Retirement as a Major Role in Life

Retirement As A Major Role In Later Life

Phases of Retirement

According to Robert Atchley (1999), ageism aside, seniors generally feel favorable toward retirement, regardless of age or gender. Most adults expect to retire, and to retire before age 65. Atchley and Barusch (2004) have sketched out the phases of retirement which can help you understand the changes that your senior clients go through as they adjust to this period in their lives.

Pre retirement

According to Atchley (1999), pre retirement has two phases: remote and near. In the remote phase, the individual sees retirement as far off, but as an expected part of the work cycle. However, few people see retirement as something to plan for. (The exceptions are workers whose companies offer retirement planning.) This lack of planning is important to you because many of your clients will reach retirement without a plan or with a plan that was gathered a day late and a dollar short.

During this period there are important prerequisites to retirement that individuals should be building. According to Atchley, "The most important of these is a retirement income adequate for the style of life one wants to adopt in retirement" (Atchley, 2000). In retirement the outlay is larger and the time to accumulate resources is longer than during the younger years. Atchley writes, "Most people require a supplement to whatever retirement pensions they receive in order to sustain their desired lifestyle. But in order to provide for this supplement, the individual must be aware of the need during the remote phase of pre retirement" (Atchley, 2000).

Developing leisure skills is another important prerequisite that individuals should develop during the remote stage. Developing a wide array of leisure skills is easier to accomplish in the early years than later. The same is true for developing a network within the community.

The near phaseof pre retirement begins with retirement is looming. Although many people remain positive, attitudes toward retirement usually become more negative during this phase. The public definition of this phase includes pre retirement planning programs, retirement ceremonies, on-the-job-training for a replacement, and possibly promotion into a less essential job.

Two important things can happen during this period. First, older workers may get ready for separation from their jobs and prepare for the accompanying social situation. They may notice subtle differences in how people view them. They may see their jobs as more burdensome than they did previously. Second, they may fantasize about what their retirement will be like. According to Atchley and Barush,

These fantasies may turn out to be quite accurate pictures of the future, or they may be totally unrealistic. If realistic, they can serve as a 'dry run' that smooths the transition into retirement by identifying issues that require advanced decision making. But if the fantasies are unrealistic, they thwart a smooth transition into retirement by setting up detailed but unrealistic expectations (Atchley & Barusch, 2004).

The Honeymoon Phase

The retirement event is followed by a euphoric phase in which retirees do all the things they did not have time for before.  This period may be short or last for years, depending on financial resources. According to Atchley, this phase is critical: "If the individual is able to settle into a routine that provides a satisfying life, then that routine will probably stabilize" (Atchley & Barusch, 2004). Extended travel is common during this phase.

Immediate Retirement Routine

If the retirement routine provides a satisfying life, then that routine will stabilize. People who had full off-the-job lives are often able to establish such a routine easily.

Rest & Relaxation

After retirement many people go through a period of low activity, which differs greatly from the activity in the honeymoon period. Atchley calls this period the R & R Phase. However, this low activity is usually temporary. Atchley followed a cohort of 168 people for four years. Activity levels went down after retirement but returned to pre retirement levels three years after retirement. Atchley and Barusch hypothesize that, "after a long period of having been employed, many people apparently welcome a period of taking it easy. But after sufficient rest and relaxation, and perhaps a lengthy life assessment, they become restless and at that point begin to pursue their planned retirement activities" (Atchley & Barusch, 2004). 

The Disenchantment Phase

Some people have a very hard time adjusting to retirement. After the honeymoon is over, some retirees feel a letdown. Atchley relates to this letdown to a number of factors (Atchley, 2000). People who are more likely to have difficulty: :

  • have few alternatives;
  • have little money;
  • have poor health;
  • were over-involved in their jobs;are unaccustomed to running their own lives;
  • experience other role losses in addition to retirement;
  • leave communities where they have lived for years.

The Reorientation Phase

During this phase individuals who have experienced the letdown pull themselves together and develop new avenues of involvement.

Retirement Routine

In this phase of retirement, the individual has a well-developed set of criteria for making choices, and they allow him to deal with life ina  reasonably comfortable, orderly fashion. Life during this period is a predictable and satisfying. The individual has mastered the retirement role. 

The Termination Phase

Many people die during the previous phase of retirement. Some others may develop illness or disability, which transfers them from the retirement role to a "sick and disabled role" (Atchley, 2000). Increasing dependence usually occurs gradually, so loss of the retirement role also happens gradually. Other ways of losing the retirement role are returning to work or losing finances to the point that the individual becomes dependent on someone else. 

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.