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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Diverse Identities Before and After Retirement

    The following material is based on an excellent research article listed at the bottom of this blog entry.[i] The article focuses specifically on identites during one’s work life and during retirement. In an earlier blog entry (Who am I Now?) I stated my perception of retirement in the following way. “When I retire next year, a major part of my ego will be challenged. How well I will adjust to retirement depends on my willingness to accept major changes in my life circumstances.  Retirement needn’t be seen as a bad thing. It can provide a major shock that awakens us to the surrounding reality or we can plan carefully and experience a less tense transition. In either case it’s a major change in our lives.”
   Teuscher’s article gives me an expanded way to think about retirement. Acknowledging multiple selves helps us buffer against stress created during this major change. She also indicates “The importance of retirement status of self definition is predicted best by a positive attitude toward aging.”  This is very congruent with the research I have been investigating regarding negative and positive ageism. But her paper goes much further than that.  It suggests “…high identity diversity is correlated with a high satisfaction across different life domains.” This includes retirement. Some of the domains of self-identity she investigates are our:
ü   Nationality
ü   Family roles (parent, caregiver, grandparent etc)
ü   Occupation or former occupation
ü   Volunteer work
ü   Physical appearance
ü   Age
ü   Organizations we belong to
ü   Circle of friends
ü   Values and beliefs
ü   And for retirees: the fact that we are  retired

     So, in summary, identity diversity appears to be a good predictor of retirement satisfaction. This is specifically true for retired professional people who have positive attitudes toward aging coupled with the long lengths of time spent in their profession. People with these factors coupled and high levels of self-efficacy (I can do this!) beliefs are more likely to report higher life satisfaction.  
  In conclusion Teuscher tells us that among the people she investigated the professionals who had retired and not lost their professional identities and who have a variety of domains, some of which are listed above, have excellent buffers against stressful conditions during their retirement years.

[i] Teuscher, U. (20100   Change and persistence of personal identities after the transition to retirement.  International Journal Aging and Human Development, 70(1), 89-106

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Exploring Aging Research

        Publishing research is goal that came late in my career when I became involved in the research about ageism.  I have not been very successful in getting my work published but one of my former students Yongjie Yon published a modified form of an earlier submission and has become a major researcher regarding Senior Citizens issues for the Canadian Federal Government. I supervised his honors thesis and encouraged him to continue on. He now has a master’s degree and is an experienced researcher working for the Canadian Federal Government  as a Policy Analyst, Senior and Pensions Policy Secretariat, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC).  I was also invited to a conference in Barcelona Spain to present my research findings
         I am filling some of that need by presenting articles on my blog. While almost no one takes the opportunity to communicate back. It is very exciting to see for example that besides people from Canada there are page viewers to name a few from the USA, Philippines, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Latvia, Chile, and Singapore. (Please pardon me for those I’ve missed.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Creativity and Aging

         My Wife Elizabeth is both a very intelligent and creative person. For one thing she already has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Now, at age 61 she is in her third year in moving toward achieving a BA degree in fine arts, has a blog and has also been exploring the idea of getting a Masters Degree. Every room in our house is decorated with paintings done with oil, acrylic or watercolor. She has also created several digital art projects.
         So I thought it might be interesting to explore the relationship between aging and creativity.  The designation of creativity can be both ambiguous and confusing. Some distinguish between the exceptional creativity like Picasso, who remained painting into his 90s, and ordinary creativity that not only works in formal art projects but also manifests itself in everyday activities. For ordinary persons it is thought that artistic skill declines with age as they become more passive and unlikely to use their talent.
          One of the negative factors in understanding these views is ageism, which tends to see older persons as passive and less exciting. The opposite of that is being creative not only helps the brain stay focused it helps older artists maintain a sense of self esteem.  Creativity also contributes to successful aging by helping older persons use their sense of competence in problem solving and practical creativity that helps them to manage their ordinary lives.  In summary, artistic creativity not only helps individual artists, it helps us all.           

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Delaying Retirement

Since the mid 1980’s the number of people working past 65 has continued to grow.  In part it may be because we are living longer we feel like we have not accumulated enough money. Or it may be because we enjoy our work and feel that we are continuing to make a contribution. They are not mutually exclusive; our motivation may include both of them. However, as we age we become more vulnerable to disability and health care costs continue to rise. I soon will be having a bridge put in my teeth at a cost of $3,000. Last but not least inflation and the economic downturn are eating away at our financial assets.
         At 71 years old I will continue employment at the University until this August and even now I am gradually transferring over to my workshop presentations.
          In one research study carried out several years ago, 80 % of those 70 years old and older reported that they will continue to work. Many are self-employed and may be using their work not only for the money but also as less dramatic way to stop working all together. I believe that this would explain my own motivation to continue working.  I would like to here from some of you in similar positions.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Academic Retirement Patterns in Late Life !

