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Retirement Not An Option for Many Older Adults

Quality of life after retirement is significantly tied to one’s level of education and skills acquired during the working years, according to a new study at the University of Birmingham in the U.K.

The researchers interviewed around 50 retired adults who came from a variety of professions and educational backgrounds and found that the experience of retirement differed greatly according to profession, gender, class, and education.

The study sorted participants into six groups of workers: Professionals, delayed professionals, those who had disjointed careers, mid-career transformation, administrative careers, and semi-skilled careers.

Experiences of retirement differed greatly among those in each group. For example, it was found the professionals were more likely to continue working in a part-time capacity (though not for financial gain), while those who had disjointed careers were more likely to continue to work in some capacity, such as in self- employment, because retirement was not an option for them.

Meanwhile, those who had administrative careers retired from paid employment but were more likely to stay active in family-oriented or volunteer roles.

The findings show the importance of external factors throughout working life, such as employment, family caring history, access to resources, particularly material and financial resources, social networks and cultural capital (including education), and physical and mental health in younger and middle ages.

While men and women with similar career histories shared similar retirement expectations and experiences, this association was mediated by factors such as gender and class, as well as access to resources.

“All of these factors are interlinked, so financial resources can give individuals greater access to social and cultural resources and help maintain physical health,” said researcher Professor Joanne Duberley.

“While education shapes careers and helps people to amass financial capital. As such these interlinkages can mean that inequalities in the initial distribution of resources are reinforced, facilitating those in a privileged position and constrain those who are disadvantaged.”

The study also identified a variety of differing perspectives and feelings about retirement within each group. For example, participants who had long professional careers were more likely to be optimistic and contented in retirement.

“One retiree who had had a professional career used their retirement to set up a cheese making business, something they could afford to do and had the time to do only in their retirement. They saw retirement as an opportunity,” said Duberley.

“In contrast, those who did not embark on professional careers until later in their lives, due to factors such as their earlier caring responsibilities, were more ambivalent about retirement, fearing the loss of work-related identities and financial insecurity.”

Those who followed disjointed career paths with periods in and out of work and in different types of employment, including self-employment, could also face financial instability in retirement.

Women who had worked in administrative jobs, but had also been very involved in family duties, reported feeling more optimism about retirement because it meant more time with family and friends. In contrast, men who had followed semi-skilled careers were more worried about identity loss and inactivity in retirement.

Another important finding was that of having access to financial resources at all stages of one’s life. Participants who had access to significant financial resources early on in their lives were more likely to enjoy successful careers — accumulating more financial resources and having excellent financial security in later life — opening up options for positive retirement experiences.

Source: University of Birmingham

Retirement Not An Option for Many Older Adults

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Retirement Not An Option for Many Older Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 29 Jan 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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