The age at which participants retired varied greatly. Several people retired in their mid to late 50s while some kept working well into their 80s. People valued work as a way of keeping them connected but they also looked forward to having freedom to pursue their interests. For this reason it was common to have a transition period between full-time work and complete retirement.

Several people we spoke with found retirement to be a positive experience. They talked about it being a relief, liberating and giving them more time to do things and get involved. This was particularly true if they found their job constraining or uninteresting. Earl retired at the age of 56 and enjoyed the time because he planned ahead.

Earl saw his father bored and depressed after retirement and was determined to be more involved in life.

Janet is able to get more involved in her interests and is enjoying her retirement.

People who were forced into retirement, because of redundancy or for health reasons, were more likely to find it a negative experience. They talked about grieving, changed routines and friendships, rearranging their lives and coming to terms with growing older. Several women felt they retired too early and that it was not their own decision. A sudden retirement combined with their own or their partner’s health problems meant people were more likely to feel depressed or unable to participate.

Kaye gave up work after her husband lost his job. For financial reasons she feels the decision to retire was made for her.

After having a stroke, Lyn retired years before she had planned to and she missed working life.

Denis describes how hard it is for people to find employment after the age of 50. He believes retirement should be a choice and that older people have an important contribution to make.

After retirement people reflected on how much they missed the social interaction with their clients and colleagues. Teachers and other people who worked with children all mentioned how much they missed them.

After retiring Val continued to collaborate on writing papers, but found she missed being with her colleagues.

Leonie found her career wound down gradually. She wanted to continue to practice as a health professional in order to remain connected to her colleagues and her clients.

Gil was surprised at how quickly everyone moved on after he retired from teaching at his school for 35 years.

For many, but not all, men and women, their identity as a person was closely linked with their work and they found it difficult to let go of their career. Olga, for example, is still working full-time at the age of 88 and feels that a volunteer role will not give her the same level of satisfaction.

Olga wants to continue to work because she gets so much satisfaction from her job.

While Marjorie feels that her sense of self was not tied to her work, she was worried about losing structure and purpose when she retired.

Robyn talks about the factors that need to be considered when retiring – losing career identity and influence, no longer interacting with colleagues, and what to do with newfound freedom.

Because work was so important to a person’s identity and social connection many people found it beneficial to have a transition to retirement. This transition from full-time work often involved working shorter days to avoid peak hour, working part-time, volunteering, or doing ad hoc consultancies (see Volunteering). This transition period meant people were still working, but on their own terms, and they often ended up doing different but quite interesting jobs based on their career skills.

Robin retired when his wife Lyn had a stroke, but he continued to work part-time. In his current tutoring role he likes not working to deadlines and there is no pressure.

Des plans to slow down rather than retire because he has a perception that retirement means the end.

Gypsy was happy when, in his late 50s, he resigned from his job in a government department. His experience was typical in that a series of consultancies followed which meant his retirement was gradual.
Like Gypsy, several participants found retirement liberating. It gave them a sense of freedom. It was an opportunity to spend time doing things they enjoyed and travel featured highly on people’s to-do list. Retirement was also an opportune time for pursuing interests and hobbies that people never had time for during their years of working.

Colleen says many farmers do not want to retire and become inactive. She believes Men’s Sheds have been a great asset for retired men living on the land.

Fred did not have any hobbies during his working life. Relocating to Australia at the age of 72 made the transition to retirement much easier because he was experiencing new things.