Ageing Gracefully

Research shows how older people find happiness at work.

Ageing Gracefully

UK & Europe

Research by the Universities of East Anglia, commissioned by The What Works Centre for Wellbeing, suggests employers should support older workers to ‘wind-down’ into retirement with ‘bridging jobs’. Alternatively, employers could reduce their employee’s working hours to avoid poor wellbeing. The study, based on existing research, also found that part-time working towards the end of a careers improves life satisfaction.

At the same time, the research highlights that this outcome depends on whether employees have control over when they retire, rather than being forced out through ill health or restructuring. If people take up bridging jobs because of financial strain, their wellbeing drops.

Alongside this the study also found:

- the way we retire matters for our mental health and wellbeing;

- leaving a more prestigious, satisfying job decreases your life satisfaction on retirement;

- men struggle more when they retire if their wives are still working;

- predictably, retirees who are satisfied with their home lives and had support networks fare better.


“Good work is really important for our overall life satisfaction and how we retire matters,” said Nancy Hey, director of The What Works Centre for Wellbeing. “When we've gone around the UK asking what quality of life looks like, the importance of wellbeing at work consistently comes up.

“Policy needs to reflect the changing patterns and ways of working, and how that impacts how, why and when we retire. A sudden shift from employed to retired isn’t working,” she adds.

Mark Bryan, Reader in Economics at University of Sheffield and co-author of the study, commented: “The evidence on wellbeing points to the importance of giving people control over their retirement decision – both through support for people who wish to stay in work and decent pension provision for those who wish to retire.”



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