete.

You can read other members' experiences of retirement from clinical paediatrics and see resources on our Thinking about retirement pages