Retirement expectations and effects : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Social Anthropology at Massey University

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Massey University
In New Zealand, as in other Western societies, retirement has become a distinct and lengthy phase of the life-cycle. Some researchers have directed attention towards this topic but at present the potential for in-depth research on people in later life is largely untapped. Such research would progress beyond the statistical facts of the percentage of the population who have retired and the resulting population dependency ratio to explore the phenomenon of retirement in different social and cultural contexts. These accounts of retirement and aging could then be used to form and test theories about the personal and social significance of retirement and could become the basis for policy development. This study explores the effects and experiences of retirement on the lifestyles of a small number of people living in Wellington. The participants were seventeen former teachers and public servants who, when interviewed, were aged from 59 to 84 years and who had been retired from a few weeks to over twenty years. This allowed investigation of the effects of retirement over time. Open-ended interview's and time diaries were the main data sources. Ten men and seven women were interviewed about their expectations of and preparation for retirement, their activities, the way they spent their time in retirement and the composition of their social networks. Some spouses were also interviewed about the changes retirement had caused to their household routines and to the marriage itself. An underlying theme is that many people experienced much continuity between their pre- and post-retirement lifestyle. Retirement gave people more opportunity to select how they used time and this aspect was greatly valued. The degree of personal freedom and independence experienced was in sharp contrast to the obligations and responsibilities people had held when working. The Introduction outlines the general frame of reference for the topic of retirement, the research approach adopted and the main concepts and definitions. The contribution which research from an anthropological perspective can make to the study of aging and later life is identified. Chapter 1 discusses the scope of the project and the research methods. In addition to open-ended semi-structured interviews, participants were asked to complete a time diary which recorded their activities over a seven day period. The diaries supplemented the data obtained in the interviews about people's activities and enabled the data to be cross-checked for consistency. Chapter 2 outlines the procedures for selecting the study participants. Only former teachers and public servants were included to limit the effects of occupational differences on retirement expectations and experiences. The ages, educational qualifications, household composition, accommodation and income of the participants are outlined. The planning and preparation people had made for retirement and their expectations of it are discussed in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 describes the range of activities participants were doing or had done in retirement. Their leisure interests, involvement with different organisations and the kinds of jobs people had taken up after retiring from permanent full-time work are outlined. Chapter 5 discusses the social networks of the participants. Contact with family, friends, neighbours and contact with former colleagues and the actual work-place are described. Chapter 6 presents the conclusions of this study and compares the findings with the results of other research. General suggestions for future research efforts are also made.
New Zealand, Retirement, Social aspects, Psychological aspects