The transitions of old age include many changes in appearance, hormonal changes such as the menopause, changes in family structures such as children leaving home, and changes in work patterns such as retirement. The study of such transitions has grown rapidly in recent years. In the 1970s there were 203 peer-reviewed articles containing the keyword retirement, according to PsycINFO. By the 2000s this had risen to 1,804 (Shultz & Wang, 2011).\ud Conceptualising retirement, Ekerdt noted, “The designation of retirement status is famously ambiguous because there are multiple overlapping criteria by which someone might be called retired, including career cessation, reduced work effort, pension receipt, or self-report” (p. 70) (Ekerdt, 2010). This study measures retirement via self-report. Although Australians no longer face a compulsory retirement age, at which they are no longer considered useful to the workforce, retirement is still an important transition for individuals, their families, and for the wider society.\ud Based on estimates from the 2006 census and the 2007 Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation - the most recent for which such data are available - an estimated 7.7 million Australians were aged 45 years or over. Of these, 3.1 million people were retired (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009). As is evident, the likelihood of being retired increases with age. In 2007, there were more retired women (1.8 million) than retired men (1.3 million). The average age at retirement for women is 47, compared with 58 for men. For all age groups over 45 years, more men than women intend never to retire (16.7% and 11.9% respectively) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009).\ud Of those retirees who had worked in the last 20 years, the most common main reason for retiring is the retiree's health. This is a more common reason for retired men (38%) than retired women (25%). Other common reasons for retirement for men include financial reasons (20%) and being retrenched or made redundant (10%). While financial considerations are more likely to influence men, women are more likely to make their decision based on family considerations. Common reasons for women to retire include caring responsibilities (15%) and to spend more time with their family or partner (13%) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009).\ud It is relatively easy to find advice about financial preparation for retirement, compared to successfully navigating the cognitive, emotional, or social aspects of the transition. What does retirement mean to those approaching it? Stokes found that it means the end of work and the loss of identity in response to a society that has a negative perception of old age (Stokes, 1992). This is consistent with the disengagement theory of aging in which aging is seen as a process of disengagement from other people (Cumming et al, 1961). On the other hand, the street protests seen in France in October 2010, in response to the French government’s proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, could be interpreted as some people looking forward to retirement as a release from the burden of employment.\ud In a study examining retirement experiences, three main groups of people who could be delineated on the basis of their experience were identified (Kloep & Hendry, 2006).
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- Ekerdt, D. J. (2010). Frontiers of research on work and retirement. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 65B: 69- 80. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbp109
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009). Employment arrangements, retirement and superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (Reissue) (ABS catalogue number 6361.0). Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6361.0
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