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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Beyond Work #2 Physical Aging

         I hope that you found something interesting in step #1 of Beyond Work. The second step deals with physical aging. In the first paragraph of this section Dr. Bill Roiter asks the following question. “After all, once you get past 60, isn’t aging all about deterioration, the inextricable slide into disability and dependency?” This question sets the stage for further discussion.  He goes on to say that …”new adults (this is the title he suggests that will help us become more realistic about our aging process) are healthier than we believe we are; we are just not as robust as we once were.”
         The next thing he suggests we distinguish between “aging” and “old age.” Aging can be thought of in two ways. In reality it is “…the simple count of years from date of birth that cannot be changed by our “health status.”  A better way to frame changes in health status is by using the term senescence which is “…a highly variable assessment of your health status including our functional abilities, which can vary widely due to your health status.”
         He then asserts that we can improve our health by managing our expectations. Three ‘rules” are suggested. First “Don’t “look back.” “Respect who you are today and don’t long for the person you were 20 years ago.” “Rule number two is ‘Look ahead’ Aging is scary when you are ignorant of the future. Learn about the future and you will reduce your fears.” Finally rule number three is “Get past negative assumptions. Expecting that things will get worse can actually make them worse.
         Next is a section discussing the meaning of subjective well-being, which is defined as “how people evaluate their lives.”  This is because “subjective well being is defined as your internal experience.”
         I will end this blog entry showing you how Dr. Roiter describes subjective well-being.[i] The material is expressed as: Measuring Subjective Well-Being” Satisfaction with Life-scale

Using the 1-7 scale below, indicate your level of agreement of the five items by placing the appropriate number on the line preceding that item. 
7 Strongly agree
6 Agree
5 Slightly agree
4. Neither agree nor disagree
3. Slightly disagree
2 Disagree
1. Strongly disagree

1.____ In most ways my life is close to my ideal
2.____ The conditions of my life are excellent
3.____ I am satisfied with my life.
4.____ So far, I have gotten the important things I want in life
5.____ If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

Total your scores and compare your score to this subjective well-being scoring template,

31-35   Extremely satisfied          15-19   Slightly dissatisfied
26-30   Satisfied                           10-14   Dissatisfied
21-25   Slightly satisfied                5-9     Extremely dissatisfied
20        Neutral

Near the end of this section, he recommends that if you are not happy with score you should take your results to a trusted personal advisor.  Let me know if this blog entry is helpful to you.

[i]  Source: Diener, Suh, and Oshi, “Recent Findings on Subjective Well-being

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


        I just purchased an outstanding book entitled Beyond Work. It is written by Bill Rotter. I am very interested in what he has to say about life after retirement. I intend to focus several blog entries on material contained in the book. I highly recommend that you consider purchasing this book as it’s message can be useful not matter what country a person lives in.
         In this blog contribution I will briefly introduce the organizational pattern of the book which covers four “domains”.  They are: Personal, Social Financial and Physical.
         First there is the financial. Uses some information provided by Martha Patton[i] and provides a table that shows the influence of inflation. A table in the book indicates that if a person started out in 1971 with an income of         $ 6000/year they would need just over $19,000/ year today to live at the same standard of living.  “if you followed this 1971 advice on saving for retirement, you would be in bad shape today.”
         “At this point you may feel discomfort rising and decide it is easier to cast the matter aside.  Rotter says “I have heard people give any number of excuses:
·    “My head hurts when I think about this stuff
·    “Math is not my strong suit
·    “I don’t have any extra money to put away.”
·    “I expect that the news won’t be good. I would just rather not know’”
He suggests that we find a financal advisor and gives us  six steps to assessing an advisor and building mutual trust, They are:
1. Begin by being trustworthy  yourself
2. Determine if the financial advisor understands you
3. Does the advisor provide you with a clear picture fo your situation?
4. Is the advisor qualified?
5. Does the advisor do the work you are looking for day in and day out?
6. Trust you advisor and keep your eyes open.
This is about all I have to say on this topic except that I have an appointment with a new advisor next week. The book is published by WILEY It's ISBN is

[i]   Money in Your Pocket,” Star News,Pasadena, California,, July 19,1971

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Academics Preparing for Retirement

