Retirement As a Critical Life Event for the Organization of Leisure in Later Life

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Anna Elisabeth WANKA, Goethe University Frankfurt on the Main, Germany
With the ageing of the ‘Baby Boomer’ cohort, more and more adults are transiting into retirement. This transition can have a crucial effect on the organization of everyday lives and leisure activities of older adults. Many older workers identify work as the biggest barrier to them engaging in more fulfilling leisure activities and feel optimistic that their leisure life will increase once they are retired (Age Wave/Merrill Lynch, 2017). However, the distinction between leisure and non-leisure activities becomes increasingly blurry once leisure’s natural counterpart – work – has vanished. Drawing upon social practice theory (Schatzki, 2006; Hui et al., 2017), this paper asks: Which everyday life leisure practices change when people retire and which stay the same? What do people expect to change and what does really change? Can we distinguish different phases of the retirement transition that are characterized by distinct leisure activities? And as longitudinal research suggests that people tend to continue their leisure activities regardless of changes in work and age leisure (Scherger et al., 2011), how is the maintenance of leisure activities facilitated in the retirement process?

Empirically, the paper presents results from Germany a) analysing the quantitative Survey of Transitions and Old Age Potentials and b) drawing upon a longitudinal qualitative study following 15 older adults throughout their process of retiring from before to three years after retirement, combining episodic interviews, daily diaries and photo-diaries (Pilcher et al., 2016). Results show that leisure changes significantly for the majority of respondents with retirement, but these changes are manifold – e.g. changes in the relationship to the partner or increased travel - differ by socio-economic status, gender, marital status, former occupation and retirement pathway. Qualitative data helps us to describe the processes behind these changes.