4 minute read

Transition Retirement

What Should Retirement Be?

The retirement stage that workers anticipate, enter, and occupy is widely available only because of larger political and economic arrangements that created pension supports for retirement. These supports developed across the twentieth century in order to manage the size and composition of the labor force. As a creation of institutional policy, the evolving practice of retirement continues to be a policy focus for the future.

After a decades-long trend toward earlier exits—now halted—powerful interests are pulling the timing of retirement in more than one direction as the twenty-first century begins. Concerned about population aging and the solvency of public pension schemes, the nations of the industrialized West have begun to favor policies that extend work life. For example, the U.S. Social Security program is gradually raising its eligibility age for full benefits from sixty-five to sixty-seven. At the same time, advertisers are strenuously pushing a positive image of retirement to middle-aged and older adults who are a prime market for financial, health, and recreational products. Such promotions raise expectations for a life stage promising release, self-development, and active lifestyles. Finally, employers want flexibility above all in the management of personnel flow. Prevailing conditions in different industries and occupations will shape demand for older workers, and with it the shifting of incentives to remain, retire, or work part-time.

Some have argued that the time has come to rethink retirement, what with increased longevity, health, and wealth among the new cohorts of retirees, as well as pointed political challenges to their age entitlements. A ‘‘third age’’ devoted primarily to leisure washes meaning from people’s later years and wastes human resources that could be applied to pressing social problems. New organizational forms could channel the energies and talents of elders toward civic contributions and build a legacy for their communities.

The retirement stage will continue to serve both social and personal purposes. Organizational, societal, and economic objectives will further fashion the arrangements that make retirement feasible, even as individuals use the opportunity to seek security and novelty, self and service.



ATCHLEY, R. C. ‘‘Critical Perspectives on Retirement.’’ In Voices and Visions of Aging: Toward a Critical Gerontology. Edited by Thomas R. Cole, W. Andrew Achenbaum, Patricia L. Jakobi, and Robert Kasterbaum. New York: Springer, 1993. Pages 3–19.

BLAIKIE, A. Ageing and Popular Culture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

BOSSÉ, R.; SPIRO, A.; and KRESSIN, N. R. ‘‘The Psychology of Retirement.’’ In Handbook of the Clinical Psychology of Ageing. Edited by R. T. Woods. Chichester, U.K.: John Wiley, 1996. Pages 141–157.

EKERDT, D. J. ‘‘The Busy Ethic: Moral Continuity Between Work and Retirement.’’ The Gerontologist 26 (1986): 239–244.

EKERDT, D. J.; KOSLOSKI, K.; and DEVINEY, S. ‘‘The Normative Anticipation of Retirement Among Older Workers.’’ Research on Aging 22 (2000): 3–22.

FREEDMAN, M. Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America. New York: PublicAffairs, 1999.

GRUBER, J., and WISE, D. A. Social Security and Retirement Around the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

HABER, C., and GRATTON, B. Old Age and the Search for Security: An American Social History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

HANSSON, R. O.; DEKOEKKOEK, P. D.; NEECE, W. M.; and PATTERSON, D. W. ‘‘Successful Aging at Work: Annual Review, 1992–1996. The Older Worker and Transitions to Retirement.’’ Journal of Vocational Behavior 51 (1997): 202–233.

JUSTER, F. T., and SUZMAN, R. ‘‘An Overview of the Health and Retirement Study.’’ Journal of Human Resources 30, supp. (1995): S7–S56.

KARP, D. A. ‘‘The Social Construction of Retirement Among Professionals 50–60 Years Old.’’ The Gerontologist 36 (1989): 750–760.

KOHLI, M. ‘‘Social Organization and Subjective Construction of the Life Course.’’ In Human Development and the Life Course: Multidisciplinary Perspective. Edited by Aage B. So/rensen, Franz E. Weinert, and Lonnie R. Sherrod, Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1986. Pages 271–292.

MONK, A., ed. The Columbia Retirement Handbook. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

MUTCHLER, J. E.; BURR, J. A.; PIENTA, A. M.; and MASSAGLI, M. P. ‘‘Pathways to Labor Force Exit: Work Transitions and Work Instability.’’ Journal of Gerontology: Social Science 52B (1997): S4–S12.

PARNES, H. S., and SOMMERS, D. G. ‘‘Shunning Retirement: Work Experience of Men in Their Seventies and Early Eighties.’’ Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences 49 (1994): S117–S124.

QUADAGNO, J., and HARDY, M. ‘‘Work and Retirement.’’ In Handbook of Aging and the Social Sciences, 4th ed. Edited by Robert H. Binstock and Linda K. George. San Diego: Academic Press, 1996. Pages 326–345.

QUINN, J. F., and BURKHAUSER, R. V. ‘‘Retirement and the Labor Force Behavior of the Elderly.’’ In Demography of Aging. Edited by Linda G. Martin and Samuel H. Preston, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1994. Pages 50–101.

SAVISHINSKY, J. The Broken Watch: Retirement and Meaning in America. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2000.

SCHULZ, J. H. The Economics of Aging, 7th ed. Westport, Conn.: Auburn House, 2001.

SZINOVACZ, M., and EKERDT, D. J. ‘‘Families and Retirement.’’ In Handbook of Aging and the Family. Edited by Rosemary Blieszner and Victoria H. Bedford. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995. Pages 375–400.

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment and Earnings 45, no. 1 (January 2000): Table 3.

VINICK, B. H., and EKERDT, D. J. ‘‘The Transition to Retirement: Responses of Husbands and Wives.’’ In Growing Old in America, 4th ed. Edited by Beth B. Hess and Elizabeth W Markson. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1991. Pages 305–317.

WEISS, R. S. ‘‘Processes of Retirement.’’ In Meanings of Work: Considerations for the Twenty-first Century. Edited by Fred C. Gamst. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995. Pages 233–250.

WISE, D. A. ‘‘Retirement Against the Demographic Trend: More Older People Living Longer, Working Less, and Saving Less.’’ Demography 34 (1997): 83–95.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 4Transition Retirement - The Modern Norm Of Retirement, Anticipation And Preparation, Passage To Retirement, Adaptation, What Should Retirement Be?