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The retirement opportunity : understanding positive psychological change in later life Housser, Sarah Farris 2007

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THE RETIREMENT OPPORTUNITY: UNDERSTANDING POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGICAL C H A N G E IN L A T E R LIFE by Sarah Farris Housser B.A. , McGi l l University, 1998 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL F U L F I L L M E N T OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF M A S T E R OF ARTS in THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES (Counselling Psychology) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A JUNE 2007 © Sarah Farris Housser, 2007 A B S T R A C T The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of people who report positive psychological change following retirement in order to better understand the nature and process of this change. Using qualitative interpretive description methodology, semi-structured interviews were tape recorded, transcribed, analyzed for themes and interpreted for clinical application. This study found that following retirement the nine men and women aged 58-75 changed profoundly, and in ways that defy stereotypes about old age as a time of stagnation and decline. Adults whose career was characterized by discipline and responsibility became more playful and relaxed. They experienced an increased awareness, understanding and acceptance of the path their life had taken, including acknowledgement of mistakes and regret and responsibility for their life going forward. They experienced changes to limiting patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, marked by increased flexibility, humility and autonomy. There were a number of similarities in how this group approached the transition to retirement. These cannot be conclusively linked to the changes participants experienced; however in looking at what was common to how they approached retirement, one may reasonably draw some inferences about approach to retirement and the outcome of change and growth. From this exemplary group of people we may derive best practices about managing retirement that can be brought to a broader group by way of retirement planning resources, counselling interventions and human resource policy and practice. T A B L E OF CONTENTS A B S T R A C T ii T A B L E OF CONTENTS i i i A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S vi CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ; 5 Successful aging 5 Retirement and life transitions 6 Script theory 8 Adult development 9 Crisis theory and Posttraumatic growth 12 CHAPTER 3 M E T H O D 13 Assumptions 14 Participants 15 Participant recruitment 16 Data collection 17 Interview format 17 Data analysis 19 Ensuring trustworthiness of the data 23 Ethical considerations 24 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS 26 Participants 26 Shared essential themes of change 28 i i i Theme I: Initial changes to felt sense of self. 29 Internal Peace 29 External Play 30 Theme II: Coming to terms with the life lived 31 Theme III: Redefinition of self. ....32 Script change 32 Internal shifts in patterns of thinking and feeling 33 Externally pushing boundaries and taking risks 34 Living one's own life : 35 Contextual statement , 37 Experience leading up to retirement 37 Factors that influenced the decision to retire 37 Preparations for retirement 40 Experience after retiring 41 Positives and rewards 42 Negatives and challenges..... 42 Intentions and strategies for managing life after retirement 45 On-going challenges - seeking purpose and meaning 47 CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION 48 Initial changes to felt sense of self. 50 Coming to terms with the life lived 51 Redefinition of self. 53 Script change 53 iv Living one's own life 56 Approach to retirement 58 Characteristics of the participants 61 Limitations 63 Implications of the study for counselling theory 64 Implications of the study for the counselling profession 65 Future research 67 Conclusion 68 References 70 Appendix A: Recruitment Poster 75 Appendix B: Definitions of the Mechanisms of Script Change....76 Appendix C: Pre-interview tips and questions 77 Appendix D: Interview questions 78 Appendix E: Informed Consent 80 Appendix F: List of counsellors for research participants 81 Appendix G: Certificate of Approval (Ethics) 82 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS One important lesson I have learned in my life is that I need a supportive community of people in order to be the best I can be. This thesis is a prime example of rallying my "team" to do something I could not do alone. To those who have encouraged me, listened to me, and offered input and advice, thank you. This is a milestone in my life that I share with you. I am grateful for the enthusiastic love and support that my parents have given me •it during my Masters study and throughout my life. I have always felt loved, which is a foundation that allows me to do the work that I find so fulfilling. I would like to thank my research supervisor, Dr. Marvin Westwood, who has offered me mentorship throughout my Masters study that has been truly transformative. In the context of this thesis, he has been generous with his time and always optimistic, encouraging and offering invaluable input and advice. I would like to thank the research participants who gave me so much more than the results of this thesis can show. They are people who not only retired successfully but who were equally successful at living and from each of them I take invaluable wisdom about how to live and age well. I would also like to thank Dr. Norman Amundson and Dr. B i l l Borgen for the effort and time they have given me as members of my supervisory committee. My gratitude also goes to Dr. Marion Porath who agreed to be the fourth reader of my thesis and to offer her presence and contributions at my thesis defense. A special thanks to Carole, Chrissy and Sandy who were especially significant supporters on the epic thesis journey. CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION Since the turn of the twentieth century, life expectancy in the developed world has increased by more than twenty-five years (Guyer, Freedman, Strobino, & Sondik, 2000) and the average number of years of retirement prior to death has increased from three to fifteen (Vaillant, 2002). This increase in quantity of life after work has not necessarily extended to quality of life. While the majority of people today can expect to live out their lives in relatively good physical health (Baltes & Carstensen, 1996), the facts about psychological well being in older adults are more discouraging. Loneliness, boredom and depression are common and suicide rates increase with advancing age (Pearson & Brown, 2000). There exist many exceptions, people who thrive and grow until the end of their lives. In fact, new research shows that happiness and growth in later life are accessible to the majority of adults (Vaillant). Some believe the reason so many older people do not thrive and grow is because the existing models for aging are constricted by ageist attitudes and assumptions that focus on decline and loss (Schachter-Shalomi & Miller, 1995). These.stereotypes, supported by our society's institutions (including counselling), limit individuals and deprive society of more meaningful contributions from older adults. There is a need for the development of alternative models of aging to support optimal development in later life. An emerging movement led by the World Health Organization called active aging seeks to help individuals realize their potential for physical and psychological well being (Swiss Contribution to the Second World Assembly on Ageing, 2002). This is a promising step. For most people, achievement of psychological potential requires psychological growth and change (Baltes & Carstensen, 1996). To help older people 1 achieve their psychological potential, we heed to better understand the potentialities and resiliencies of older people and where the opportunities for growth lie. Until recently, research about aging had been linked to the medical model of disease and disability, which focuses on decline and loss. New gerontological research shows that growth and plasticity in the psychosocial realms are possible in adults (e.g., Helson & Roberts, 1994; Kunnen & Wassink, 2003; Manners & Durkin, 2004). While many adults get stuck in a 'niche' and do not continue to grow, others experience psychological growth and development in later life. A variety of factors are said to influence those who change and those who do not. It is widely acknowledged that psychological development is precipitated by conflict or disequilibrium in habitual patterns of thinking and feeling (e.g., Kunnen & Wassink; Manners & Durkin; Sneed & Whitbourne, 2002). Several researchers have found that disequilibrating events or crises can present opportunities to shift to different ways of organizing cognitions and affect within the person, what one calls a "quantum leap of psychological development" (e.g., Moos & Schaefer, 1986; Tedeschi, Park, & Calhoun, 1998). Retirement has been shown to create disequilibrium, and for some it represents a crisis (Barnes & Parry, 2000). Retirement research tends to focus more on financial security and adjustment rather than psychological growth and development (Simon, 1995). Several researchers define successful retirement as adjusting, which they describe as having positive attitudes towards retirement (Barnes & Parry; Reitzes & Mutran, 2004; Simon). This researcher found no research that explores how the transition to retirement influences the psychological development of older adults. The few recent articles that address life transitions as a time for learning and development are not empirical research 2 studies. If research could demonstrate that retirement presents an opportunity for psychological development this would be an important step in deconstructing the limiting myths regarding aging. This could enhance the possibility that more adults would approach retirement as an opportunity and programs could be created to nurture this development. What is the experience of people who report positive psychological change following retirement? That is the question this research addressed. The aim of this qualitative, interpretive description study was to better understand the nature and process of positive psychological change following retirement by investigating the experience of people who report themselves to have changed. The study interviewed nine men and women between one and five years after retirement who self-identified as having changed significantly and positively following retirement. For the purposes of this research, psychological change was initially conceptualized as a shift in self-schemas or scripts as defined by Tomkins (1987). According to Tomkins (1987) scripts are idiosyncratic rules that influence how individuals understand themselves and determine how they relate to the world. Script patterns are bom out of our early experiences and become self-perpetuating systems of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. People with rigid, unconscious scripts may suppress feelings, thoughts and memories, experience negative self-talk, and have limited ability to function spontaneously, all of which can interfere with quality of life and psychological well being (Moursund & Erskine, 2004). When scripts are more conscious, flexible and differentiated, individuals experience greater psychological health and maturity. Many adults bring into late adulthood scripts that are not conducive to optimal psychological 3 health (Baltes & Carstensen, 1996). Therefore reaching psychological potential for many adults requires expansion and modification of scripts. When a situation prevents meaning making from occurring according to one's script, the result can be an experience of conflict or disequilibrium that triggers conscious thinking about the self (Kunnen & Wassink, 2003). For example, i f a person's script is that they need to be successful at work in order to have self-worth, retirement may create a conflict within the person's way of making sense of his or her world that may cause him or her to consciously reflect on this pattern. During such a conflict, Kunnen and Wassink identified several steps that precipitate a shift in scripts, including an exploration of the script and conflict and ultimately an experience of the primary emotion at the root of the script. This results in accommodation, or a reorganization of one's way of thinking, feeling and making meaning. The preliminary analysis of the data in this study will attempt to identify the presence of these steps related to the participants' experience of change. The purpose of this study is two-fold. The first goal is to more deeply understand the potential of older adults for growth and change in order to challenge the limiting stereotypes about old age as a time of stagnation, decline and loss. The second goal is to better understand the link between retirement and change in order to understand how retirement can be used as an opportunity for achieving psychological potential. 4 CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW The following literature review will discuss research in the areas of successful aging, life transitions, retirement, script theory, adult development, crises theory and posttraumatic growth. Successful Aging In an industrial, capitalist society success is often equated with productivity, and retirement a symbol of non-productivity and lack of success (Baltes & Carstensen, 1996). Recent studies have put forth a new definition of success in old age. Baltes and Carstensen found that in addition to being a time of decline and loss, old age can also be a time of "growth, vitality, striving and contentment" (p.398). They outline a meta-model of successful aging called selective optimization with compensation. Selection refers to "the increasing restriction of life domains as a consequence or in anticipation of changes in personal and environmental resources" (p.406). For example, someone who has back pain may decide to stop playing tennis and begin playing bridge. Compensation refers to "the use of alternate means to reach the same goal" (p.409). For example, the person with back pain may choose to manage the pain by playing tennis more gently and for shorter periods of time. In compensation, the goal is maintained but different means are used to attain it, whereas in selection, a new goal is generated. Optimization refers to "the enrichment and augmentation of reserves and resources and, thus, the enhancement of functioning and adaptive fitness in selected life domains" (p.412). If an older person implements all three processes (selection, compensation, and optimization) they can continue to master goals despite decreasing abilities in some areas. According to Baltes 5 and Carstensen, most older adults have the capacity to optimize in different domains, however they are often in environments that inhibit this optimization. Retirement and Life Transitions Psychological development through the transition to retirement has not been directly addressed in empirical research. Most of the literature speaks about successful retirement as adjusting, which is generally defined as "positive retirement attitudes" (Reitzes & Mutran, 2004, p. 64). A few recent articles address how life transitions can be used to foster learning and development. Merriam (1998) posits that life transitions are times for learning and development. She emphasizes that when a transition is out of rhythm with cultural expectations there is a greater potential for learning and development. For learning to occur an event must be discomforting or puzzling enough for us not to reject or ignore if, but instead to attend to it and reflect on it. This is when learning takes place. For learning to be developmental a change in the self and the way we make meaning of our experiences must occur. For transitions to be developmental we need to do more than solve the problem or eliminate the stress; we must actively engage with the event even i f it is painful. "One must be prepared to go into the suffering and chaos of life transitions in order to continue to be fully alive and to come out the other side with a new attitude and perhaps a new self organization" (Skar, 2004). This is echoed in Bridges' (2004) classic self-help book Transitions that outlines how transitions Can be used as stepping-stones on a path of growth. While these articles are encouraging, they are not empirical studies. There is a need for empirical research that can demonstrate that transitions are a time for growth and change, and provide specifics on the nature and process of that change. 