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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

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