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ailing spouses, and as a result many older workers are forced to retire ear-
lier than planned” (p. 45).
Writing about the loss of work and its impact on older men, Levant
(1997) says that as men lose their good-provider roles, the experience
results in “severe gender role strain” (p. 221) which affects relationships
and can be disruptive to the point of ending otherwise strong marriages.
Because older adults are more likely to lose high-level jobs as a result of
downsizing and age discrimination, social contacts decrease, and many
otherwise healthy and motivated workers must deal with increased levels
of isolation and loneliness. Schneider (1998) points out that many of us
are workaholics and that, when work is taken away or jobs are diminished
in complexity and creativity, many older adults experience a decrease in
physical and mental health. And while early retirement is touted as a way
to achieve the good life at an early age, the experience is a complex and
even wrenching one in which older adults who are financially able to
retire often have little ability to handle extra time, have failed to make
sound retirement plans, and find out quickly that not working takes away
social contacts, status, and a way to organize time.
For many healthy, work-oriented and motivated older adults, volun-
teer and civic roles are not at all what they are looking for. They want to
continue to work, to contribute, and to receive the financial and social
status and benefits related to work. However when full-time work isn't
possible, Zedlewski and Butrica (2007) found that numerous studies sup-
ported the finding that work and formal volunteering improve health,
reduce the risk of serious illness and emotional difficulties such as depres-
sion, and improve strength and cognitive functioning, while full retire-
ment without work and early loss of jobs increased the probability of
illness and emotional difficulties. Clearly, having something of value to do
after retirement is a protective factor in keeping older adults healthy and
emotionally engaged with the world around them.
Atchley, R. C. (1982). Retirement: Learning the world of work. Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Sciences , 464 , 120 131.
Beckett, J. O. (1988). Plant closing: How older workers are affected. Social Work , 33 ,
29 33.
Boss´, R., Aldwin, C. M., Levenson, M. R., & Workman-Daniels, K. (1991). How
retirement? Findings
from the Normative Aging Study.
Journal of
Gerontology , 46 ,9 14.
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