6 Reitzes and Mutran (2004) explored the impact of social psychological background and gender factors on retirement adjustment. They used positive retirement attitudes as the measure of retirement adjustment. They suggested that three categories of psychological constructs might contribute to positive changes in retirement: self-concept, continuity of roles, and bridge identities that continue from pre- to post-retirement. The study found that the factors that influence retirement adjustment included pre-retirement self-esteem, friend identity meanings, and pension eligibility. Retirement planning and voluntary retirement increased positive attitudes towards retiring earlier but not later in the first two years of retirement. Poor health decreased positive attitudes towards retirement later rather than earlier in the first two years of retirement. There were only limited gender effects on successful retirement adjustment. Those who adjusted positively were actively striving to work out the opportunities and demands of their retirement. This study provides important information about factors that may affect who is more likely to successfully adjust to retirement. It is uncertain as yet whether these factors also apply to the experience of psychological development following retirement. Simon (1995) says that the extent to which one carries a fulfilling view of one's employed self is the extent to which one can enter a retirement that could be satisfying, and the extent to which the work ethic carries over into retirement affects how satisfied retired people feel. Social and cultural rights and duties of the retired person also influence how the retired person copes, adapts, and becomes satisfied with retirement. The role of the counsellor is to help people repackage strengths from their professional life to suit their post-employment identity. Simon suggests using the concept of a vocational script to assist with this repackaging. A vocational script is a personal work 7 identity that defines how one functions when one works. These scripts are relevant to the construction of self after retirement. Simon points out that to date there is no theory of retirement. She hopes the concept of vocational script will contribute to such a theory. According to Simon retirement planning and counselling focuses too much on financial planning and responding to concerns of aging and not enough on how to help retirees adapt psychologically to their new roles and status. She recommends that becoming aware of one's vocational script is healthy and healing. While Simon uses the term script she is in fact referring to script continuity, whereas this study will explore script change. Still, Simon's study identifies the types of people who are likely to experience retirement as positive and adjust in a satisfying way. Script Theory According to Tomkins (1987), scripts are underlying rules and patterns of thinking about, organizing, and making meaning of our experiences. We start life with some innate scripts, but most of our scripts are learned. We generate scripts to deal with sets of scenes or experiences. For example, an individual who experiences a series of scenes in which a parent disappoints and abandons her may develop the script, T cannot rely on anyone but myself The intensity of the associated unmet need and ensuing emotions underlying scripts magnifies the script (Tomkins). The more magnified a script is, the more power it has over that individual. Scripts form focal points around which other information is organized, so they eventually become both self-validating and self-fulfilling (Kunnen & Wassink, 2003). While acting according to our scripts may feel natural, it can actually be very limiting and most often inherently negative (Moursund & Erskine, 2004). Scripts are our 8 old habits and automatic reactions that prevent spontaneity and limit change and growth. They interfere with meaningful connection with oneself and the external world. Despite their restrictiveness, we accept our scripts because they make life predictable, consistent, and stable and they give us our sense of identity (Moursund & Erskine). As well, scripts are generally out of our awareness, so they feel like the only conceivable way of acting, thinking or feeling. Because scripts determine how people perceive themselves and their world, identity change implies changes in scripts (Kunnen & Wassink, 2003). This change involves making scripts more conscious, more flexible, and more differentiated. When this happens a person is able to connect more spontaneously and authentically with him/herself and with others, which are signs of psychological health and maturity (Moursund & Erskine). Because scripts form a relatively stable equilibrium, the possibility of identity change diminishes as one ages (Tomkins, 1987). Adult Development Kunnen and Wassink's (2003) study states that there is increasing evidence that change in adulthood is possible, but there is little knowledge of the how of this process. The purpose of their study was to elaborate on this change process in detail, focussing on the rules that underlie identity, which they conceptualize using the script construct. They asked: Is it possible to identify a script by which a person interprets different situations in the same way? Is it possible to identify the different ways of reacting to conflict: assimilation, which is when one ignores or distorts the conflicting aspects of a situation in order to continue as before; withdrawal, which is when one attempt to escape from a situation that, i f organized by the script, would have been painful or conflictual; or accommodation which is when one organizes a situation differently and a new more 9 flexible script emerges? Is it possible to identify the different steps in the accommodation of a script? Through a longitudinal study with one adult quitting drugs, they were able to identify a clear dominant script and could classify statements as assimilation, accommodation, and withdrawal. They also successfully observed all steps leading to accommodation of a script. Kunnen and Wassink (2003) believe that more research is needed about psychological changes in adulthood. While my study will be quite different, in that it will be retroflective, this study not only confirms that script change is possible in adulthood but also that it is possible for researchers to identify the steps of script accommodation. Kunnen (2006) hypothesized that changes to identity commitments are driven by conflict. She defines identity commitments as the domains in which one is most involved and that one cares most about. According to Kunnen, identity commitments comprise one's identity. Conflict is defined as a mismatch between a commitment and one's experience resulting in negative emotions. Kunnen's study confirmed that people who experience several conflicts experience a weakening of identity commitments. This may suggest that people who experience retirement as a conflict are more likely to experience changes to their identity commitments and therefore scripts. According to Bosma and Kunnen (2001), conflict is only a starting point. Not everyone experiences development following a conflict. It is important to study the people for whom conflict did result in identity development in order to understand their characteristics and derive learnings that can be applied to others. 10 Manners and Durkin (2000) found that psychological development is possible in older adults and that it represents an accommodative response to disequilibrating life experiences. They explored the reasons why people stabilize below the maximum potential level of psychological development, which they conceptualize using Loevinger's stages of ego development, and what processes may lead to further development. While most adults stabilize at the Self-Aware stage1, this has not been shown to be the most adaptive level. Higher ego development has been associated with, among other things, better preventative health self-care among elderly adults (Manners & Durkin). The purpose of their study was to formulate a conceptual framework to help better understand psychological development or ego-stage transition processes in adulthood. The study found that education level and cognitive abilities influence whether life experiences are perceived as disequilibrating and i f they are, whether the disequilibrium is resolved by assimilation of accommodation. Manners and Durkin recommend several areas that require more research, including what 'real life' experiences lead to ego-stage transition. Manners, Durkin and Nesdale (2004) looked at whether transition beyond Loevinger's Self-A ware ego stage could be promoted through an intervention. The study found that interventions result in psychological development when they are personally salient, emotionally engaging, have an interpersonal component and are disequilibrating. 1 Stage five of Loevinger's nine ego stages, characterized by increased, although still limited, self-awareness and appreciation of multiple possibilities in situations; self-critical; emerging rudimentary awareness of inner feelings of self and others; banal level reflections on life issues such as God, death, relationships, health. (Manners & Durkin, 2000) 11 Crisis Theory and Posttraumatic Growth Several researchers have found that crises, which can include major life transitions, present opportunities to shift to a different level of psychological organization (e.g., Jaffe, 1985; Kessler, 1987; Moos & Schaefer, 1986; Tedeschi, Park, & Calhoun, 1998). According to crisis theory, although people have a natural need for equilibrium, a crisis is so novel that it disrupts equilibrium and interrupts characteristic patterns of thought and behaviour, presenting and opportunity for growth and change (Moos & Schaefer). Existential theorists echo this, suggesting that when an individual's habitual way of adjusting breaks down, it is a crisis that presents an opportunity for growth (e.g., May, 1969; Yalom, 1980). This window of opportunity does not last. A person cannot stay in disequilibrium for very long; a resolution must be found (Moos & Schaefer, 1986). Most people manage these disequilibrating situations in four to six weeks, during which time changes are produced that may remain stable for the rest of a person's life (Tedeschi et al., 1998). Changes from such events may be adaptive or maladaptive, and either way there is opportunity for significant learning and psychological growth during this period (Tedeschi et al.). According to Frazier, Conlon and Glaser (2001), 50-60% of people assessed in the post-traumatic growth literature report some degree of growth or positive change in their sense of self, relationships, and life philosophy following the traumatic event. Their study reveals few specific details about the nature of the changes individuals experience during a crisis and nothing about the process of change. 12 CHAPTER III: METHOD This research aimed to better understand the nature and process of positive psychological change following retirement by investigating the experience of people who have changed. The study used interpretive description methodology, a qualitative approach developed by Thorne, Kirkham, & OTlynn-Magee (2004) to investigate the experience of change following retirement. As discussed, psychological change was initially conceptualized as a shift in scripts. As scripts are idiosyncratic ways of organizing experience, quantitative methods such as standardized questionnaires are not suitable (Kunnen & Wassink, 2003). Qualitative research, with its emphasis on a person's lived experience is better suited for capturing unique meaning-making patterns (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Interpretive description research is a "qualitative investigation of a clinical phenomenon for the purpose of capturing themes and patterns within subjective perceptions and generating an interpretive description capable of informing clinical understanding" (Thorne et al., 2004, p. 5). Interpretive description borrows its means of inquiry from grounded theory, phenomenology, and ethnography. The essential elements borrowed from these disciplines include an emergent design, constant comparative analysis, emphasis on utility, inclusion of the researcher's assumptions, a reflexive attitude, and attention to the influence of various contexts on the research process. Interpretive description is also philosophically aligned with interpretive naturalistic inquiry, which acknowledges that reality is constructed and unique to each person while at the same time allowing for shared realities (Thorne et al). 13 Assumptions According to Thome et al. (2004) the findings do not emerge from the data, nor do the data have a voice, but rather, the researcher drives the interpretation of the data. For this reason the researcher needs to be clear about his or her theoretical and personal assumptions. Theoretically, the first assumption I bring to this research is that people do psychologically change and grow in adulthood. This assumption is based on considerable published research that demonstrates change and development in adults (Kunnen & Wassink, 2002; Manners & Durkin, 2004; Sneed & Whitbourne, 2002). A second assumption is that script theory is relevant to understanding the change process. Again, this assumption has emerged from research about the processes of identity change in adulthood (Kunnen & Wassink, 2003). Third and finally, I assume that through this qualitative study I will be able to tap into some tentative truth claims about the change process that can be extended to a wider group. The initial theoretical framework will reflect these assumptions, however the data collection and data analysis processes are designed to challenge rather than reinforce these assumptions. As I will be interpreting the data it is important that I reflect on and include some information about myself that may influence my analysis and interpretation of these findings. I am not retired, nor am I anywhere close to thinking of retirement. I have, however, experienced positive psychological change in my life. I can think of pivotal experiences that may have precipitated these changes but I do not remember the step-by-step process that led to these changes. In my work as a counsellor I approach clients with an attitude that they are capable of change, and that the counselling process, involving reflection and sharing of 14 one's personal experience in a supportive, empathic and genuine context, can be a helpful component in the change process. I believe even those clients who appear not to change through the counselling process may be affected at a level that could materialize into change at a later time, when the person is ready. I have found that some people are more open to change than others, and that others are capable of extreme denial and defenses despite apparently significant negative consequences to their behaviours and patterns of thinking and feeling. In my view, the pain these defenses block is so significant that the resistance to change is understandable. Still, I believe that under the right conditions everyone is capable of change and growth. I was mindful of these assumptions during my data analysis. Using expert researchers and practitioners as a reliability check, and having the research participants do a validity check on the findings, helped to mitigate the influence of my biases on the findings. Participants The study involved interviewing nine men and women, retired for between twelve months and five years, who self-identified as having changed in positive ways following retirement. Twelve months allowed for a suitable period of psychological adaptation to the transition (Reitzes & Mutran, 2004). Five years as a maximum increased the likelihood of accurate reminiscences and helped to ensure that the change reported was connected to retirement. Since many adults continue to work in some capacity after retirement, participants were asked to self-identify as retired. If it was clear that they continued to work full time and had not had a period of withdrawal from work that resembled retirement, they would not be part of this study. The number of participants is similar to other published studies using this research method (e.g., Henderson & Jackson, 15 2004) and is appropriate for a Masters level thesis. Reitzes and Mutran found limited gender effects on how men and women adjust to retirement. Interviewing both men and women increased the richness of the data. The participants ranged in age from 58-75 and were all Caucasian. Participant Recruitment Participants were recruited from the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island via retiree associations and by word of mouth through colleagues and professors in the U B C counselling community. Recruitment posters communicated that the study intended to interview people who experienced positive changes in how they understand themselves and others since retirement (see Appendix A). As the sample was a criterion, sample participants were screened on the phone to determine if they met the eligibility criteria. In addition to screening for being retired between one and five years, the participants were screened for change following retirement. An example of a screening question was: "Can you give me an example of one way in which you are different now from before you retired?" If a participant referred to behavioural change such as "I get to spend more time with my grandchildren" he or she was prompted with a question such as "What is different about you since retirement that allows you to spend more time with your grandchildren?" Each person that I spoke to on the phone met these eligibility criteria and became a participant in the study. Participants were also asked about their ability to make it to the interview facility at U B C . In order to encourage participation in the study, I arranged to meet with several participants at locations more convenient for them. In an effort to achieve maximum variation in the sample, I tried to recruit for a variety of age, gender and experience with retirement (e.g., voluntary or involuntary). 