The purpose of this paper is to explore learning for and through retirement from the workplace.
First, “retirement” is considered in the light of the existing literature, demonstrating a complex concept. The paper describes the research project from which a theme of retirement as a learning process has emerged. Case studies illustrate individuals' retirement transformations within the communities and cultures where they live and learn. “Learning lives” is a qualitative project in which the life histories and ongoing lives of over 100 UK adults were researched in interviews 2004‐2008. The sample included many people approaching retirement or retired.
Analysis showed retirement as being an ongoing process and learning as being integral to those transitions through which older people go before, during and after leaving paid work. It was found that learning is often informal and tacit, in anticipation, preparation and reaction to change. Learning interrelates with people's positions in society, time and place as they “become” retired.
Time and funding limited analysis of the large bank of data, which are deserving of further work. There are implications for workplaces and for the wider society in the need to recognise and understand the transition process through which retirees must learn their way. Formal course provision can be beneficial but is only part of, or possibly a trigger for, the life learning that occurs.
There is limited work available looking at learning and retirement. What there is tends to focus on formal courses. The study adds to those, looking at learning more broadly and as an integral and reciprocal part of the process.
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