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Inside Life's Transitions - Ken Macfarlane

By David Langdon

When Ken Macfarlane retired 20 years ago, he was CEO of The Scottish Motor Trade Association and Secretary to the Joint Council for wages and conditions in the UK Retail Auto Industry. Returning from London to Scotland, he directed his skills in negotiation, arbitration and public speaking to develop programs to help long-term employees with transition into retirement. "I was amazed at how unprepared people who had worked 30 years for a company were for their retirement." With the help of Edinburgh University he developed and delivered three day workshops designed to expose career employees to the wide variety of retirement choices. It's no wonder Ken is a perfect fit as guide for the Paths program and chairman of the Life Transitions Committee at OLLI at UNC Asheville.

Ken's education was disrupted for family reasons. He left school at age 15 to work on his father's farm but quickly decided that farm life was not what he wanted. Over the next three years he tried out over a dozen jobs. "They were so easy to come by in those days," Ken quipped. Eventually, he settled at Uniroyal, the tire company. With their support he completed college earning a diploma in management studies and receiving a Gold Medal, the highest Scottish scholastic award for his finals project: implementing a management program that saved Uniroyal over $30,000 annually.

His work philosophy is "work to play." He explains "My approach was twofold: First, find a niche project and the most efficient way to complete it. Second, make friends with the most powerful employees in the company, often the janitor in charge of a building or the CEO's secretary with access to all sorts of information." Ken believes these are great resources to get through the red tape in order to play earlier.

Travel to Asheville and OLLI began after Ken met and married his wife Linda. They met during a workshop in Scotland and began their journey by moving to property Linda owned in Todos Santos on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. They built a home and stayed several years, but Ken was never comfortable with the culture. Over the years they made several trips to visit Linda's children in Pennsylvania and Alabama. During one of those trips they passed through Asheville considering it as a new retirement location. They made the move because they loved the city. After four months as residents, they met a neighbor familiar with the Life Transitions workshops at OLLI, who introduced Ken to the program.

Ken found his niche at OLLI, by getting involved on the Life Transitions Program and eventually becoming its chairman. During his time as chair, the Paths and Creative Retirement Exploration Weekend(CREW) programs have grown and improved. Both programs are unique in the country as facilitator-led, self discovery workshops that guide people into successful retirement. Ken's hope is the Life Transitions programs will continue to grow by engaging committee members to address other retirement issues in new workshops like Exploring Continuing Care Retirement Communities and The Gift of Time.

Macfarlane's "work to play" attitude also applies to the many sports where he excels, including skiing and table tennis (he played for Scotland). Currently he spends many weekends competing in US tournaments and has worked his way up the national rankings for his age group. Also an avid windsurfer, Ken recently enjoyed the waves in Aruba. Both he and Linda are starting to work through their bucket list of travel destinations, always with an eye on the OLLI schedules.

Contact Information

Reuter Center CPO #5000
One University Heights
Asheville, NC 28804-8511
Office: 828.251.6140
Email:  olli@unca.edu