A Literature Review Regarding Men in Retirement


A literature review of factors that may be predictors of whether a person is likely to succeed in retirement. A successful retirement would be defined as a person who is well adjusted and has lived for no less than ten years after leaving paid employment, enjoys reasonable health, is well adjusted mentally and physically and engaged in activities of daily life.

Factors that could be predictors might include financial security, family history, religious beliefs, culture, attitude to life, age at retirement and relational support. The research indicates a need for a long-term study of this important subject given the possibilities of intervention at either a pre-retirement or post retirement phase of development.


A study in 2000 by Gall and Evans found that changes in physical health, psychological distress, expected income and pre-retirement income were not predictors of long-term quality of life when studying a group 6 to 7 years after retirement. An earlier study by Gall, Evans and Howard (1997) postulated that a person with good health, enough financial resources and a strong social support network would fare better than those experiencing a deficiency in any one of these areas. (see also Palmore, Nowlin and Wong 1985). Despite these hypotheses Australian statistics indicate a rising rate of suicide for males over 70 years of age (ABS 2008).

Possible Factors


In 2005 a survey of 24 people over 100 years of age identified three common themes for this cohort. These were lower stress levels, a sense of purpose in life and resilience in the face of adversity (Kralik, Koch and Power, 2005). Tournier (1971) reported evidence of retired patients being bored because they do not know what to do with their retirement. Purcell (1982) contended that for all stages of life having a “purpose is to the soul, like oxygen to the lungs; an essential ingredient in existence” (Purcell 1982, p28). Sanders (1981) has also suggested that retirement is an opportunity for the soul to engage in service to others and as physical limitations emerge to discover more and more activities for the mind. He emphasises the shift from doing to being and refers to the scriptures illustrating how the Christian life is possibly one of graceful ageing.


Success in retirement is not necessarily defined by level of activity. Fry (1992) suggests psychological needs of people entering old age does not change in the process but most ageing individuals continue to want an active lifestyle. This may mean replacing work with other stimulating pursuits such as hobbies, volunteer work or part time employment. (Havinghurst, Neugarten and Tobin 1968). An energetic and outgoing person could enjoy being active while other adults may find satisfaction in maintaining a few highly important roles, relationships or personally meaningful projects while withdrawing from others and still find their life as meaningful. (Baltes and Cartensen, 2003)

Self esteem

Development theories by Erikson (1982) maintain the major task for later years is dealing with ego integrity versus despair. The older person must maintain the wholeness, the adequacy and meaning of self in the face of stress and loss that can readily bring about despair. Research in 1970 in the USA (Kaplan and Pokorny, 1970) indicated that where disruptive forces exist in someone’s life, where an anticipated standard of living was not realized or where strong fears exist about being isolated or being alone the older person is more vulnerable and less likely to increase their self-esteem in old age. (Kalish, 1975).

Marital status

For women there is a five times greater incidence of the person giving up their work to care for a disabled partner than there would be for a man in similar circumstances (Dentinger and Clarkberg, 2002). Similarly, the type of work of the husband, the division of labour in the home, the social support and pre-retirement factors affect marital quality after retirement (Myers and Booth 1996). When women with an egalitarian ideology retire they tend to invest more time in routine tasks which is not so for men of a similar ideology. Research suggests transitioning to retirement is not a significant event that changes the division of labour in household tasks (Solomon, Acock and Walker, 2004).


Research suggests that a person who is better educated, has enough financial resources and has the capacity to access suitable resources is more likely to be better adjusted as they progress into retirement (Kalish, 1975) (739) While most individuals experience retirement as a positive life transition 32% found the process difficult or somewhat difficult. (Braithwaite, Gibson, and Bosly Crafts, 1986). These retirees complained about financial difficulties, missing friends from work, being bored or having difficulty in adjusting to change. 16% saw nothing good about retirement.

Ekerdt and Bosse (1982) suggested that retirees who expect health problems or other factors may be less anxious if educated on the benign or positive impacts of retirement. In addition to education, cognitive therapeutic techniques would aid those retirees who consistently anticipate the negative while overlooking the positive aspects of the situation.

Post retirement programmes may also be helpful for those people experiencing ongoing or new and unexpected difficulties. (Keating and Marshall, 1980). Ekerdt (1985) and his colleagues found that in the first few months post retirement most people were highly satisfied with life and optimistic about the future. Men who were then retired from 13 to 18 months were found to be somewhat disenchanted and then later still seemed to regain a sense of relative satisfaction. It may be that retirees have different concerns such as their everyday activities, social relationships or the use of time rather than concerns about finances or health (Glass and Grant, 1983).


Although gerontologists advocate the use of longitudinal research very little has been done and with limited duration to determine meaningful trends. Furthermore, there is a lack of comparable studies on factors that influence the quality of life for women in later retirement given the demographic changes in participation rates of women in work. (ABS 2008). Many predictors may be suggested based on this preliminary literature review. These include faith experience, attitude to ageing, education, self-esteem, personal expectations,