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Continuity and change in the transition to retirement: how time allocation, leisure practices and lifestyles evolve when work vanishes in later life

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With increased longevity and socio-structural as well as socio-cultural changes, ageing research has shown a growing diversity of patterns in retirement lifestyles (Scherger et al. in Ageing Soc 31:146–172, 2011. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0144686x10000577). The transition from work to retirement is of particular interest to the study of the everyday lives, leisure activities and lifestyles of older adults, as questions on the meaning of work and leisure, activity and productivity are re-negotiated. This paper addresses the questions: how are the everyday lives of older adults re-organised when work vanishes? Are there lifestyles that are more easily maintained through retirement, whereas others are more prone to change? And which patterns of social inequalities underlie these processes? Drawing on data from the GTUS, this paper discusses similarities and differences in the time allocation of older working and non-working adults aged 55+ years (matched sample). Results show that the time spent on work is primarily taken up by household chores, media use and personal activities. Hierarchical cluster analysis identifies four activity clusters resp. lifestyles among the 55+: (1) a passive leisure lifestyle, (2) an active leisure lifestyle, (3) a paid work-centred lifestyle and (4) a housework-centred lifestyle. None of the clusters, however, comprised exclusively working or non-working older adults. The active leisure cluster comprised an equal share of working and non-working persons, suggesting that this kind of lifestyle allows for stronger continuity across work and retirement. It was more easily obtained by higher educated women who live separated from their partners.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


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    Persons working for less than 1 h/day are also considered non-working; if at the same time they receive pension benefits, their work status is “retired”, if they are seek for work, they work status is “unemployed”, etc.

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    Defined tolerance levels for age = ± 1 year maximum; tolerance levels for all categorical variables = 0.

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This author is part of the Research Training Group ‘Doing Transitions’ funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). The data file used in this paper is a scientific use file provided by the German Federal Office of Statistics for scientific purposes only.

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Correspondence to Anna Wanka.

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See Tables 4 and 5.

Table 4 Occupational groups by socio-demographic characteristics, matched sample 55+ years, German Time Use Data 2012/2013
Table 5 Activity indices in hours by occupational status with Bonferroni-adjusted post hoc tests; matched sample 55+ years; German Time Use Survey 2012/2013

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Wanka, A. Continuity and change in the transition to retirement: how time allocation, leisure practices and lifestyles evolve when work vanishes in later life. Eur J Ageing (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-019-00526-w

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  • Retirement transition
  • Practice theories
  • Leisure
  • Time use
  • Lifestyles
  • Social inequalities