16 Data Collection Participants took part in a one-on-one interview for one to two hours. Prior to the interview participants were sent pre-interview tips and questions to prepare them for the interview (see Appendix B). The interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. In order to enhance the interview data participants were invited to provide written reports of anything that occurred to them following the interview. Four participants submitted additional comments via email. Following the initial data analysis I met with the participants a second time for approximately thirty minutes to confirm that I had accurately captured their comments; gather input on anything they wished to add, remove or modify; and solicit their feedback on the shared themes from all of the interviews. This feedback was incorporated into the data analysis. One of the nine participants was not available to meet for a follow up interview and I was not able to reach her by any other means (email, phone, mail) to obtain her feedback. Her interview data was included in the data analysis. Interview Format The interview was designed to give participants the opportunity to freely report on their experience of change. According to Kunnen and Wassink (2003) script patterns are best captured using participants' free reports about how they experience a situation and what they think and feel about it. The interview started with a very broad statement such as, "Tell me about your experience of retirement." From here I followed the thread of conversation with probing questions to access the specific ways in which they had changed as well as the process of that change. Following this initial discussion, I shifted towards more structured questions designed to understand the process of their change. 17 For example, I prompted participants with questions such as, "Think back to your last day of work. Can you describe that day and the following couple of weeks? What was going on for you? What were you thinking? Feeling?" I then asked questions designed to discover whether they had experienced any of the mechanisms that have been shown to relate to script change, including exploration of scenes, exploration of the script, exploration of the conflicting components, exploration of the conflict, experience of the primary emotion and accommodation (see Appendix C for a complete list of these mechanisms with definitions). An example of a question designed to look for assimilation or withdrawal is: "Do you recall trying to cope with the mixed feelings of retirement by blocking out some aspects of the experience? Or escaping using some diversion?" A question to access exploration of scene is: "Do you ever recall acknowledging that the difficulties you were experiencing were connected to your own way of thinking and feeling or experiencing the world?" (See Appendix D for a comprehensive list of the interview questions). It became clear following the first two interviews that the structured questions relating to the detailed experience in the days and weeks following retirement and the mechanisms of script change were not effective. Participants were not able to remember or speak to the precise process they went through that led to the change. Further, the questions seemed disjointed and interrupted the flow of the interview, from which I was gathering rich information on their experience of retirement and the ways in which they had changed. These first two interviews still provided enough information about the participants' experience of change following retirement that I included them in the data analysis however I knew I needed to change the format of the interview. In keeping with 18 the guidelines of interpretive description which emphasize an emergent design I changed the format of my interview early in my data gathering so as to create a more open format. This format seemed to be the most effective method of gathering meaningful information about the participants' experience of retirement and how they had changed. Within this open format I still attempted to access information about the ways in which they had changed and the process they had experienced, and I gradually came to accept that in this retroflective study I would not be able to report on the step-by-step experience that led to the change. I was able to gather profound information about their experience leading up to and following retirement as well as the ways in which they had changed, but I was not able to determine i f the mechanisms of script change were present. Studies that have been able to successfully report on the mechanisms of script change have interviewed people at several points during the process of change. Future research may follow individuals through the transition to retirement in order to access the step-by-step change process. Data Analysis Unlike many qualitative methodologies, interpretive description research assumes that there is some a priori theoretical knowledge that will guide the preliminary analysis. Script theory informed the preliminary analytic framework used to guide the early interviews and analytic decisions. I expected to analyze the data based on script change; and the steps that lead to script change, however as described above, during the initial interviews I discovered that I was not able to access the mechanisms of script change. I also realized that in trying to view the data through the lens of script theory I was missing a wealth of information about the participants' phenomenological experiences of positive change following retirement. This is appropriate for the interpretive description's 19 guidelines of data analysis: "The preliminary analytic framework represents a beginning point rather than an organizing structure for what is found in the inquiry, it typically will be challenged as the inductive analysis proceeds" (Thome, Kirkham, & Macdonald-Emes, 1997, p. 173). Interpretive description research can draw on a variety of "recipes" to guide the analytic process (Thome et al., 2004): "Whatever the chosen analytic method, interpretive description requires the researcher to comprehend the data, synthesize meanings, theorize relationships, and recontextualize the data into findings" (p. 11). Thome et al. caution against coding line-by-line or word-by-word, which they believe "detracts from the mind's capacity to see patterns, follow intuitions and retrace a line of logical reasoning between pieces of data" (p. 10). The following describes the data analysis procedures used in this study, which according to Guba (1981), must be provided in detail in order to increase the trustworthiness of the data. First I transcribed the interviews verbatim, taking notes of observations regarding the participants' experience of change. I then read each interview, highlighting significant phrases and taking notes on my observations related to participants' experience of positive change. I reread the interviews and began to label significant phrases into categories of similar comments. During this process I was asking myself "What is happening here related to the participants' experience of change?" and "What am I learning?" According to Thome et al. (1997), these questions "typically stimulate more coherent analytic frameworks for interpretive description than will sorting, filing and combining vast quantities of small data units" (p. 174). While interpretive description allows for the influence of a priori theory, it is still important at 20 this stage to allow the interviews to speak for themselves and not be restricted by the particular theory. It was during the transcription and this initial analysis of the first few interviews that I realized what I was finding were changes that seemed to reflect much more than script change. The result of this initial open-coding process was a document with the individual themes from each interview. It was apparent that there were similar themes in many of the interviews, as well as some data that were so unique to each individual that it would likely not be part of the collective results. I then began a process of clustering the individual themes into broader categories that cut across the majority of the interviews. The challenge at this stage in the analysis was to allow for the fact that much of what participants were sharing was not reflecting what I had read in the literature regarding the process of change. For example, I had expected to find that participants experienced a period of disequilibrium that was followed by specific steps that led to the change. Participants may have gone through the steps following disequilibrium as described in the literature, but in the interview they were not able to recollect the precise process that led to their change, nor was there a clear link between the disequilibrium and the change. At this point I began to separate my analysis into two sections first, the ways the participants had changed, and second, their experience of retirement, without making a causal link between the two. As a reliability check, I met with my research supervisor to review the interview data and clustered themes. Together we identified areas of overlap and gaps, which resulted in consolidation of some themes and the generation of new ones. Once the themes were created and defined, I reviewed each interview transcript again to see i f the 21 comments fit back into the themes. According to Thorne et al. (1997), "Effective qualitative research requires endurance and patience. Researchers need to be willing to throw out their data-organizing scheme i f it becomes apparent that there is a better way to represent the data" (p. 175). During this process, when too many significant comments could not be classified into the identified common themes, I started the categorization again from scratch. This served almost as an inter-rater agreement check with myself, but also allowed for the emergence of a new way of conceptualizing the themes. In constant comparative analysis the data are constantly revisited after initial coding, until it is clear that no new themes are emerging (Trochim, 2006). In the end, I revised the themes three or four times when gaps and overlaps were discovered until I finally identified three broad themes that seemed to fit the significant interview data. For a second reliability check I met with my research supervisor and an expert counselling practitioner with significant expertise about people in the process of change and together we reviewed my categorization of the comments. These two individuals either accepted or challenged the themes and the ways in which the interview comments were assigned. Based on their feedback I modified the theme titles and definitions. The follow-up meeting with participants served as a validity check, allowing me to confirm with the true experts in this area that the findings accurately reflected their experience. Based on participant input I made minor modifications to the theme definitions. According to interpretive description, ultimately the researcher must take a risk and commit to making interpretation in the data analysis process (Thorne et al., 1997). 22 This interpretation must present the phenomena in a way that is meaningful to clinical practice. The results and my interpretation of the results follow in chapters four and five. Ensuring Trustworthiness of the Data I used Guba's (1981) criteria for ensuring trustworthiness of the data: credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability. Credibility involves establishing that the results of qualitative research are credible or believable from the perspective of the participants. To ensure this, adoption of a well-established method is recommended. While interpretive description is a relatively new methodology, it is a thoughtful integration of well-established qualitative methodologies, including phenomenology and grounded theory, that is specifically designed for a discipline that requires practical application. It uses emergent design and constant comparative analysis, both well-established methods of data analysis. Credibility also requires understanding and familiarity with the culture of the participants. This research required me to learn about older people and retirees and my studies have provided me with some expertise in cross-cultural sensitivity generally, and ageism specifically. Every opportunity for participation was given, provided the participants met the criteria for inclusion in this study. For example, I arranged to meet participants at various locations that were more convenient for them in order to allow for their participation in the study. Credibility also requires different ways of data gathering, which this study did using both interviews and written reports. Most importantly, the validity check with the participants enhances the credibility of the findings. Transferability refers to the degree to which the results of qualitative research can be generalized or transferred to other contexts or settings. From a qualitative perspective 23 transferability is primarily the responsibility of the one doing the generalizing. "The person who wishes to 'transfer' the results to a different context is then responsible for making the judgment of how sensible the transfer is" (Trochim, 2006, on http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/qualval.php). Doing a thorough job of describing the research context and the assumptions that were central to the research enhances transferability. I have provided detailed information about the context of the participants and my personal assumptions in order to address the transferability. Dependability, similar to the concept of reliability, "emphasizes the need for the researcher to account for the context within which research occurs." (Trochim, 2006, on http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/qualval.php). In order to enhance dependability, a detailed description of the data analysis procedures and design are provided. Confirmability, often compared to objectivity, refers to the degree to which others could corroborate the results. Consultation with expert researchers served to corroborate the results, thus enhancing confirmability. To further enhance confirmability an audit trail is available upon request, as to how the data were gathered, and on what basis the interpretations and recommendations were made. I believe this study meets these four criteria for data trustworthiness. Ethical Considerations The key ethical concern in this study was to protect the participants from psychological discomfort or harm. An informed consent form outlined for participants what they could expect (see Appendix E). I also informed the participants prior to and during the interview that it may be emotionally distressing to reflect on their experience. 24 In addition to being a sensitive and empathic enquirer during the interview, participants were also provided with a list of professional counsellors and other community supports following the interview, in the event that they felt further therapeutic attention and support was needed (see Appendix F). One participant, whose experience of retirement was linked to another very painful personal transition, commented that she was very upset following the interview. However she added that she was grateful for the opportunity to revisit and reflect on this time and that the pain was ultimately beneficial. This participant had access to her own personal counsellor. 