         My discovery of the article referred to at the bottom of this blog entry is very interesting. It is about retired or about-to-be retired academics who are 70 years or older. In this blog I will explore the key findings and then express my feelings, attitudes and goals connected to them.
         In the introduction, the researchers report, “…For many professors the distinction between ‘work’ and ‘leisure’ is often blurred.” For me this has definitely been the case.  l like to teach. I also enjoy interacting with the students while still having control over what happens within the class. Outside my teaching I spend almost as much time searching for blog material as I do preparing for class activities. I enjoy both equally.  They are about discovery and communication of ideas. As long as I can remember I have been fascinated with ideas.
         A major premise of the article’s researchers is that retirement provides us with an opportunity for personal growth through leisure activity. How most academics individually define leisure activity can be somewhat complex. It’s much more diverse than fishing or playing golf.
          Travel was the second most common leisure activity reported by retired professors. The only real traveling I have done was several years ago when I received a grant to present my ageism research at a conference in Barcelona Spain. My wife was able to accompany me. We landed in Paris and stayed there for several days. While we were there we visited the Eiffel tower! It is so amazing to be in the presence of something I have admired and wondered about most of my adult life. Then we went to Barcelona Spain, where the Conference was held. While there we visited the Picasso Art Gallery. He is one of the world’s most famous artists.  The trip was wonderful and if I had a lot more money after retirement I could imagine traveling all over the world.        
         The authors say that “When examining the relationship between occupational status and leisure, it is important to keep in mind that leisure activity is self-defined and that it is the actors themselves who determine what the meaning of leisure is for them.” There were three questions they asked both those who were retired and those who were about to retire.

[1]  Dorfman, L.T. and Kolarik, D.C.  (2005).  Leisure and the Retired Professor: Occupation Matters, Educational Gerontology, 31, 343-361

Thursday, February 3, 2011


 Many blog visitors appear to be interested in Ageism.  The following table shows the average of three studies exploring Canadian Ageism. Displayed are responses from a questionnaire designed by Erdman Palmore, a major researcher of Ageism in North America.. It includes findings from my study of Ageism in British Columbia

Item #                           Event                                            Percent Reporting                                              

Told Jokes making fun of old people
Birthday card that pokes fun of old people
Assumed ailment caused by my age
Patronized & “talked down” to because age
Ignored & not  taken seriously 
Treated with less dignity and respect
Told “You’re too old.”
Assumed could not understand due to age
Assumed deaf because of my age
Called insulting name because of my age
Waiter ignored me because of my age
Denied employment due to my age
Denied promotion due to my age
Rejected as unattractive due to my age
Difficulty getting loan because of my age
Denial of leadership because of my age
Denied medical treatment because of age
Victimized because of my age
Home vandalized because of my age
Refused rental housing because of my age

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Challenges Along The Road To Retirement

        As my retirement date approaches I continue to face challenges in accomplishing activities that I value. I am only teaching two courses.  Both are scheduled twice a week on different days.  It is the first time in six years that I have taught four days a week, Monday through Thursday. I used to regularly teach four courses per term.  Combined they took up a half day on all four days. It was relatively easy, just part of the job.
         My other main interests are creating postings for this blog and volunteer work at the local seniors centre.  Frequently over the last month my activities have been getting in the way of each other. By including interests outside teaching I am experiencing cognitive challenges even with the reduced teaching time.  I regularly create new retirement blog entries and I am busy on the seniors’ centre board committee that is currently seeking new board members. 
         I have no trouble choosing the order of importance in these three activities; teaching, board work and finally blog entry creation but they all take time.  I have found that the Selective Optimization with Compensation Model (SOC) helps me understand my behavior and in explaining the ways that I am adapting to change as retirement approaches. The model says that we start by deciding which concerns and activities are worthy of deeper interests and commitment. All of the above three are important but until I retire teaching comes first. Next September, after I have left the University I will make some new choices about ways to manage my time.
         Trying to get everything done each day is sometimes stressful. In my teaching about half the time in class is spent in student discussion groups that focus on topics relevant to the chapter being covered that week.  Because its been a long time since I have been teaching these two courses back to back I spend quite a bit of time looking for appropriate classroom activities and creating handouts for the students group discussion sessions.  The board subcommittee meetings and interviews come at different times throughout the month and I have been having difficulty keeping track of them. Several days ago I bought a 2011 Monthly Monitor Handbook and I am now able to keep better track of meeting dates and classroom assignments.
           When I retire, I anticipate that these types of challenges will continue. I will have more time to contribute blog entries and engage in board work.  I realize that I will miss teaching and that I can’t do everything that I was doing before.  My workshops will be substitutes for my previous university activities and will help with finances.