Thursday, November 29, 2012
Retirement: A Life Process
The two individuals interviewed for this paper, David and Katy, have several factors in common, but perhaps the two most salient are their high socioeconomic status and their good health. Clearly, these factors and a few others, including companionship and the ability to access resources, have a decided impact on quality of life throughout retirement (Bowling, 2007; Lowis, Edwards, & Burton, 2009; Reitzes & Mutran, 2004; Santrock, 2008). This paper will discuss the findings from two interviews with retirees and provide an explanation of sociocultural factors that affect retirement. Finally, it will identify and explicate factors that contribute to adjustment in retirement.
Retirement Lifestyle: A Brief Synopsis
Financial and Psychological Preparation
Both of my interviewees retired at a relatively young age. Katy developed and then sold a successful business, and David retired after several years of successful business ventures. Both are healthy, although David had a five-year bout with prostate cancer several years ago, which was a motivating factor in his decision to retire early. Both prepared financially for retirement, although in different ways: David saved money from each transaction, and Katy invested in franchising her business, knowing it would provide financial reward at a later time. Neither of the interviewees prepared psychologically for retirement, although both looked forward to being relieved of work-related responsibilities. David reported that contending with a cancer diagnosis makes retirement seem somewhat inconsequential, although thoroughly enjoyable. I was not aware of any differences attributable to gender, except that Katy seems to have a stronger sense of autonomy, which seems more typical in strong women than in their male counterparts, however, this could be solely an aspect of personality rather than gender.
Social Activities and Participation
Both interviewees remain active. David and his wife spend ten months out of the year on their boat. For them, this is a fulfillment of a dream they shared for many years. During the other two months and while sailing, they have many close friends with whom they visit and share a deep sense of camaraderie. They have few ordinary responsibilities, but are deeply committed to each other and the welfare of their friends. Katy is a single woman with grown children, with whom she maintains close relationships. She has become somewhat of a local philanthropist, providing financial support for various local causes, she volunteers to help older adults, and travels. She has a strong spiritual beliefs and actively engages in life experiences.
Thoughts and Feelings About Retirement
Katy and David believe their retirement is a stage of life in which they continue to evolve and grow. They acknowledge that in many ways, life has not changed too much; they continue to have challenges, face their own shortcomings, and contend with the more pedestrian issues that people face on a daily basis. David claims he will stop sailing at some point, and he and his wife have started to talk about how they intend to give something back to humanity. They are thankful for their abundance, and have a growing personal need to help others. Katy, on the other hand, is fully engaged in the process of giving to others. This, more than any other aspect of retirement, gives her direction, spirit, happiness, wisdom, and a sense of deep fulfillment.
Individual and Sociocultural Factors
Several factors exist that seem to affect deeply the character of retirement: health, individual perspective, finances, and companionship. Furthermore, I would be remiss if I did not mention that both individuals are White, and have, perhaps, directly or indirectly availed themselves to the benefits of being part of the majority culture. Both interviewees are healthy, have positive outlooks for the future, above average financial savings, and loving families, all of which help individuals fare better in retirement (Reitzes & Mutran, 2004). Santrock (2008) claimed women who have spouses or partners seem to adjust to retirement more easily. Katy, long divorced, seems more vital than David, and is obviously not represented by that claim.
Retirement is multidimensional, and similar to aging, is most accurately expressed as a process mediated by physical and psychological health, cognitive functioning, access to resources, social and family support systems, and general attitude toward life (Bowling, 2007). Furthermore, maintaining a sense of control has powerful implications in general life quality, as does having an overall faith in life and humanity (Lowis, Edwards, & Burton, 2009; Reitzes & Mutran, 2004). Health in retirement is perhaps the single most significant predictive factor of an individual's ability to cope with life's challenges (Lowis, et al., 2009). The retirees interviewed for this paper were extremely healthy, and one of them valued health more than the average person by virtue of his experience with a life-threatening illness.
In some ways, my interviewees have failed retirement in the traditional sense (Yoder-Wise, 2011). David talks about perhaps engaging in a few more ventures that will allow he and his wife to fully finance their dream of creating a scholarship fund for families who cannot afford to pay for their children's college educations. Katy, for all intents and purposes, continues to work full-time, although not for monetary gain. The success of retirement depends upon a multitude of physical, psychological, and circumstantial factors. It is evident, however, that having access to resources and financial security provides extraordinary experiences that can contribute to the successful navigation of retirement.
Bowling, A, (2007). Aspirations for older age in the 21st century: What is successful aging? International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 64(3), 263–297.
Lowis, M. J., Edwards, A. C., & Burton, M. (2009). Coping with retirement: Wellbeing, health and religion. Journal of Psychology, 143(4), 427–448.
Reitzes, D. C., & Mutran, E. J. (2004). The transition to retirement: stages and factors that influence retirement adjustment. International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 59(1), 63–84.
Santrock, J. W. (2008). A topical approach to life-span development (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Yoder-Wise, P. S. (2011). Failing retirement: The baby boomers' next best thing. Journal Of Continuing Education In Nursing, 42(5), 194. doi: 10.3928/00220124-20110421-01