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The literature on retirement and ageing and its historical perspective

TASA member Alan Scott shares below a paper he wrote about retirement and ageing:


This paper identifies the increasing scope and complexity of the literature on retirement and ageing and provides a review of the historical literature that identifies and offers an understanding of ageing and retirement.

The literature on retirement and ageing

Gilleard and Higgs set the scene for the study of retirement and ageing and help validate the research question when they write:

We believe that since ‘old age’ has become a predictable expectation of the adult lifespan, ageing has ceased to be understandable in terms of any common or totalizing experience.  It is no longer the fixed and homogeneous process of per­sonal and physiological decay by which it has been understood for much of recorded history.  Ageing has become more complex, differentiated and ill defined, experienced from a variety of perspectives and expressed in a variety of ways at different moments in people’s lives.  Now a near­ universal experience, ageing is the subject of intense personal reflection and widespread public debate. Central to contemporary fears of finitude and failure, it is the antithesis of a youth culture that is itself grow­ing old.  The centrality and universality that ageing has achieved serve only to increase the contradictions it embodies.  It is this fragmentation of a highly socialized biological process which makes ageing such a key feature of the times in which we live (2000:1).

This statement is reflected in the available literature on the subject of retirement and ageing.  The scope of the literature is vast, with an increasing number of disciplines having taken up the subject over the last 50 years.  This interest means that many universities and other centres of research and learning, involving a huge number of people, are researching many aspects of retirement and ageing around the world.  In turn, the results of their labour, either in print or electronic form, are being published in large amounts daily.  You can access the full paper here