Adjusting to retirement: changing views of normality
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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An increasingly ageing population in the U.K. has generated interest in fostering healthy and active ageing, both at a societal level and from the point of view of government economic strategies for the future (Jacobzone, 2000; Welsh Assembly Government, 2007a, 2007c). Due to a rise in life-expectancy an increasing amount of time is being spent by older adults in retirement and adapting healthily to moving from working life to non-working life is crucial for successful ageing. There is evidence of two distinct retirement subgroups. The first comprises the majority of people, those who are well adjusted to life in retirement, while the second includes people who do not adjust well to this change in lifestyle (Wang, 2007). The second, though a minority group, may consist of up to thirty percent of the population (Petkoska & Earl, 2009). However, very little is known about how to positively prepare for retirement, and there are relatively few studies to date that explore individuals' perceptions of a lifestyle in retirement. Hence, there is a need to build up a body of evidence regarding the determinants of successful ageing for policy makers, for society as a whole and for the individuals themselves (Welsh Assembly Government, 2007b). As increasing recognition is accorded to the impact of retirement on the ability age healthily and successfully, it is proposed that an understanding of the changing views of normality when adapting to retirement can play an important role in contributing toward building up a robust evidence base. The aim of this project was to investigate the impact of retirement on lifestyle choices and explore the determinants of behaviour change at this time of transition in the lifespan with people living in South Wales. Utilising a mixed methods approach to investigate self-perceptions of changes, transitions and transformations into retirement; two studies ran concurrently: a survey completed by participants on two separate occasions, and an innovative series of three time-interval interviews. Inferences were made between the survey results and the cross-sectional and longitudinal findings of the interview analyses. The survey results revealed that preretirement levels of stress were reduced post-retirement, and the intention to take more exercise in the future was reported as having been achieved in the interviews. Adapting to a post-retirement lifestyle involved a shift in the perspective of normality with regard to deteriorating health, a change in the pace of life, a rethinking (in some cases reinventing) forms of social engagement and an acceptance of a changing financial status. The implications of these results are that retirement is not marked by a single date but is a process which begins pre-retirement and continues post-retirement, as suggested by Pinquart & Schindler (2007). Theories of both health and ageing support the proposition that successful ageing involves a positive view leading to a time of growth and development which can be achieved by the setting of meaningful goals. For this cohort, the transition into retirement involved the setting up, and following through, of goals for behaviour change which when implemented, resulted in a successful retirement. The participants had been recruited via preparation for retirement workshops. Access to retirement preparation courses is not consistent across the U.K. and currently there is a dearth of evidence regarding their impact on successful ageing in participants. Given the current focus on fostering healthy and active ageing determining the efficacy of participation in preparation for retirement courses would make a positive contribution to our understanding of the transition into retirement so that as many people as possible can age successfully.
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