Sunday, March 28, 2010

Family Influences on Postretirement Well-being

Retirement can bring about major changes in people's lives" One may associate retirement with freedom from work life and deadlines, annoying bosses and aggravating colleagues, cups of coffee and impossible workloads" However, retirement also means that you have to learn to adjust" You are finally faced with the problems of old age" The feeling of dependence on others begins to arise at this time" You are no longer the breadwinner of the house" Questions of whether you will still be valued by those around you will arise" Are you blessed with a caring family? Or will you end up being taken for granted? Will your personal insecurity arise the moment that you take leave of your work life and become a retired person" However, this does not mean that you spend the rest of your days worrying about tomorrow".

Marital and family circumstances not only influence retirement timing, but they also have an impact on postretirement well-being. Being married and having a high quality marriage contribute to wellbeing throughout the life span and may become especially important during the retirement years.

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The result of one of the sociological researches shows that retired men whose wives were also retired reported lower levels of depression than those whose wives were employed. Among women, there was no strong evidence of relationships between retirement and psychological factors such as morale, depression or marital quality. Being newly retired was also related to the decreased marital quality for both men and women. Men who reported higher marital quality when working showed more decrease in marital quality upon retirement. Those who marital quality was poor while working remained poor upon retirement.

Retirement satisfaction is also furthered when spouses concur in their evaluation of retirement, when the other spouse adjusts well to retirement, and when couples engage in joint leisure activities and decision-making. In contrast, the number of contacts with relatives (including adult children) appears less important for well-being than contacts with peers. However, wives' involvement with friends may curtail their husbands' retirement satisfaction. Nevertheless, high-quality relations with relatives can enhance retirement satisfaction, and desired geographical proximity to relatives can motivate relocation after retirement.

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The realization of retirement plans is often contingent on family circumstances. Continued economic responsibilities for children in the household and retirement prompted by family caregiving needs lead to the perception of retiring too early. Furthermore, the Couples' interest in sharing hobbies and activities has led to the trend of joint retirement. Silliness of spouses and care for close relatives can spoil postretirement plans and reduce retirement satisfaction. However, some men seem to derive self-esteem from caring for their ill wives. Retirement adjustment is also hampered when negative family events, such as widowhood or illness or death of relatives, occur in close proximity to the retirement transition.

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Changes in support networks from family and friends might pose significant challenges and may affect older people in a myriad of ways, including increasing a person’s risk for developing mental health problems. Three key circumstances in which older people may find their social support networks transformed are caregiving, spousal bereavement and social isolation.
  • Caregiving: At some point in their senior years, many older adults may become caregivers to others (e.g., an older person, such as a parent or partner, who may be experiencing cognitive impairment or physical frailty). This is not in itself a risk factor for mental health problems, but depression has been shown to be common in caregivers of people with a psychiatric disorder and most common for women providing care to someone with dementia. Witnessing the physical, psychological and social decline of a person with dementia can have a significant impact on a caregiver, particularly if the caregiver receives little support from others. Spousal caregivers are at particular risk for experiencing loneliness and decreased social support. As compared to those who have good social support, caregivers who feel burdened and lonely are more likely to also experience depression.
  • Spousal bereavement: Studies indicate that grieving the death of a partner is frequently a cause of medical and psychiatric problems for both older men and older women. In one study, changes in older women’s mental and physical health, morale and social functioning were examined over an eight-year period. As compared to women who had never married or were still married, the women who were widowed during the course of the study showed declines in mental health that exceeded the age-related declines in mental (and physical) health experienced by the study’s subjects as a whole.
  • Social isolation: Widowed women are especially at risk for social isolation, since the proportion of older women who are widowed and living alone has risen over the past century. While the trend is attributed to no single factor, it has been suggested it may be affected by age and the degree to which her family (“kin”) is available.

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