This paper seeks to identify the meanings associated with retirement for a longitudinal sample of women immediately prior to and following their official retirement. Contextual factors which shape those meanings are also described.
In‐depth interviews, based on a series of interview guides were conducted with a sample of 14 women in their pre‐ and post‐retirement years. The data were coded using a grounded theory approach and typology classification schemes.
Retirement was alternately conceptualized as a new period of life affording freedoms and growth, as a natural final phase, as a frightening period due to losses, and/or as a pinnacle of accomplishment or relief. The contextual influences of family, friends, and unique attributes of one's profession (e.g. having jobs with transferrable skills and/or having physically demanding jobs) help create meanings. Finally, meanings were found to shift over time in concert with changing contexts.
Women have a wide range of responses to their own retirement. The stereotype that they will easily replace the work role with family and/or household roles does not hold for all.
By truly understanding the particulars of each employee's situation, managers can assist employees in the transition into retirement such that it is a smooth one. Managers might also be able to more immediately identify employees, who would be willing to return to the organization in a consulting or short‐term capacity following retirement.
The longitudinal data offers a unique vantage point, such that meanings can be traced over time in a way that has not yet been documented in empirical work.
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