        I recently received an article produced by the Preparation for Retirement Committee at the University of British Columbia UBC. The material is interesting and I will make references to some of the things I specifically am interested in.  For those who may be interested in getting the full meal deal Judith G. Hall’s email[i] is at the bottom of this blog entry. There was a whole committee involved in preparing this document. They are William Bruneau, Mackie Chase, Nicole Hyatt, Cheryl Neighbour, Brenda Peterson, Christine Pickering, and Kenneth Reeder.
         The first comment that grabs my attention is that retired professors may “…choose to explore alternative ways to use the skills, knowledge and wisdom they have acquired.”  Good point, that is why I have established this blog and will continue to develop workshops to take into the community, some to earn money and others “give back” without charging.
          The authors acknowledge that retirement can be examined through the model of stages of adult development.  The comment that “Accustoming or ‘adjustment’ usually includes developing plans for the next 10 years…The decision to retire begins long before one signs the papers indicating the wish to leave. That is interesting to me because, at 71 years old I have been struggling against mandatory retirement since I was in my early sixties.
         They also indicate that one characteristic of academic life is that its provides us with “…skills, experience and wisdom that can be used in many additional types of endeavors.” Which helps us “…take up new social and emotional roles after retirement.  In my case I have started early. For instance I have been on the board of the local senior’s centre for eight years.
         One key factor in confronting retirement is increased longevity. “Never before in history have academics (and almost everybody else) had a reasonable expectation of 10-25 years if life after ‘retirement.”
         The authors then provide a list of things it may be helpful to consider.  There are 12 categories, each with at least four sub-factors’.  I will just mention some of the ones I find particularly interesting.
1. New and continuing social contacts with friends, colleagues, and family. For instance I am remaking connections with other faculty members who have already retired
3.  Maintaining characteristics of aging well. Daily living such as          exercise, healthy diet, and mental activity

5. Memory – scheduling and ways to use your time. Ways to enhance my memory—exercises For instance I can several hours with PUZZLERS GIANT BOOK of WORD SEEKERS 34. I much prefer it to Crosswords.

6. New Technologies.  I love my laptop and my wife, who is a Boomer and knows what to do when I screw up.

10.  Volunteer vs. work for pay.  My workshops include both. Besides my work with the Senior Centre, I canvas for the Canadian Cancer Society.

12. Be sure you arrange for your (University) Kwantlen Polytechnic University benefits. I will soon apply to the library so that I can continue to access research articles.

Do these items make sense to you? Even If you are not an academic, do these reflect you prepare for or abide within retirement?  I will continue the discussion of this Preparation for retirement paper in my next blog.

[i]  Judith G. Hall, Chair of the Preparations for Retirement group Professor Emerita UBC

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Living Longer Through Positive Self-Perception

         Most of us know that Negative Ageism becomes internalized and has an increasingly negative impact on life satisfaction and happiness.  Having a clear sense of who we are, including positive ageism has the opposite effect. In fact through middle to late life the more positive we are about ourselves the longer we will likely live. Becca Levy et al gathered the material cited in this blog entry. Their research article[i] is cited below.
         Their investigation concentrates on “…examining whether self-perceptions of aging influence survival”. First they remind us that we acquire negative aging stereotypes when are relatively young.  All along, since my youth there have been movements struggling against prejudice related to race and gender. Ageism still has little counter prejudice societal movement. But everyone who does not die young becomes old and age stereotypes become self-stereotypes.  As I grew up into my adult years, I joined movements toward racism and sexism. But I never thought much about aging prejudice
         Over the past few years, as I have moved more deeply into old age, and begun fighting ageism.  When I think about dying I have been saying to others, “ I hope I’ve got my mother’s genes.” She is still alive at age 96 whereas my father died in his mid seventies; just a few miles down the road from my current age of 71.
         But if the findings of the current research are accurate, I have a whole set of new challenges that I must address if I am to accomplish my longevity goals. During their introduction the authors site a previous research article with states, “…as much as 75% of longevity may be due to nongenetic attributes, including psychological and behavioral factors. To me one of the keys is to stay active physically and psychologically.
         The authors’ goals state; “The following study examines for the first time whether positive self-perceptions about one’s aging influence survival, controlling for functional health and other relevant factors.”  Their project in includes the use of five items of the Attitudes Toward Own Aging subscale.  I will post these items at the bottom of the blog and you can ask yourself what your answers are.
         But in the meantime we can look at Becca Levy et al findings that the median survival of those with more positive self perceptions of aging, measured 23 years earlier, was 7.6 years longer than those with more negative self-stereotypes.
         The impacts of survival, listed from greatest to least are “…age self-perceptions of aging, gender, loneliness, functional health and socioeconomic status”.  Self-perceptions of aging were found to be stronger predictors than all the others combined.