25 CHAPTER IV: RESULTS The following is a summary of the findings from interviews with nine participants who reported having changed positively following retirement. First I will provide a description of the study participants followed by a full accounting of how the participants changed following retirement, and finally a contextual statement that describes key components of their experience leading up to and following retirement that may be linked to the outcome of change and growth. The Participants The participants were six females and three males ranging in age from 58 to 75 who had been retired between one and five years. Retirement was voluntary for seven of the participants. The two participants for whom retirement was mandatory were male. A l l but one of the participants held a university degree and four of them had PhDs. While several of the participants experienced some on-going health problems, all of them subjectively experienced their health as predominantly good. Financially all nine participants were in a position to retire without having to significantly change their spending and lifestyle. Eight of the participants were in romantic relationships, which they described as loving and positive. I did not gather information on the participants' ethnicity, although it seemed apparent that at least two of the participants were not born in Canada. A l l of the participants were Caucasian. There were a few significant character traits common to the majority of the participants. I will use the words of the participants in order to illustrate these common traits. 26 A l l nine participants expressed a high level of satisfaction with their profession and described themselves as successful in their career: "I am not being arrogant when I say I was highly successful at it." - "I did a good job at it because I worked so very hard at it and I was very successful at it." "I loved teaching there was absolutely nothing better for me than getting in front of a class, it just gave me so much energy." "Very interesting job, loved the work, loved the people." "The career has been a good one. I really came to love the field." - "I really loved it." Six of the nine participants described themselves as having very high standards, characterized by words like perfectionist, discipline and responsible: "I feel an unreasonable degree of responsibility for things." "I guess I'm a bit of a perfectionist in a lot of areas." "I'm very much a perfectionist." - "I'm quite a responsible person." "I am a fairly disciplined person." Four of the nine participants explicitly described themselves as having a learning approach to life. Without connoting it, the other five demonstrated a learning approach to their career and retirement: "I always like challenging my mind all the time." - "When I'm interested in something I read up about it. I love learning." 27 "I'm a person who gets easily boredwhen there is no challenge. That's why I had several different careers." - "I've always been a thinker, an internal thinker." Three of the nine participants described themselves as solution-oriented and all nine participants demonstrated a proactive, agentic approach to their career and retirement: - "I've always been one to say that i f you're going to bitch about something, what is the solution? So, I try to offer solutions too for the bridge thing, not to just complain about stuff, state my concern and then I see this as one of the solution and hopefully you have others." "I tend to be more of a problem solver." "If you ask our friends my wife and I are problem solvers not problem creators and that helps it keeps the mind open to solutions." Shared Essential Themes of Change Since retirement all of the participants had changed in profound and positive ways. The changes experienced by the participants fell under three broad themes: I) Initial Changes to Felt Sense of Self, II) Coming to Terms with the Life Lived; and III) Redefinition of Self. The following are definitions of the three themes, and subsequently a presentation of the detailed results, with examples using the words of the participants. Initial Changes to Felt Sense of Self is defined as a shift in how participants experience themselves and the world since they stopped working. This theme has two sub-themes, Internal Peace and External Play. Internal Peace is defined as an increase in feelings of calm, ease and well-being. External Play is defined as an increase in behaviours 28 characterized as carefree and full of fun. Coming to Terms with the Life Lived is defined as an increased reflection on the choices one has made, a recognition of mistakes and regret, acceptance of personal responsibility, and reevaluation of how one wants to live going forward. Redefinition of Self is defined as significant changes to how one sees and defines oneself. This theme has two sub-themes, Script Change and Living One's Own Life. Script Change is defined as increased awareness of and changes to limiting patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. Living One's Own Life is defined as an increased acknowledgment and expression of one's true self, separate from what others want and expect. The following are the results including excerpts from the participant interviews to illustrate each theme. Theme I: Initial Changes to Felt Sense of Self Shortly after retirement, all nine participants experienced a shift in how they experienced themselves and the world, towards more relaxed and playful ways of being. Participants connected these changes to having more time and less stress. Internal Peace Seven out of nine participants experienced enhanced feelings of calm, ease and well-being: "I'm much gentler with myself now." "I think I feel less pressured." "I like the feeling that I can now schedule my day the way I want to. It feels wonderful that I can now do what I want to do." 29 "I feel freer and that's important for me. I feel better.. .better is a not a way to describe it.. .1 think the way to say it is I have more time to consider those items that I have never been able to experience before." - "After I finished (work) about a couple months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And so I thought that's ok, I've got the time to take care of myself, before I would have been thinking, I've got to get back to work, and now I had the time." "I'm in better health than I was because I take more time to exercise and there's less stress." External Play Six of the nine participants reported behaving in more carefree and playful ways: "I'm having more fun because I have time for fun." - "Since I've left work it's given me the opportunity to take from the smorgasbord of life. I've been eating meat and potatoes long enough." "One thing I have done that I never thought I would do in my lifetime, I will stay in bed sometimes until seven and even once in a while until eight. That was unheard of.. .and my kids when they heard about this they were absolutely amazed." - I wouldn't feel guilty now because I am not missing an important opportunity or an important commitment. If we want to go see a matinee we'll just jump in the car and go see a matinee, because I love going to matinees." - "Sometimes it feels like we're on vacation. It feels really good. We take naps now and we don't feel guilty. We're not neglecting something and we're cultivating love together." 30 "The first year people would ask me 'what are you doing?' and I'd say, actually 'I 'm looking out the window a lot more' and I'd catch myself five minutes in and think oh, I've been looking out the window for five minutes I mean I never did that.. .there wasn't the five minutes to do it." Theme II: Coming to Terms with the Life Lived Six of the nine participants experienced an increased reflection on the choices they had made, recognition of mistakes and regret, acceptance of personal responsibility, and reevaluation of how they want to live going forward: "I came into (retirement) thinking that I had a lot of regrets about the kind of mothering that I'd done, particularly when I was a new and young mother, and that I wished I'd done things differently and I came to the conclusion that I can't change that, but what I can try to be is a better mother to an adult child." "Before I could always say I didn't have a choice, but I really did have more choices than I said before. I could have published a little less. I didn't have to get the highest salary review every time. Who cares? I could have gotten a lower salary. Who cares? But I cared." "I was not as involved as I should have or could have been in raising the children and in a way I regret that part. There is a saying where I come from, 'once you come back from city hall you're smarter than when you went in' . So some of these things come to you after you review what you have done and say I could have done this or that better, but then there's no use in crying over spilled milk. Now for instance today I told my wife don't worry about dinner I ' l l bring dinner when I come back from this interview because she has some friends coming over 31 to watch a movie and so I'm really happy that kind of my retirement activities have allowed me to learn that the family relation is very, very important." - "It's very, very easy to look back and to be filled with regret about the choices I made. So that's another thing I tried to do to look back and see why I made these choices to be able to articulate why did you do it. If you asked me that, to be able to say it, so that later when I come to regret that I can say, 'but remember at the time that's what you said and you didn't just do it, you did try to think about it a bit.'" "As of recent I have really, through reflection and observation come to the understanding that my wife is more important than the other things that I do, because again we have a limited amount of time remaining together. We've been married for 32 years now. My wife was in a supporting role in all of my business dealings and I must prove to her that she is an equal partner in my retirement. That is very, very important." Theme III: Redefinition of Self A l l nine participants reported changes to how they define themselves by increased awareness of and change to limiting rules, scripts and patterns, and experiencing a much stronger sense of self-direction. This theme has two sub-themes - Script Change and Living One's Own Life. Script Change Since retirement all nine participants became aware of and changed limiting patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, allowing for an expanded range of experience. 32 This theme is further divided into two sub-categories: Internal Shifts in Thinking and Feeling and Externally Pushing Boundaries and Taking Risks. Internal shifts in patterns of thinking and feeling. Eight of the nine participants reported internal shifts characterized by increased flexibility, humility and gentleness with themselves and others: "I think I have loosened up in the sense that I can let things go. I can let things be without needing to resolve everything and put a punctuation mark at the end. If I have a squabble with my son, and we leave, both of us feeling furious and angry with each other, I don't need to come back to it the next day and pick at it and sort it out again. I can let it ride and it will disappear with time or come back to it two weeks later. I say to myself, I will not feel the intensity that I'm feeling now in two weeks time, it's better just to let that go." - "I feel less the need, certainly in my children's lives, I really do feel in fact that I don't know with that same certainty what's best for them. I mean there are times when I'd still like to say things, but I don't and that's good too. I've definitely lost the sense that I know best, that my life experience is the only experience that matters." I still deal with guilt, which is sort of a family ailment. I rarely sit down during the day. It doesn't mean I'm not indulging myself. I do my crosswords and puzzles standing up. I ' l l never not have those underlying notions because they just go with the territory, but they are not holding me back. A desire to go out and do things exceeds the desire to feed my guilt." 33 "My anxiety level would be a big change, the moving inwards, the loss of that little cocoon of anxiety that I think followed me around that fear of failure." - "I'm more forgiving and more reflective and realizing that I will never be able to change (my kids) so I have to strike a fine balance between a good relationship with them and behaviour on their part that I can accept." "I guess I'm more able to relax. I'm able to not spend time fussing about things and get on with life. Rather than spending life being fussed about it, rather than get in a stew about it, Imean i t ' l l be there tomorrow, maybe things will change tomorrow." "You can't be the same goal-oriented person that you were all the time when you were working. You can't push yourself in the same ways. I think just perhaps the process of being and being centred in that being seems to me to be very, very important, so I'm trying not to have specific goals and it's a real struggle for me, even though I have always, always had goals and have pushed myself to attain them. (I'm) trying to find that still calm place inside myself." Externally pushing boundaries and taking risks. Three of the nine participants reported taking more risks and pushing their boundaries beyond their previous comfort zone. These behaviours seem to reflect changes to underlying script patterns: - "I've been taking more risks in that I've always wanted to have some kind of creative hobby, so I took up photography and I did a course where I knew I was going to be the least competent person in that group. I would have to start and be really at a complete loss and ask people to help and do all those things and that was my first major risk." 34 "In terms of pushing boundaries I would take my quilts down and show (the people at the quilting shop). I'm not a very confident kind of person, I'm not a terribly out there kind of person so it was hard for me to do that but now it's kind of fun, but I still get down there at 9:30, because I don't want to really see anybody. I think it's the passion for the subject that's made it ok for me, in fact I don't even lose sleep the night before anymore." "I feel like I've jumped off a cliff and am building my parachute as I go." Living One's Own Life A l l nine participants reported increased acknowledgment and expression of their authentic self, separate from what others want and expect of them: "Before, I would have said well I've already taken a big trip this year and I should look after my garden and sometimes thinking my sisters and brothers they wouldn't do this, but when I really sit down and analyze it I think, 'Why am I feeling guilty because I'm going off traveling, because I'm the only one who ever has, because I like it and they don't.'" "I don't mind kissing in public now. I'm less concerned with what others think and I know it makes my wife happy which feels good to me. Retirement allowed the pressure to lift to allow for this." "In the early part of my retirement I used to feel I needed to use my time to make a difference and now I'm much more, either selfish or relaxed I don't know. I just am more self-indulgent. Whatever I feel like doing I do." 35 "That's the nice thing about retirement. At first it's a bit daunting, but I'm making choices, genuine choices, for the first time. Not because I have to do this and I'm required to do that, but what are my choices?" "Rather than filling up my days being busy, always looking outside myself for that fulfillment, I'm trying to look inside myself. And I think it is maybe one of those things that happens as one gets older, going from the outside to the inside. I'm 58, it's not that I'm all that old but you never know how many years you're going to be given and I do want to try and figure that out before it's tested to the ultimate limit." "I suppose you could say that I have become more intolerant of bad behaviour, I mean before I'd think well bad behaviour, you have to work with the person, but I suppose I've become a little more intolerant of people playing politics with other people, I just look at that and say no, maybe I don't want that person as a friend." "I had a friend who was like a black hole and I found I just could not keep her on. She would phone and would complain, complain, complain about her work and not really ask how are you doing and finally I realized I don't need someone to suck me dry and call me dusty. I don't think it's healthy to have friends like that around me, and after you've told them, look you're really draining me, I don't want that." "I can feel guilty and then tie myself in knots or I can say, 'Isn't it wonderful that I can sew for five hours a day, isn't that wonderful! How many people have that?' It's hard for me because all my life has been imposed with self-imposed shoulds." 