Life is full of change, both expected and unexpected, and while we are told to prepare for our material needs throughout life, our emotional and psychological wellbeing is often ignored.
While it is important to have financial security in later life, having a positive outlook is also important to be able to enjoy it. Yet, our own study found that more than a quarter of people over 50 say they tend to take a long time to get over set-backs in life. And the situation is harder for those who have financial challenges. Only 47% of those who find it difficult to manage financially said they were able to bounce back quickly after hard times, compared to 80% among those who are financially comfortable.
As part of our wider programme on ‘Managing Major Life Changes’, Ageing Better is announcing a new partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to help understand how we can support people to better prepare themselves for retirement. It can be challenging for some people to leave the working life they have known for so long, for others it can be a time of new and exciting opportunities.
With so many major changes in later life – for example, bereavement, moving house or becoming a carer – why focus on retirement? As one of the key transitions that most people face, and one that we can potentially prepare for, retirement offers an opportunity to support people to increase the chances they will enjoy later life and manage this change successfully. While retirement is a time of change, it can also be an opportunity for growth and development, learning new skills and returning to previous interests.
Research has shown that those with a more positive attitude to retirement live, on average, 4.9 years longer than those with negative attitudes. In the UK, we have approximately 650,000 people turning 65 each year, and a large portion will choose to retire around this time, however, many receive no guidance or support.
A recent review by Robertson et al (2015) looked at resilience training in the workplace to evaluate the effect of training on four outcomes: mental health and subjective wellbeing; physical/biological outcomes; psychosocial outcomes; and performance outcomes. They found that resilience training can improve personal resilience, particularly for employees’ health and subjective well-being. However, the authors also concluded that there is a shortage in studies evaluating work-based resilience training, and further information is needed on the most effective content, format and delivery of training. Through collaborating with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation we hope to learn what support people approaching retirement need to improve their wellbeing, and how this can best be delivered, so that more people in future are equipped to navigate life changes successfully.
Throughout later life we can expect to face many changes, some we can prepare for and others we cannot. Retirement is a life changing event and it can impact different people in different ways, depending on the individual and the circumstances. Through understanding what support people need as they approach retirement we can help people start thinking about this transition as early as possible and prepare for the next phase of their life.
Senior Evidence Manager
Centre for Ageing Better