Here are the items used in the Attitudes toward Aging Subscale:

1.    Things keep getting better as I get older.                                  Yes        No
2.    I have as much pep as I did last year.                                        Yes        No
3.    As you get older, you are more useful.                                       Yes        No
4.   I am as happy now as I was when I was younger.                     Yes        No
5.   As I get older things are better than I thought they would be.   Yes        No


[i] Levy, B.R., Slade M.D.” Kunkel, S.R. & Stanislav, K.V. (2002). Longevity increased by             positive self-perceptions of aging, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 261-270.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lonely On The Internet?

            Almost every morning, including weekends, I wake up and come downstairs to get a cup of tea.  My next impulse is to go to the dining room where I use my laptop computer.  On the weekend I am usually able to wait till afternoon before turning it on to check my blogspot, Facebook, email and my downloaded computer games. 
         I have several different email addresses. Up to now my most frequently used email is connected with Kwantlen Polytechnic University. My retirement from Kwantlen this August will change that.
My next most visited email address connected to Community Building; our family business. I use this email to explore my Retirement Workshop opportunities.
         Other email connections outside Kwantlen and Community Building are with my family including my brothers and sisters who live in the United States. Without the Internet I would have much less connection with them as I don’t phone or write letters very often. Besides email, facebook is also an interesting tool for communication.  On Facebook have connections with my half brother Reynolds who also lives in the United States.
          My most important social connection is with my wife who soon after she gets up in the morning also tends to turn on her laptop computer, which she keeps in the family room.  On many days there is little communication between us for several hours as we check our mail, blogspots and play computer games. She also uses her blog to communicate with members of the arts community.  Other than our computer use we spend a lot of time together.
         I still have connections with other faculty who have already retired.  Just last week one of my friends who took early retirement several years ago celebrated his 65th birthday.  By email we were invited to his home where he lives with his also retired faculty member Verian. Ten other already retired faculty members, most of whom I know, were there. It was great fun!!.
         So what’s use of the Internet got to do with loneliness?  Yesterday, while I was surfing the net I came upon a research article that discusses Internet use and loneliness in older adults.[i]
         The article begins with the statement that: “There is controversy in the research literature…about whether Internet use increases or decreases social connections and about it’s psychological benefits.” The specific task of this research article is to study the question “How does internet use impact on senior’s loneliness?”  They investigated 222 Internet users in Australia who were at least 55 years old.  One of their tools was an Internet Use Questionnaires ranging from “…less than 4 hours per week to more than 16 hours per week.” Where do you fit in?  The other tool used was a social loneliness scale. “...with social, family, and romantic subscales.”   Some questions from that scale are listed at the bottom of this blog entry.
         The researchers found that 90% of the respondents used the Internet at least 4 hours per week. Thirty percent reported more than 16 hours per week. After all the data had been organized and analyzed the authors found that Internet communication with family and friends is associated with lower levels of social loneliness.
         On the other hand loneliness on the Internet depends on the person you communicate with. The research project used the Internet Breadth Scale that includes: “finding new people, entertainment, commerce communication and seeking information.”

Here are some of the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale items:
1.  There is no one I can turn to
2.  My social relationships are superficial
3.  People are around me but not with me.
4.  There are people I can talk to
5.  I feel part of a group of friends
6.  No one really knows me well
7.  My interests and ideas are not shared by those around me

         Think this over.  Does how much time you spend on and what you use the Internet for help, hinder or have nothing to do with your meaningful social relationships?