36 Contextual Statement The following section describes a number of commonalities in how participants approached retirement before and after it occurred. Experience Leading up to Retirement This section covers what participants felt, thought about, and did on personal, professional and social levels in the months leading up to retirement, including the factors that influenced the participants' decision to retire and their preparations for retirement. Factors that influenced the decision to retire The following outlines the feelings, thoughts, and experiences that participants listed as connected to their decision to retire. Assessed the financial and emotional implications of no longer working (Seven participants) "I thought about what life would be like i f I weren't getting up and going to work everyday, and I guess what would life be like with lower income and concluded that i f I was orderly about it and gave myself long enough to plan I wouldn't wake up that first day and think there was a huge hole in my life." "I was weighing up the losses of a very satisfying career, of the fact that I had terrific amounts of positive feedback and strokes from that, that I knew would go. That's a big loss, a huge loss. You get other kinds of things from friends, but you just don't get that kind of stuff in your retirement existence unless you take up some other kind of work or volunteer work or that kind of thing. I knew it would be hard, but I thought that there would be enough compensation. By the time I'd 37 come to the decision I'd kind of weighed out these things and I thought that the satisfaction of just leisure and fun would make up for those losses." "I was concerned about finances. I thought, 'Oh no, how am I going to manage? I take home a healthy salary, how am I going to manage on approximately half that?' Well, that's what it would be, so I thought I don't know how I'm going to deal with that and I talked to some of my friends who had retired, and a friend of mine who was retired a number of years said, 'Don't worry, you'll be fine with it.' Because I had a fair amount of savings and with the pension I seem to be saving money still and so I'm not doing too badly." Shift in interest away from work towards other things (Six participants). "I had friends who had not been working or had themselves retired and it seemed to me that they were having fun and I could never join in that fun, like going on gardening trips, walking groups. It seemed to me they were doing things spontaneously that I could not join into." "A group of six of us took a trip by train to New Orleans and had just a grand old time. Sifting there Wednesday afternoon looking out the window and I thought, i f I were retired I could be doing this any time." "Requirements for training of professional education became higher and higher and higher and at that time I didn't feel like going to school again, to basically prove to others that I already knew what they were going to teach me, other than to get a certificate at the end that I learned it again." 38 "I am a very disciplined person, feel very responsible for the things I take on and I wanted to change that. I wanted to live a much more spontaneous life. I wanted to have more free time." "I wasn't as interested in the challenge anymore and I just thought if I'm not interested in the challenge then what am I doing? You know, I might as well move on to something else, so I thought well, it's about time." Felt burned out (Five participants) "I was really tired, especially with all the commuting, and I thought it's time for me to retire." "I got very, very tired and I think it was the emotional drain of the break-up probably, because I don't feel that way anymore. But I think I was burned out too. I had 16 years of teaching, usually four courses a term." "It's funny and I would give you this advice too, when you're young, you don't realize how tired you're going to be when you're older, so think about a pension plan now." Significant life event/part of a personal process of growth (Five participants). "When I turned 60, you know those big numbers turn you over I think, and I began to think about how I wanted to live the rest of my life and what I wanted and retirement started to surface in my mind as something to think about." "Around three to four years into this process (following divorce) as I started to gain strength and confidence and everything else I realized I was going to have to make life changes in order to leave this marriage behind." 39 "I developed a breast lump and when it was discovered, my first thought was I don't want to die when I am feeling so f-ing tired. I felt it would almost be criminal to push myself to the point of getting sick, what a cruel thing to do to myself, why would I ever want to do that? And so that was part of my voting for myself, to say, i f I'm going to get cancer, at least I can say, 'Damn, I've had a good time and this is a piss off because I don't want to die, I'm having a great time right now' instead of thinking 'I 'm so tired I couldn't fight it, I wouldn't even know how to deal with it actually'. So that was another big factor. I just want to live as full a life as I can i f I have to go out earlier rather than later, I want to go feeling rich inside myself instead of wrung out." Involuntary (Two participants) "What would I have done i f I hadn't been forced to retire? I might have stayed on but I think it would have been stressful. But even so, it was mandatory and that I resented." "It was mandatory. I went right to 65, but I had to go. I'm hoping they'll change that for people." Preparations for retirement: The following outlines what participants felt, thought about, and/or did after the decision to retire, but before actually retiring in order to get ready for it. Anticipated, planned for life after retirement (Five participants) "I gave a year's notice to continue making plans for myself. What I was going to do and how I was going to do it?" 40 - "Yes, I started to think about what am I going to do? What do I really like? And they did have some retirement seminars at (my workplace) so I went to a couple of those, one about financial planning. But then I had to get emotionally and mentally ready for it as well and they had a couple of seminars on those, which made me think about what do I really like to do, so that helped me in my transition from when I finished work." "I was unafraid to think about it. I think a lot of people even when they know it's coming up, it's such a terrible thing that they deny it, saying,. ' I ' l l be fine, I ' l l be fine'. But really, how will you be fine? They don't think about it, they really don't think about it." Did not think about it (Two participants - the two for whom retirement was mandatory) "Well I was so busy doing so many things that it did not really seem very real to me until it happened. I wasn't preparing for it, I wasn't really planning. And (my wife) was saying to me I should plan." "In the lead up to retirement, as it was sort of sinking in, I was not concerned, but thinking of ways of how to continue the work for a while. And I suppose I was covering my tracks mentally about this void, which I probably subliminally knew about, but I had it suppressed." Experience After Retiring The following outlines what participants felt, thought or did on a personal, professional and social level following retirement. This section details participants' 41 feelings, thoughts and emotional process following retirement as well as the strategies, priorities and actions they employed in their approach to being retired. Positives/rewards Seven of the nine participants experienced retirement as mostly positive. "It wasn't difficult for me. I was exhilarated and I didn't have any regrets whatsoever and I guess I still don't." "I was just wonderful. I was just flying, just flying." "It was just the best oh my god. Oh my GOD yeah, yeah! I would go for a walk in the morning and I would take my binoculars and sometimes my walk would be one to two hours because I'd be watching the birds and what have you. Yeah, that was fabulous." "I haven't looked back at work, not at all, not at all." "I remember leaving campus a feeling of relief and freedom." "It's good that when a friend goes through a hard time that you can be there. That's very rewarding. That's where you get some of the strokes back, is that you're available. When people need you, you can be available." - "I don't miss work. That's really quite surprised me. And also for the first while it was interesting hearing about the people at work and the politics at work and now it just doesn't interest me at all." Negatives/challenges A l l nine participants had some negative feelings and experiences related to retirement, though only two experienced retirement as predominantly negative. These were the same two for whom retirement was mandatory. 42 Immediately following retirement "I was completely unable to connect with anything. I wandered around the house. I couldn't do anything. Yeah, for about three months I would start something even like cleaning out a drawer and then I'd go do something else. I had no focus. It was as though I had this sense of all of this time on my hands and I just didn't know what to do with it. I was thinking, 'Are you going nuts?'" "It was just that feeling of having infinite time, thus not being able to structure my time at all. Having no structure and not being able to handle it, like a little child set into a candy store just grabbing here, here and here rather than being a smart kid and going where the goodies are and getting the real chocolate. So I wasn't sure what that was, so it took two-three months before I could structure my day." "I did have a moment when I handed my keys, so any time I go to the school, which I have not done once since I retired, I would have to wear a visitors pass now i f I went back. That's weird. I can't say sad, it was just it was a closure, it was a never again, now that's part of my past." It left a huge void. I had some ideas (of what I wanted to do) but they were sort of eclipsed in a sense by the thought that I constantly felt I should be doing something and so that void sort of surprised me." "September came and it just sort of, this thing oozed into September. Everyone went back to work and I was like, "Where am I?" and I had to kind of think ok what...well, I ' l l start going to movies." "I missed being able to say that I am a university instructor and missed having that identity. Because it made me feel somewhat important (laughs)." 43 On-going challenges "(Retirement) was mandatory and that I resented. I became more sensitive to a lot of feminist theory; that women choose whatever they want to do. If a woman chooses to be a housewife or be a career woman or in-between fine, but the issue is the choice and who prescribes. And it was the fact that it was prescribed for me that I have always resented." "This is one of the hard parts is, where is my social group? Even though people are friendly with me here and I'm thankful I don't have to go to meetings, I don't miss the meetings, nevertheless students served an important social function for me and faculty and, like a lot of males, I'm not a very social individual. I think women are a lot healthier in that sense on the average. I feel kind of isolated at times." "It was hard to leave the students. They kept me young, they just really kept me young." "I have not had as much time as I would have liked with the intimate friendships I already had, and I think the reason for that is something that I am experiencing now in retirement.. .you definitely have time but you fill that time with things because it's still hard to get something planned because each person has a life they are leading that's filled up with things other than work but still filled up in some way or another." "I think now is the time when it's going to be hardest for me, because now with my husband retiring, that adds a responsibility into my life in terms of his well being. I know that in the past I've been the one who makes the social life, makes 44 the life that is outside of his work life happen and I think in his mind I will have the program. I am concerned that I will again be less free, but I am conscious of the fact that I will now be conscious of someone who needs my company. Which is something I've got used to not having." Intentions and strategies for managing life after retirement Following retirement all nine participants actively engaged in the process of redefining themselves. They planned for how they wanted their new life to be and took action to make that a reality. General Intentions. Six participants described their intentions for managing life after retirement. "You have to think about, what am I going to do, be and so on that is going to stay with me through my aging and is going to be in and of itself a learning experience at a time in one's life when one can still learn. And I guess that was a strong motivator for me to say, 'Ok, I'm 60, and from here on I'm going to get older, what am I going to do while I still can to prepare for that'. And I identified developing intimate relationships as being important, and risk taking, feeling that you actually can look stupid sometimes and it's ok, you'll get over it. And it's also knowing that there are people who will listen to you, care about you, connect with you, be with you, because you lose things as you get older." "I think people who have too few interests or too much time there is something it's like a vacuum and there's something that rushes in to fill it and 45 it's probably thinking about aches and pains and that your sons and daughters haven't phoned in a week and that can put you into a downward spiral." "My life has to be meaningful and to participate in life. I don't want to be just an observer, I want to be a participant." - "That became my motto, not to always do the same thing, but to be a creature of habit in some ways. I think the worst thing in the world for me would have been to give up everything. I don't understand how people could do that." Specific Strategies. Seven of the participants adopted a strategy to structure their life following retirement. "Divide your day into three, morning, noon and night. In order to have some structure in your day you should have something in at least one of those segments. Try not to book more than two, so you have some time for yourself. And i f you ever have to book three then the next day you take off completely." "I latched onto a nice little summary of retirement that talked about taking care of mind, body, spirit, do something in each area each day and so I try and do that, something in relation to my mind body and spirit." "I made a list of tasks that I would do everyday, and I haven't really adhered to it but it was a good structure to have." "My concern was to stay active in the community and that means to be out of the house and doing things and meeting new people." 