[i]  Shima, S., Mathews, M.R., Huges, I. & Campbell, A. (2008). Internet use and             loneliness in older adults. CyberPshchology & Behavior, 11(2), 208-211.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Retirement: Achieving Goals and Community Relationships

           Alfred Adler identified and developed the basic ideas expressed in this blog entry[i].  I used his approach to the understanding of personality during the years I worked as an Industrial Clinical Psychologist. I still think of myself as an Individual Psychologist, which is what he called himself and those who used his model.
         All of our lives we strive to achieve things, most of which are connected to our social relationships.  In addition during the years of our employment a central focus is to do the very best job we can to seek perfection. In addition we generally live and work within various forms of community relationships.
         This April, following a Department strategic planning meeting, I was given a farewell party. Dr. Betty Rideout, one of Kwantlen Psychology faculty members, presented a ppt show illustrating of my life accomplishments.  It was very exciting and, as my colleagues laughed and cheered I felt a great deal of joy. Sometimes tears came to my eyes.  All of my life I have sought to do my very best.  I have also worked hard to help others.  I believe that I have had these goals since my younger brother Rodger was born and I started “helping” my mother. At first I did my best to please her. After a while I did my best because it feels good.
         Now as I face retirement I must respond to new challenges and adapt to the world as it changes. I expect that these adjustments will continue until the end of my life.  But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
         I began to develop my strategies for retirement goals when I began creating my first workshops. During the last year and a half I have be continually concentrated on further improving my retirement workshop which I intend to market to the business community.
          In addition all of the over 90 posts on my blogspot are dedicated to my goal of doing my very best to help others who have either retired or are planning to retire. I intend to continue posting.
         The questions I have asked myself and now ask you about your retirement are:
         1. What goals would you like to achieve during your retirement?
         2. What accomplishments are you most proud of during your work life?
         3. What social relationships are most important to you?

[i] Adler,A. (1979).Superiority and Social Interest. George C. McCloud Limited,                Toronto    ISBN  978-0-392-00910-1

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Exploring Personality and Retirement: The Big Five

       The exploration of the relationship between personality and employment success is a growing interest among research psychologists.  For instance Thoresen et al[i]  have written an extensive paper on personality and job performance growth. They carefully explore each of the Big Five personality traits and their effects on work satisfaction and achievement. The traits associated with the Big Five are: Openness (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious), Conscientiousness (efficient, organized vs. easygoing/careless), Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary}, Agreeableness, (friendly, compassionate vs. cold/unkind and Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident). Each factor was carefully evaluated.
         After studying this material I decided to see if I could find research that investigates the relationship between personality and the retirement process.  Finally I found an article by Lockenhoff et al[ii] that study’s personality traits and their connection to the retirement transition. They begin with the statement “Theoretically, five-factor model traits are thought to influence…retirement, via their association with emotional appraisals, motivational priorities, and coping strategies.”        
         They found retirement related changes were (E) extroversion and (A) agreeableness.  Retirees described themselves as less fast paced and vigorous (decreased E) and less competitive and argumentative(Increased A) than when they were working.  Based on these findings it is postulated “The absence of work-related role strain may have reduced the need for aggressive and competitive pursuit of one’s goals and led to more harmonious social interaction.”  This, it would seem, could be connected with the process of wisdom.
         In the last paragraph the authors state “In conclusion, our findings indicate that the five factor personality traits show small by significant changes in response to the retirement transition and that personality is related to retirement satisfaction as well as post retirement activity levels. This suggests that future research in the field of retirement would benefit from closer consideration of personality traits.”   I will continue to look into this area as I develop my retirement workshops.
         Below are some examples of each of the Big Five Factors:
1.  Openness:
·      Vivid imagination
·      Spend time reflecting on things
·      Am interested in abstractions
2. Conscientious:
·      I am always prepared
·      I follow a schedule
·      I pay attention to details

3. Extraversion
·      I don’t mind being the centre of attention
·      I start conversations
·      I feel comfortable around people

4. Agreeableness
·      I feel other’s feelings
·      I take time out for others
·      I make people feel at ease

5. Neuroticism
·      I often feel blue
·      I worry about things
·      I get upset easily

These examples do not cover the range and number of questions. I put them on this blog entry so you can take a brief look at yourself and consider how your responses may connect with your retirement.