46 On-going challenges: Seeking purpose and meaning Three participants talked about wanting a larger purpose for their life. - I kept feeling and still feel that there is something else that I am supposed to be doing. But I trust that i f I leave the space for that it will come to me." "I wanted my life to get bigger. How is it that then you can take the challenge of losing the large arena (of work), your life really getting smaller, and make your life bigger? How do you do that? And I think that for me is the big challenge of retirement and I haven't figured it out yet. I believe that the universe will give me the answer, and maybe I'm wrong, maybe there is no answer, maybe that's possible. I have to accept that as well, otherwise I ' l l be frustrated because it becomes a goal-oriented thing." "It was a challenge to look at what am I going to do with the rest of my life. And now I'm going through that period again. I'm retired three years now and I'm thinking do I want to take a part time position, maybe I want to just work, I'm not sure." 47 CHAPTER V: DISCUSSION This study found that following retirement participants changed profoundly, and in ways that defy stereotypes about old age as a time of stagnation and decline. While all of the participants in this study revealed areas of decline and loss, they were also actively engaged in an ongoing process of evolution and growth. Adults whose career was characterized by discipline and responsibility became more playful and relaxed. They experienced an increased awareness, understanding and acceptance of the path their life had taken, including acknowledgement of mistakes and regret and responsibility for their life going forward. They experienced changes to limiting patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, marked by increased flexibility, humility and autonomy. The findings send a strong message of hope about what is possible in the transition to retirement and later life. The stability that characterizes the environment of most adults promotes conformity and limits growth and change (Helson & Roberts, 1994). It is through challenging and destabilizing experiences that adults have the potential for growth and development. Retirement allows for a shift away from the conformity of many professional environments and destabilizes the patterns and predictability of professional life and therefore creates the possibility for growth. The intent of this study was to explore the experience of positive change following retirement in order to better understand the nature and process of that change. I expected to find that the changes to participants were linked to the disequilibrium of retirement and were preceded by the step-by-step process of script accommodation or change. Each participant in this study experienced some significant challenges and disequilibrium following retirement, and their responses to these 48 challenges may in fact be linked to their growth and change. However, participants were not able to remember the detailed steps that lead to the changes they experienced which makes it very difficult to link their disequilibrium to the specific changes each experienced. Most participants did not experience retirement as a crisis. Crisis theory as cited in the literature review is therefore not relevant to this study. Despite the challenges, the participants in this study experienced retirement as predominantly positive. This is consistent with the findings of the groundbreaking Study of Adult Development at Harvard University (henceforth referred to as SAD) as cited in George Vaillant's, Aging Well2 (2002), which found there are only a few conditions under which retirement is generally perceived of as a crisis, and "overall retirement is highly overrated as a major life problem" (p. 221). Many of the changes experienced by participants seemed to be related to the time and space created by retirement, and to the freedom from the conforming environments in which most participants had spent their careers. The changes may also be linked to the proactive and insightful way in which most participants approached retirement. Most importantly, the fact that these participants changed and the ways in which they changed following retirement opens up new possibilities for adults who may have unconsciously accepted limiting ageist stereotypes. It cannot be denied that this is an extraordinary group of older adults who are highly educated and professionally successful, and demonstrate maturity and 2 The Study of Adult Development at Harvard University is based on a scientific evaluation of three prospective, longitudinal, adult development study cohorts including, 268 socially advantaged men, 456 socially disadvantaged men, and 90 middle-class, gifted women. A unique database was compiled by means of giving out questionnaires every two years and conducting physical examinations every five years and standardized interviews every 15 years. Corollary data were also compiled from spouses and children. The data were scrutinized by a panel of researchers who were blind to the identities of the members. In Aging Well, George Vaillant, Director of the Study, draws on the study data to explore the factors that are linked to successful aging. 49 sophisticated thinking. However, the SAD shows that "those who thrive in old age are not exceptions, they are just healthy" (Vaillant, p. 285). With few exceptions, most adults are capable of growth and change at any age. Perhaps this group changed because they did not accept the notion that they could not. From this exemplary group we can derive best practices about managing retirement that can be brought to a broader group by way of retirement planning resources, counselling interventions and human resource policy and practice. Three themes emerged from the interviews with the nine participants, including Initial Changes to Felt Sense of Self, Coming to Terms with the Life Lived, and Redefinition of Self. The following sections will expand on the three themes, drawing on the latest literature to understand their meaning; explore the key similarities in how the participants approached retirement; explore characteristics common to this population; discuss limitations of this study; and draw from these findings some implications for theory and practice. Initial Changes to Felt Sense of Self The first theme indicates initial changes to participants' felt sense of self, characterized by feeling more peace and calm and behaving in more playful ways. Several of the participants described improvements to their health following retirement, which may be connected to having more time to do things such as stay in bed, go to the gym, or take a leisurely walk. The SAD found that "four times as many people report retirement improves their health than those who report it worsening" (Vaillant, 2002). Having more time and less stress also seemed to create more space for fun and play. The participants were able to shed the goal-oriented, disciplined ways that had characterized 50 their professional life to adopt a lighter, more playful and fun style, which, according to Erikson, is more suitable to retirement (Hoare, 2002). In the words of one participant, "I'm having more fun because I have more time for fun." Or another example, "Sometimes it feels like (my wife and I) are on vacation. It feels really good. We take naps now and we don't feel guilty. We're not neglecting something." Many believe playfulness is actually key to maturity in adulthood. According to Hannush (2006), Erikson believed that "maintaining vitality and joy-in-life, mature adults combine their sense of wonder with a spirit of playfulness" (p.l 16). In Vaillant's Aging Well (2002), one of his definitions of successful aging is a capacity to enjoy life. Erikson says of his own retirement: "Play took on a new significance in retirement. It meant freedom to jettison earlier restriction, those that intimacy and work requirements themselves create" (as cited in Hoare, p. 121). Coming to Terms with the Life Lived Six of the nine participants were actively considering their life and the choices they had made, and facing their mistakes and regrets. According to Hollis (2005), people at this stage of life have developed the ego strength to be able to step back and examine their history and look at their own role in constructing patterns. While such reflection is to be expected at this stage of life, what is exceptional about this group is that they were so proactive and insightful. Theirs was not passive reflection, but rather an active engagement in reviewing the choices they had made in their life and reevaluating how to make things different going forward. For example, two of the men in the study experienced an increased awareness and expression of how much they valued their wife 51 and children and expressed regret over taking them for granted. Both spoke about steps they were taking to change this going forward: (My wife) is probably the most giving person I've ever met in my life and it's not just because she's my wife. I'm lucky. I'm lucky.... I didn't (appreciate her) enough. I always did, but I passed too much on to her, so I'm trying to do more now. Another example: I was blessed with a wife who is intelligent who is loving who was an excellent mother to our children and I need to in my activities prove that that was extremely meaningful to me. For instance today I told her don't worry about dinner I ' l l bring dinner when I come back from this interview because she has some friends coming over to watch a movie. The final task of Erikson's stages of development is to negotiate between integrity and despair. "An essential aspect of what is involved in integrating these final two opposites is a renewed and old-age-specific willingness to remember and review earlier experiences" (Erikson et al., 1989, p.40). The ideal is to find a balance between remembering and reviewing one's life experiences and facing the despair of what could have been and the declining number of years in which to make things right. Maladjustment can occur when there is an overemphasis on integrity at the expense of facing despair or an overemphasis on despair at the expense of integrity. The participants in this study seem to have found the balance between facing despair about past mistakes and making sense of their life as a set of experiences that they cannot change, but can use to guide them for the future. For example: I came into (retirement) thinking that I had a lot of regrets about the kind of mothering that I'd done, for my son particularly when I was a new and young mother, and that I wished I'd done things differently and I came to the conclusion that I can't change that, but what I can try to be is a better mother to an adult child, which is another kind of parenting and to consider what makes 52 that.. .one of the things I've determined was that i f I couldn't say anything loving that at least for a period I wouldn't say anything. I would accept the fact that my children's lives were theirs to live and mistakes were going to be theirs and I couldn't stop it. One participant clarified in the follow up interview that this kind of self-reflection was not a change in him but rather part of an ongoing process in which he had engaged throughout his life. "I have always been good at recognizing mistakes and learning from them". For most of the participants, their life seemed to reflect an on-going process of self-reflection and redirection. This is characteristic of higher levels of ego development, which have been associated with an ability to change and grow in later life (Helson & Roberts, 1994). The change seems to be that retirement allows more space to reflect on one's life and more freedom to realign priorities with what really matters. Redefinition of Self A l l nine participants reported changes to how they saw and defined themselves by becoming aware of and changing limiting scripts, rules or patterns, and experiencing a stronger sense of self-direction. This category has two subcategories, Script Change and Living One's Own Life. Script Change A l l of the participants seemed to take advantage of the time in retirement to be more self-aware and push themselves to change limiting patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, which can be defined as script change. Scripts are underlying rules and patterns of thinking about, organizing, and making meaning of our experiences. Despite their restrictiveness, people generally accept their scripts because they make life predictable, consistent, and stable and they give one a sense of identity. As well, scripts are generally out of awareness, so they feel like the only conceivable way of acting, thinking or feeling. 53 When scripts become more conscious, flexible, and differentiated individuals experience greater psychological health and maturity (Kunnen & Wassink, 2003). One female participant, who had always described herself as rigid and responsible, became aware of this pattern and made a conscious effort to loosen up and be more spontaneous. She now says, "I have loosened up in the sense that I can let things go. I can let things be without needing to resolve everything and put a punctuation mark at the end." Another participant who has struggled with "a deep sense of failure" is now "more gentle with myself and consequently much gentler with others too. I've lost the cocoon of anxiety that followed me around." Some of the script changes may be understood as a weakening of the superego, which is "excessively weighted by the shame and guilt of early childhood" (Hoare, 2002, p. 116). For example, one participant who had lived her life by the rules " i f you're enjoying yourself, it must be bad" and "as long as you're breathing you should be working" now says: I ' l l never not have those underlying notions because they just go with the territory, but they are not holding me back. A desire to go out and do things exceeds the desire to feed my guilt. Another example: It used to be I'd have to read the newspaper everyday. Now if I can't read the newspaper one day I don't get fussed over it. I guess I figure tomorrow's another day and it ' l l come up again, you know I don't have to worry about it just today. Persons weighted with a strong superego "abandon early in life their sense of glee, surprise, and wonder—the realm of joy" (Hoare, 2002, p. 116). Therefore, the shift 54 towards play that many participants experienced may also be understood as a sign of decreasing influence of the superego. Many of the script changes experienced by participants reflect a shift towards maturity, as defined by Erikson. According to Erikson, maturity includes greater concern for others, taking responsibility and humility. Mature adults are free from the illusion that they are better than others (Hannush, 2002). An example of a participant who experienced increased humility: I feel less the need, certainly in my children's lives, I really do feel in fact that I don't know with that same certainty what's best for them.. .1 mean there are times when I'd still like to say things, but I don't and that's good too. I've definitely lost the sense that I know best.. .that my life experience is the only experience that matters. An example of a participant who experienced greater concern for others: I am more giving now. There are things I just wouldn't not do now. Tuesday my wife has to go down to see this specialist. And I said I'm going to go too if you want me to, and she said well two heads are better than one. But I mean I wouldn't not go. I don't have much time now, but it's not an issue. So I have definitely become more human in some ways. The SAD and several other studies have shown that men and women's mental health actually improves as they enter their later years (Vaillant, 2002). People grow more forgiving, willing to meet adversity cheerfully and less prone to take offence and vent frustrations on others. A n example of a participant who became more forgiving: I am more forgiving and more reflective. For example, five years ago I would never, never have written such a check for my son, now I realize that doing that helps his marriage and I want his marriage to succeed. I believe that I am less harsh than I used to be with him. 55 Maslow's hierarchy of needs is another lens through which to understand these changes. According to Maslow, as people meet their more basic needs they move on to meet increasingly complex needs, for example those related to morality, creativity and acceptance (Maslow, 1943). Some of the changes experienced by participants in this study reflect the attainment of needs in the highest level of the hierarchy, self-actualization. There are many lenses through which to view these changes. The commonality is an increased self-awareness and changes to limiting patterns of thinking and feeling. Living One's Own Life A l l nine participants reported increased acknowledgment and expression of their true self, separate from what others wanted and expected of them, which are strong signs of psychological health. Jungian analyst James Hollis (2005) says that "deconstruction of the false se l f (p.29) is the most common characteristic of later life. Another way to conceptualize the significance of this shift is to look to Loevinger's (1976) stages of ego development: nine sequential stages, each of which represents a progressively more complex way of perceiving oneself in relation to the world. Most adults stabilize at stage five, the Self-Aware stage, but this has not been shown to be the most adaptive level. Higher ego development has been associated with better preventative health self-care among elderly adults (Manners & Durkin, 2000). Having standards that are self-chosen is a characteristic of the Conscientious stage of ego development3. The following examples point to a shift towards the Conscientious stage of ego development: 3 Stage six of Loevinger's nine ego stages, characterized by self-evaluated standards; reflective, responsible, empathic; long-term goals and ideals; true conceptual complexity displayed and perceived, can 56 Before, I would have said well I've already taken a big trip this year and I have something else planned.. .that would be too much, I should look after my garden.. .you know and sometimes thinking my sisters and brothers they wouldn't be doing this.. .but one sister wouldn't enjoy it at all. . .my brother also wouldn't enjoy it at all and my other sister would much rather be home so when I really sit down and analyze it I think why am I feeling guilty because I'm going off traveling, because I'm the only one who ever has, because I like it and they don't. Now I don't have those external measurements, my house is clean enough. I don't care. I don't care about those things. I don't measure myself by the state of my house's cleanliness. In addition to these internal shifts, five of the nine participants described an increased expression of their authentic self through creative activities. According to Vaillant (2002), creativity, like play, should be a primary goal of retirement; "in becoming lost in creativity we are found - not only by ourselves but by others" (p.236). Research show that "after age 70 men saw their creative stars in descent and the women perceived their creative stars in ascent" (Vaillant, p. 241). In this study five of the six women spoke about creative pursuits and none of the men did. For example, one of the female participants said: I do love watching birds, I love walking, but all of those things I look at them differently now that I am taking these art classes and the colours I look at differently. It's opened up how I see colours, so it's made my world bigger. v One participant whose passion for quilting was the catalyst for profound changes within her had this to say: If someone said to me, ok, it's going to cost you $20,000 but I can make these changes in your personality, I can make these changes in how you look at your life, I would say 'alrighty then!' see the broader perspective and can discern patterns; principled morality; rich and differentiated inner life; mutuality in relationships; self-critical, values achievement. 57 Approach to Retirement There were a number of similarities in how this group approached the transition to retirement. These cannot be conclusively linked to the changes participants experienced; however, in looking at what was common to how they approached retirement, one may reasonably draw some inferences about approach to retirement and the outcome of change and growth. Proactively Planned for Retirement Most of the participants anticipated and proactively planned for retirement. The two who did not prepare, those for whom it was involuntary retirement, experienced a much greater degree of difficulty adjusting to retirement. For seven of the nine participants the decision to retire was very considered. They assessed their finances and, more remarkably, they anticipated the emotional implications of no longer working. For example: I was weighing up the losses of a very satisfying career, of the fact that I had terrific amounts of positive feedback and strokes from that that I knew would go. I knew it would be hard, but I thought that there would be enough compensation. Once the decision was made to retire, most participants began actively planning for life after retirement. For example, "I gave a year's notice to continue making plans for myself. What I was going to do and how I was going to do it?" According to Erikson, "Wise adults are careful planners who, being deliberate and temperate, eschew making premature decisions and engaging in impulsive actions" (Hannush, 2006 p . l 19). Experienced Retirement as Predominantly Positive Seven of the nine participants experienced retirement as mostly positive. This is consistent with the SAD, which found retirement to be highly overrated as a crisis (Vaillant, 2002). Most participants did not miss work, and expressed strong enthusiasm for how happy they were following retirement. For example, "It wasn't difficult for me. I was exhilarated and I didn't have any regrets whatsoever and I guess I still don't." Experienced Challenges Immediately Following Retirement Even though most of the participants described retirement as predominantly positive, all nine experienced challenges in their adjustment to retirement. The challenges were characterized by a sense of disorientation, confusion and an inability to choose a focus. For example: When the date arrived I was completely unable to connect with anything. I wondered around the house. I couldn't do anything for about three months. I would start something even like cleaning out a drawer and then I'd go do something else. I was thinking, 'Are you going nuts?' In the face of the challenges, the participants did not fall into despair or helplessness, nor did they deny the negative feelings, but rather they seemed to pay attention to them and use them as guidance for what they were to do next. There was a noteworthy lack of depression in this group, which may be connected to active engagement with the difficulty rather than passive despair. According to Merriam (2004), for life transitions to be developmental one needs to do more than solve the problem or eliminate the stress. One must be actively engaged with the event, as painful as that might be: One must be prepared to go into the suffering and chaos of life transitions in order to continue to be fully alive and to come out the other side with a new attitude and perhaps a new self organization. (Skar 2004, p. 259) Bosma and Kunnen (2001) found that while conflict or disequilibrium precedes development, it is only the starting point. Not everyone experiences development 59 following a conflict. New ways of thinking and sustained adaptive effort are associated with higher levels of ego development following challenging life events (Helson & Roberts, 1994). What may be inferred from these findings is that the way in which participants engaged with the conflict following retirement, such as not denying or avoiding the challenging feelings following retirement, facilitated the growth. Further research is needed in order to confirm that hypothesis. The two for whom retirement was mandatory initially experienced the transition to retirement as predominantly negative. This is consistent with the findings from the SAD that state that the four circumstances under which retirement is stressful are: i f it is involuntary or unplanned; if the individual has no other means of support besides salary; when one's home life is unhappy and work had provided a means of escape; and when it has been precipitated by pre-existing bad health (Vaillant, 2002). Given that only two participants experienced mandatory retirement, it is difficult to advance any strong conclusions about growth following mandatory retirement, especially in light of the fact that there were very few similarities in these two participants' experience of change. What they did have in common was that they both resented mandatory retirement, and neither of them anticipated and planned for how they would feel and what they would do after retirement. They both acknowledged that they were in denial about it. Both of them continued to work in some capacity after retirement. Adopted a Strategy to Help Structure their Time Reitzes and Mutran (1997) found that "actively striving to work out the opportunities and demands of retirement" is linked to positive retirement adjustment. Seven of the nine participants proactively planned for how they wanted their life to be 60 after retirement and took action to make that a reality. A sense of responsibility for one's self and the direction of one's life is characteristic of the more advanced stages of ego development (Loevinger, 1976). On-Going Challenge: Looking For Something Bigger Three of the participants talked about seeking a bigger purpose for their lives. According to Hollis (2005), the increased length of the adult lifespan creates an unprecedented opportunity for adults to live 'more consciously', which is in part characterized by reflecting on one's larger purpose and seeking meaning. Older adults are more capable of this than younger adults because they have lived long enough to develop enough ego strength to be able to step back and take responsibility for their lives. This challenge can also be viewed as relating to a larger social issue of a lack of meaningful roles for older people. Our society is based on productivity and progress, especially technological progress, which can make the utility and wisdom of older people seem irrelevant and parochial. "Gerontologists say that boredom and a sense of uselessness are still the biggest problems of retirement — but, paradoxically, also the easiest to solve" (New York Times online, April 10, 2007). As this study reveals, older people have a lot of insight about living and aging that we would do well to utilize more. Characteristics of the Participants The following discussion explores some relevant characteristics of the study participants. This was an exceptional group and by understanding who they were and how they approached retirement we may derive some learnings that can be applied more broadly. 61 Attitude Toward Work A l l nine participants expressed a high level of satisfaction with their profession and described themselves as successful in their career. This is consistent with the literature which says, "The extent to which one carries a fulfilling view of one's employed self is the extent to which one can enter a retirement that could be satisfying" (Simon, 1995 p. 105). In other words, those who like working like retirement. Highly Educated Eight of the nine participants had university degrees and four had PhDs. According to the SAD, the number of years of education is one of the ten predictors of healthy aging (Vaillant 2002). Learning Approach To Life Four of the nine participants explicitly described themselves as having a learning approach to life and all nine participants demonstrated a learning approach to their career and retirement. According to the SAD "Gusto for education in late life is highly correlated to psychological health" (Vaillant, 2002, p.210). Vaillant cites "lifelong learning" as one of the four basic activities to make retirement rewarding. Solution-Oriented Three of the nine participants described themselves as solution-oriented, and all nine participants demonstrated a proactive, agentic approach to their career and retirement. A solution-orientation is indicative of taking responsibility and personal agency for the course of one's life, which has been linked to personality change in adulthood (Helson & Roberts, 1994). 62 Financial Stability A l l nine participants were in a financial position to retire comfortably. The SAD indicates that one of the circumstances under which retirement is stressful is i f the individual has no other means of support besides salary. Conversely, the same study found that the keys to successful aging are in self-care and love, not money (Vaillant, 2002). Positive Romantic Relationship Most of the participants spoke of their relationship in very positive ways. According to the SAD, a good marriage at 50 predicts positive aging at 80 (Vaillant, 2002). Relatively Good Health Several of the participants mentioned health issues (e.g., breast cancer, arthritis, heart problems) but subjectively they all seemed to feel in relatively good health. According to the SAD, objective good physical health is less important to successful aging that subjective good health (Vaillant, 2002). Limitations One limitation of this study is that it required people to reflect on their experience up to five years back, so detailed and accurate reminiscences of the process that led to change following retirement were not possible to access. It is therefore not possible to say conclusively that the process of how people approached retirement is linked to the ways in which they changed. Another limitation, previously cited, is that these results reflect the experience of a small group of extraordinary older adults, highly educated, professionally successful, 63 and demonstrating maturity and sophisticated thinking. Research tells us that with few exceptions most adults are capable of growth and change at any age. Perhaps this group changed because it never occurred to them that they could not. A further limitation is that it is difficult to separate the influence of retirement from other factors including advancing age. However, it seems apparent that retirement creates more space for peace and play and allows more time for self-reflection and freedom to set internal standards. The final limitation is that there appeared to be some differences between how men and women changed following retirement, but because there were only three men, two of whom also experienced mandatory retirement, there are not sufficient data to make claims about how men experience retirement and change, or how mandatory retirement influences change and growth following retirement. This study interviewed people based on their experience of positive change following retirement; therefore, it cannot be understood as a complete picture of the experience of retirement. This is not necessarily a limitation of the study, but is an important thing to bear in mind when considering the meaning and implications of the findings. Implications of the Study for Counselling Theory Many models of counselling do not address late life development and those that do generally focus on decline and loss, which may be reflective of ageist stereotypes. This means many counsellors are not trained to accurately understand the potentialities and resiliencies of older clients. For counsellors to adequately help older adults to reach their potential they need to have a thorough understanding of areas in which to expect 64 growth and development. This small, qualitative study may serve as a pilot on which to base future large-scale quantitative studies about the experience of growth and change following retirement, upon which models of retirement can be based. Such research may lead to the development of a model of retirement transition not dissimilar from Borgen and Amundson's (1984) model for the experience of unemployment. Such a model of counselling should include considerations about working with older adults that focus on both decline and growth. Implications of The Study For The Counselling Profession Interpretive description methodology requires that the findings inform clinical understanding. The following discussion outlines some of the clinical applications of these findings. The first clinical implication of this research is to serve as a challenge to therapists' biases about the capacities of their older clients. This research reveals that older adults are capable of growth and change. Therapists should be mindful of their assumptions about older clients and their capacities, and not allow themselves to mitigate growth and opportunity for older clients. Counsellors can prepare clients for retirement, in part, by giving them highlights of the research, particularly letting them know that most people experience retirements as positive, with improved health and well being, more fun, and peace. Counsellors can encourage clients to think about how they might take advantage of the freedom from their conforming work environments to express parts of their identity in ways they may not T have been able to do when they were working. While the participants in this study experienced retirement as predominantly positive, they all experienced some difficulties in the transition to retirement. In facing 65 retirement, some clients will initially 'feel bad' and may automatically assume that bad feelings mean the situation, too, is bad. Counsellors can help the client through any feeling of suffering, in part by normalizing the experience. Counsellors can facilitate an exploration of these difficult feelings in an effort to elicit insight and guidance for the next chapter of life. For clients anticipating retirement with excitement, counsellors can prepare them for the possibility of challenges in the first few months. Counsellors may want to encourage clients in advance of retirement to consider how they may feel about loss of social group, loss of status, loss of routines and structure and potential issues that may arise in important relationships, especially familial relationships. It is important to normalize these potential challenges and support clients in paying attention to the negative feelings that may result from these changes and facilitate increased self-awareness and insight from these difficulties. The participants in this study were able to engage in a life review that involved examining the course their life had taken, facing mistakes and regrets and deciding how they want to live going forward. This is an important task at this stage of life that many adults will not engage in alone. Counsellors can facilitate a life review by supporting clients in an honest exploration of their own role in creating the path their life has taken, helping them face perceived mistakes and regrets with a focus to understand how and why actions were chosen historically, and using the information and insight gained to help clients plan their life, going forward. Counsellors should be alert to the fact that many adults experience shifts in limiting patterns of thinking and feeling following retirement. This kind of change is the 66 goal at the heart of most counselling work, and therefore counsellors should aim to maximize this opportunity by facilitating and extending this potential for growth. Any large event, whether experienced positively or negatively, can ripple into relationships within a couple and/or family. Several of the participants in this study experienced positive changes in their relationships with their partners and children. Therapists can look for ways to enhance familial relationships during and following this change. The findings of this study point to the importance of anticipating and planning for life after retirement. Counsellors can encourage clients to actively engage and proactively plan for retirement. This planning can include financial planning but should also focus on preparing emotionally and thoughtfully considering what they want to do after retirement. If stereotypes limit growth and change following retirement, counsellors may challenge the attitudes and expectations that others in their personal and professional life have of older people. Equally, counsellors can challenge clients to be an active example of a retiree who "breaks the mold". Future Research The following are a few examples of additional studies that would build on this research and enhance the understanding of the experience of retirement and the nature and process of change following retirement: Study people before, during and following the transition to retirement in order to understand the step-by-step process of change following retirement. 