[i] Thoresen, C.J., Bradley, J.C., Bliese, P.D. & Thoresen, J.D. (2004). The big five personality traits and individual job performance growth trajectories in maintenance and transition job stages. Journal of Applied Psychology,89(5), 335-353.
[ii]  Lockenhoff, C.E.,  Terracciano, A. & Costa, P.T. Jr. (2009)  Five-factor model personality traits and the retirement transition: Longitudinal and cross-sectional associations, 24(3), 722-728.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Personality And The Decision To Retire

    This afternoon I came upon a very interesting research paper that adds a new dimension to ways we can explain our decision to retire[i] It is interesting not only because it was published this month but also because it considers the importance of personality in retirement decision making.
       The authors suggest that retirement decisions go through three Assessment Phases:
1.  Imagining the possibility of retirement in the future
2.  Assessing when it is time to let go of Long-held jobs
3.  Putting concrete plans for retirement into action in the present.
    Changes considered in the retirement context are:
a.    Joint decision making within the family
b.    Social normative expectations of colleagues and friends
c.    Greater opportunities for growth and development.

       The authors suggest we should look more directly into personality and retirement relationships. Specifically, “…personality theory has the potential to substantially enhance our understanding of this process.”  They go on to suggest that we begin by using “the Big 5” as a model as a tool.  I intend to do this in my next blog entry.

[i] Feldman,D.C. & Beehr,T.A. (2011)  A three-phase model          of retirement decision making, American Psychologist, vol 66(3) ,

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Comparing Models of Retirement

         There have been several ways, using the concept of stages, that the process of retirement has been described.”  The number of stages used ranges from 4 to 8; depending on the theorists’ hypotheses and the research they have conducted to evaluate their ideas.
            The purpose of this blog entry is to display one of the traditional models and then show one more connected to the current financial conditions[i] that we have been experiencing over the last couple of decades. Specifically we will look at how the retirement stages might apply to the current “economic downturn” in North America (and the rest of the world), which appears to be worse than the ones Canada experienced during economic recessions in the early 1980s and again in the early1990s.
            The “current” model focuses on the more recent recessions and the research was published in 2010.  It may be useful in trying to understand retirement in what appears to be difficult socioeconomic conditions.
             To begin with, we will look at one of the more traditional models, used by Barbara Swanson.[ii] It is based on stages within the Continuity Model developed by Robert Atchley who is a highly respected gerontologist in the United States.
The stages selected by Swanson are:
         1.  Anticipation:  dreaming, planning, hopefulness. With some people feeling discomfort as the “big day” approaches.
          2. Honeymoon: (many models have this stage) elation, feelings of freedom, relief from stress and responsibility.
          3. Disenchantment: feeling letdown, boredom, and that life as more than             pursuing leisure, (with a possible experience of mental depression)
          4. Reorientation: Taking stock, finding out what makes you happy, improves quality of life. Ask yourself the following questions: 
                       What do I enjoy doing?
                       What’s missing from my life?
                       What are my talents and interests?
                       What do I regret not having done yet in my life?
          5. Fulfillment: healthy balanced life, satisfying family relationships and friendships

            The other model is entitled New Retirement Study: The Stages of Retirement Have Changed. It lists 6 stages and is designed to investigate how “Americans’ attitudes, ambitions, and preparation for retirement have changed dramatically as a result of the recession.”  The authors’ state that they “…are seeing people hesitate and really question if they are making the right decision” when they are considering retirement
            The cognitive and behavioral stages used are:

1. Imagination:    Feeling a lot less hopeful and optimistic
2. Hesitation:       Fewer in this stage feel “happy” in retirement 
3. Anticipation:    Most likely feel on track for retirement                                              mostly because they feel financially secure
4. Realization:      Dramatic decrease in positive feelings
5. Reorientation:  Feel more happy and on track
6. Reconciliation:  The researchers found that most respondents report being happy but four times as many retirees are feeling depressed and are among the most likely to say that they are not enjoying retiremen
          Are you preparing to retire or already retired? What  ideas or concepts in the material above reflects your feelings and attitudes?

[i] Healthy Aging Admin: (2010).  New retirement study: The stages of retirement have changed.  Recovered from the internet through google.
[ii] Swanston B.