67 Study the experience of people who found retirement predominantly negative or a crisis who also experienced positive growth following retirement, in order to better understand the possible applicability of crisis theory. Investigate the effectiveness of counselling interventions in the transition to retirement, in particular life review. Study the experience of retirement for different cultural groups. Compare and contrast two different cohorts - those who were forced into mandatory retirement, and those who chose their retirement date. Compare and contrast any differences in the retirement processes as they occur for the cohorts of women and men. Conclusion With the shifting demographics in our society we will see an increasing number of people entering retirement and living for many years following retirement. This age wave will impact all institutions and systems in our society, in particular our health care systems. A report based on the Second World Assembly on Aging (2002) links mental health to physical health, longevity and quality of life. Improving the psychological health of this group has many individual and societal benefits. This research informs counselling practitioners about how they can better serve retirees to help them grow and expand and reach their potential. This study explored the experience of an exemplary group of older adults who used retirement as a launch pad from which to change and expand. They stand in stark contrast to the ageist stereotypes that pervade our society. The findings of this study are an important first step in expanding some of the limiting horizons for older adults and 68 opening up a new vision for later life, one that includes strength and growth rather than simply a slow steady decline. Following retirement, the participants in this study became more playful and relaxed, they reviewed and reconciled their life to this point; and used that insight to guide the direction they want their life to take going forward. They also experienced changes to long-standing and limiting patterns of thinking and feeling and became more autonomous. These participants took responsibility for planning their retirement, both financially and emotionally, and did not shy away from the difficulties during the transition. This noteworthy group of retirees can serve as role models for others and help those of us who work with older clients to better understand what is possible with this group and nurture this potential in others. There is an increasing amount of research focused on growth and possibility in later life. Counsellors, Human Resource Professionals and others who work with older people need to stay informed of research on best practices with older adults and allow this research to inform policy and practice. The fact that loneliness, boredom and meaninglessness are so common among older adults in Canada is unnecessary and tragic. We all have a role to play in ensuring that everyone in our society, including older people has every opportunity for growth, happiness and meaning. This study serves as a springboard to new studies to expand on this critical area of adult development. 69 References Baltes, M . M . , & Carstensen, L . L . (1996). The process of successful ageing. Ageing and Society, 16, 397-422. Barnes, H. , & Parry, J. (2004). Renegotiating identity and relationships: men and women's adjustment to retirement. Ageing and Society, 24, 213-232. Borgen, W.A., & Amundson, N.E. (1984) The Experience of Unemployment-Implications for Counselling the Unemployed. Vancouver: Nelson. Bosma, H.A., & Kunnen, E.S. (2001). Determinants and mechanisms in ego identity development: A review and synthesis. Developmental Review, 21, 39-66. Bridges (2004) Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Cambridge: Da Capo Press. Erikson, E.H., Erikson, J .M. & Kivnick, H.Q. (1989). Vital involvement in old age. New York: W.W. Norton. Frazier, P., Conlon, A. , & Glaser, T. (2001). Positive and negative life changes following sexual assault. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 69, 1048-1055. Guba (1981) Annual review paper: Criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. Educational Communication and Technology: A Journal of Theory, Research, and Development, 29, 75-91. Guyer, B., Freedman, M.A . , Strobino, D .M. , & Sondik, E.J. (2000) Annual summary of vital statistics: Trends in the health of Americans during the 20th century. Pediatrics, 106, 1307-1317. Hannush, M.J . (2006). Review of Erikson on development in adulthood: New insights from unpublished papers. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 37, 115-120. 70 Helson, R., & Roberts, B.W. (1994). Ego development and personality change in adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 66, 911-920. Helson, R., & Stewart, A . (1994). Personality change in adulthood. In T. F. Heatherington & J.L. Weinberger (Eds.), Can Personality Change? (pp. 21-40) Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Henderson, A.D. , & Jackson, M . (2004). Restorative health: Lessening the impact of previous abuse and violence in the lives of vulnerable girls. Health Care for Women International, 25, 794-812. Hoare, C. H . (2002). Erikson on Development in Adulthood: New Insights from Unpublished Papers. New York: Oxford University Press Hollis, J. (2005). Finding meaning in the second half of life. New York: Penguin Group. Jaffe, D.T. (1985). Self-renewal: Personal transformation following extreme trauma. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 25, 99-124. Kessler, B. G. (1987). Bereavement and personal growth. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 27, 228-247. Kunnen, E.S. & Wassink, M.E .K. (2003). A n analysis of identity change in adulthood. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 3, 347-366. Kunnen, E.S. (2006). Are conflicts the motor in identity change? Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 6, 169-186. Loevinger, J. (1976). Ego development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Manners, J., & Durkin, K . (2000). Processes involved in adult ego development: A conceptual framework. Developmental Review. 20, 475-513. 71 Manners, J., Durkin, K. & Nesdale, A . (2004). Promoting advanced ego development in adults. Journal ofAdult Development. 11, 19-27. Maslow, A . (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396. May, R. (1969), Existential Psychology. New York: Random House. Merriam, S.B. (1998) Adult Life Transitions: Opportunities for Learning and Development. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Miles, M.B. , & Huberman, A . M . (1994). Qualitative data analysis. Santa Monica: Sage. Moos, R.H., & Schaefer J.A. (1986). Life transitions and crises. In R.H. Moos (Ed.), Coping with life crises: an integrated approach, (pp.3-28). New York, N Y : Plenum Press. Moursund, J.P. & Erskine, R.G. (2004). Integrative Psychotherapy: The Art and Science of Relationship. New York: Thomson. Pearson, J.L., & Brown, G.K. (2000). Suicide prevention in late life: directions for science and practice. Clinical Psychology Review. 20 (6): 685-705. Deutsch, C.H. (2007, April 10). Never too early: Training to be old. New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2007 from http://www.nytimes.conVpages/business/retirement7index.html?8dpc Pearson, J.L., & Brown, G.K. (2000). Suicide prevention in late life: Directions for science and practice. Clinical Psychology Review, 20, 685-705. Reitzes, D.C., & Mutran, E.J. (2004). The transition to retirement: Stages and factors that influence retirement adjustment. International Journal of Aging and Human Development. 59, 63-84. 72 Schachter-Shalomi, Z. & Miller, R.S. (1995) From age-ing to sage-ing: A profound new vision of growing older. New York: Warner Books. Simon, J. (1995). Satisfaction with retirement: Vocational script development. Applied & Preventative Psychology, 4, 101-111. Skar, P. (2004). Chaos and self-organization: emergent patterns at critical life transitions. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 49, 243-62. Sneed, J.R., & Whitbourne, S.K. (2005). Models of the aging self. Journal of Social Issues. 61, 375-388. Spanish Psychological Association (2002) Psychology, psychologists and ageing: contributions of psychology and psychologists to the study and intervention of ageing. Special Issue: II World assembly on ageing. Contributions of psychology on ageing: Towards a society for all ages. 15-28 Tedeschi, R. G., Park, C. L. , & Calhoun, L. G. (1998) Posttraumatic growth: conceptual issues. In R. Tedeschi & L. Calhoun (Eds.) Posttraumatic Growth: Positive Changes in the Aftermath of Crisis (pp. 1-22). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. The Swiss Contribution to the Second World Assembly on Ageing: Madrid (2002). Longevity - Challenge and Chance. Thome, S., Kirkham, S.R., & Macdonald-Emes, J. (1997). Interpretive description: A non-categorical qualitative alternative for developing nursing knowledge. Research in Nursing & Health, 20, 169-177. Thome, S., Kirkham, S.R., & O'Flynn-Magee, K . (2004). The analytic challenge in interpretive description. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 3 73 Tomkins, S. S. (1987). Script theory. In J. Aronoff, & A . I. Rabin (Eds.), Emergence of personality, (pp. 147-216) New York: Springer. Trochim, W. M . The Research Methods Knowledge Base, 2nd Edition, at http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/qualval.php (version current as of October 20, 2006). Vaillant, G.E. (2002). Aging Well. New York: Little, Brown and Company. Whitbourne, S.K., Sneed, J.R. & Skultety, K . M . (2002). Identity processes in adulthood: Theoretical and methodological challenges. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research 2, 29-45. Yalom, I.D.(1980). Existential Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books 74 Appendix B: Definitions of the Mechanisms of Script Change Assimilation - organization of a scene or event by means of the script, without questioning it. To cope with the conflict, some aspects of the situation are ignored or distorted or unpleasant aspects are set aside Withdrawal - attempt to escape from a situation that, i f organized by the script, would have been painful or conflictual Exploration of scenes - acknowledgement of one's own feelings and thoughts, and in the acknowledgement that the painful feelings result from one's own way of experiencing Exploration of the script - the exploration of the regularities of meaning making talking about aspects of the script or both Exploration of the conflicting components - exploration of those feelings, perceptions and behaviours that are at odds with the script and therefore have been denied or repressed for a long time. Because this exploration often involves the mechanisms of the repression this category overlaps sometimes with the next one Exploration of the conflict - the exploration of how script and conflicting elements are in conflict with each another Experience of the primary emotion and accommodation - a strong emotional episode characterized by the experience of strength and freedom Accommodation - scenes are organized in new ways. The person organizes the situation differently and a new, more flexible script emerges in which both poles of the conflict are integrated 76 Appendix C: Pre-interview tips and questions Following retirement it is typical to have conflicting feelings. Some people describe the experience as a roller coaster. We are interested in understanding your experience of retirement. When we meet for an interview we will try to understand how you have changed since retirement and a bit about the process of that change. You will be asked questions related to how you experienced retirement, what you were like before retirement and how that is different from your how you are today. We are particularly interested in understanding your experience immediately following retirement. The more detail you can provide about that time the better. Most people find it difficult to describe how they have changed. What might be helpful before coming to the interview would be to think of specific events or moments that illustrate what you were like before before, during and following retirement. When thinking about these experiences, try to remember what you were thinking about or feeling at the time? What was occupying your mind? You may bring notes to the interview if you like. The following are some questions that may be asked in the interview: What was your experience of retirement? What were the challenges? What was rewarding about it? In what ways are you different today from before you retired? Can you think of a particular occasion that would help me to understand what you were like before (during, after) retirement? What were you concerned about? What occupied your mind? 77 Appendix D: Interview questions General: 1. What was your experience of retirement? What were/are the challenging things? Rewarding things? Surprising things? 2. In what ways are you different now? Where is this change? Behaviour; thinking or feeling? What are you doing/feeling/thinking today? How is that different from before? - Can you think of an event that would help me understand more clearly how you were before/during/after? How did you feel? What was on your mind? - What's that like? 3. How did you get there? ... What was your process? What led up to the change? (Listen for mechanisms of change... get specific examples see below) Structured questions: Pre retirement Think back a time before you were retired, and tell me about yourself. What did you do that is different from now? Focus on what mattered to you, how you felt about yourself and other people. Can you think of a particular occasion that would help me to understand what you were like before (during, after) retirement? What were you concerned about? What occupied your mind? Can you think of a metaphor that would describe yourself before retirement? Post retirement Tell me about yourself now, focussing on what matters to you and how you feel about yourself and other people. What has shifted in you? What do you do now that is different? Can you think of a recent event or moment that would help me to understand what you are like now? What were you concerned about? What occupied your mind? What was that like for you? Was it pleasant or unpleasant? If you had to put it into a sentence.. .what is different about you now from before. Can you think of a metaphor that would describe yourself after retirement? 78 During retirement Think back to your last day of work, can you describe that day and the following couple of weeks? What was going on for you? What were you thinking? Feeling? Do you remember a particular day or moment when you realized you needed to change? Tell me about that. For some people it happens before they retire, a time of confusion and disequilibrium? What was it like for you? Questions designed to tap into the script change mechanisms: Assimilation or withdrawal: Do you recall trying to cope with the mixed feelings of retirement by blocking out some aspects of the experience or escaping using some diversion? What did you do? Normal reaction - depression.... Exploration of scene: Do you ever recall acknowledging that the difficulties you were experiencing were connected to your own way of experiencing the world? For example, "My feelings were that to not work was to be useless and I realized that that was making my life very difficult." Exploration of the script: Did you start to challenge some of your core beliefs? Did you explore that idea that.. .i.e.: not working was equivalent to being useless? Exploring the conflicting components and the conflict: Did you think about what part of you did not think that.. .i.e.: not working was equivalent to being useless? Experience of the primary emotion: Was there a breakthrough in which you felt strong and freed from your way of thinking? Accommodation: Do you recall a day or moment that you would describe as a breakthrough, when you felt free from your way of thinking and feeling?" Can you think of a metaphor that would describe your retirement transition? Post interview questions If anything occurs to you after the interview about how you changed and what that experience of change was like please write it down here. 79 Appendix G: Certificate of Approval (Behavioural Research Ethics Board) 

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